Thursday, June 6, 2013



Vesta.  Vesta-Pesta.  Vessy.  Peanut.  Lil Girl.  Honey Bear.  Vessy-Lou.  Little Bits.  Baby Face.  My Lou-Lou Girl.  Trotsky (a reference to her carriage). 

So many names. 
The cat who died in early September of 2012 inspired many names.
… My most tenured L.A. friend told me once about a class she had attended at a local college.  It might have been a Sociology class.  Or it might have been Anthropology.  In any event, the professor shared with his students that when something or someone is very important to us, we give it a lot of names. 
Then, perhaps because he’d scoped his class’s interests adequately, he shared an example:  pot, maryjane, weed, reefer, grass… 
You get my drift.
I’ve had cats all my adult life, and in some instances, at the end, I’ve had to be the “decider.”  In other instances, a cat died without my having to sign any papers.  Either way, it is difficult. 
Either way.
When Vesta began to go downhill last August, I wasn’t prepared.  It happened quickly.  Also, I’d been through quite a bit of exhausting “stuff,” so I didn’t trust my judgment as the decider.
I took her to the vet on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, thinking we’d need to put her down that day.  But before we had even opened the carrier, the vet asked me what was going on, and I burst into tears.  In response, the kind vet suggested we sit in the adjacent room and talk, leaving Vesta (inside the carrier) behind. 
Once we’d sat in the adjacent room, the vet asked about what I was witnessing at home.
In response to everything I told her, she said, “That’s an old cat.”
Later, the vet asked a final question:  “Do you want to do this today?”
“No,” I replied, very sure of my response.
So she sent us home, suggesting that we enjoy the long weekend and maybe come back the following week. 
And that’s what we did.  On the Wednesday after Labor Day, I watched as Vesta was “put to sleep.”
… So many names I’d given to that sweet girl, and I believed – throughout my years of knowing her and during those final days – that I would never meet as sweet a girl as Vesta…
And while I knew, too, that mourning takes the time it takes, I also had to think about my dear  Lotto, the (then ) 4-and-a-half year-old Maine Coon who was without a companion.  I had plans to go to the East Coast in early October.  Leaving Lotto alone didn’t feel like an option.
So, I had 2-3 weeks to adopt a new member of the family.  And, as I began to take the steps that would make that happen, I considered what I’d learned from all these years of being the person behind the cats.  First, it seems to work well when there is one from each gender, so a female cat was the thing to pursue.  Second, it doesn’t work well when both cats are old at the same time.  (It can get expensive.) 
So…  I would need to establish as great an age gap as possible.
And so...  because I didn’t want an older cat, I would need to get a kitten.
Kittens are cute, don’t get me wrong, but OMG, they also are wired for sound.  And I guess that one of the reasons I don’t fall for them is that they are all…  just… KITTENS.  I mean, you don’t really get to know their personalities until they get older, right?
Still, though, it would seem I needed a *kitten*.
Fast forward:  I’ve dropped by an adoption event and have met an almost six-month-old gal who is half Siamese/half Turkish Van.  I’ve not previously heard of the Van species, but what I read about them online sounds good.
The adoption agency sends me an application form that I am to complete.  As I proceed through its questions, I get increasingly rebellious.  (I’m not a fan of forms.  Hell, I don’t like structure of any kind!)
…Having established that I already have cat experience, the form asks:  What is your cat’s favorite toy?
“Whatever is within reach,” I type, flippantly.
Have you ever had any experience with … torn curtains, scratched furniture, excessive shedding…”
“Of course!” I type.
(Just give me the goddamn cat!)
What would you do if new boy/girlfriend were allergic?
“Boyfriend can get shots!” I reply, through my keyboard.
(Seriously, if these cat adoption folks really wanted to dig, they’d know!  They’d know that my longest relationships have been with cats.)
Then, the question that put me over the edge:  Is there any behavior that you would find unacceptable?
This being September of 2012, it was easy for me to answer.  I typed:  “Voting for Romney.”
Suffice it to say, I probably would not have scored in a Red State, but insofar as I live in California, that final flippant answer probably sealed the deal.
Suffice it to say, too, I didn’t let the adoption agency know that I would be out of town that first week of October.  But, the kitten became mine about ten days prior to that departure, and she remains mine today.  Vanna...
Don’t let the relative calm of this picture fool you…  And right, yeah, the name is kinda messed-up.  I mean, after saying goodbye to a two-syllable named cat whose name began with V and ended with A, I chose what?
Here’s the thing:  before she officially became mine, I thought about names.  And because she was half Turkish Van, the name “Vanna” occurred to me.  But then, I thought, Oh no.  Vanna White.  No, that is just so wrong!
A few days later, my friend Julie came to visit, and prior to her doing so, I told her, “You’re going to help me name my new cat!”
After Julie had been here for an hour or more, she suggested the name Vanna.  And it was only then that I remembered discounting it.  It also was then that I realized it fit this young kitten like nobody’s business.
Here’s the thing about Vanna.  She sells vowels.  All. Day. Long.
Seriously, I walk into the room she’s in, and this is what I hear:  A!  E!  O!
And… now that she’s a few months over one year old, I can tell you something else.  I don’t think this little kitty is terribly bright.  She’s done so many things (mildly destructive things) that point to a probable fact:  girlfriend’s curiosity is SO MUCH bigger than her brain.
But here’s the other thing about Vanna.  She is as sweet as the day is long.  She’s an angel (when she's not being a devil, that is).  She cuddles with me and smiles and views my lap as some kind of holy place.  She loves giving and getting love.  And:  she has absolutely become Lotto’s new girlfriend.
Already, I’ve called her by so many names.
She’s filled our hearts and changed our home.
Here are photos from the Two Cats on an Unmade Bed series…
Vanna.  She's a keeper.
But:  I'll also be keeping the wallpaper...


Sioux said...

Hey, Katie. Chicken Soup is looking for cat stories (and dog stories). I don't know if you write for anthologies...I just thought I'd pass along the information. (It's $200 if the publish your story. That's nothing to meow at!)

Nadine_Feldman said...

Thanks for introducing us to Vanna! I loved the way you filled out the form (Voting for Romney cracked me up).

It brought back many memories of animals I have taken in, loved, and then held while they took their last breath. No easy task!

Lovely story. I agree with Sioux, it's a Chicken Soup-er if I ever read one.

Jayne Martin said...

What a beautifully written story. My heart broke for you in the telling about Vesta. I've been there so many, many times. No matter how long we have them, it's never long enough. Vanna is gorgeous and I love the photos of Lotto loving on her. And the form? Hysterical!
Welcome back, my friend.

Deb Shucka said...

Only you can make me cry and laugh out loud in the same breath. I'm sitting here with my new-to-me Bunkie in my lap - Bunkie with at least a dozen names already - my heart still aching for Emma who died in my arms in January - so very glad I know you, and that you're sharing yourself and your writing again.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Vanna is beautiful and made me smile with you saying she isn't so bright. I feel the same way about my dog Flossie. Old Keano is bright and easy to train (well not now he's old but he was easy, now he has his own way too much) but Flossie? She wants so much to please but her curiosity gets the better of her until she wimps out and leaps onto our laps - all 28 Kilos of her! You have cats, I have dogs but I really do understand how you feel about them. Lovely post Katie :-)