Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sofaeria Pantheris

Hubby came home in the middle of the day. Forced home, actually, despite saying kitten births weren't a new thing to him and he didn't really have to go home and play feline midwife. But his direct supervisor and a coworker were both cat lovers, and they couldn't contain their own excitement on hearing that our little bundles of fluff were arriving.

He finally capitulated and came home an hour early, just to stop them from pestering him about it.

"How many do we have?" he wanted to know, leaning down to pet the panting and laboring Inoa.

"Three for sure." I crouched down next to the box where I'd placed the kitty condo that Inoa had chosen as her birthing room, the bottom opening of which could barely contain her burgeoning belly. She'd been so wedged in when I discovered her that there had almost been a pop when I'd thought to be helpful and liberated her (and, surprise, a kitten) from it several hours before. "I think there's a fourth, though. She won't let me in to check."

Sure enough, a wee bit of black fluff had arrived and had tucked away in the shadows of the condo.

And her surprise arrival was the last quiet thing about her.
Koa, 3 weeks old

The first of what were ultimately a pair of all-black kittens in the litter, Kitten Four (as she was christened, to avoid name attachment) entered the world determined to make it bow to her mighty will.

Once she learned that mouthy cries at the door resulted in the attention of the pale-faced tall ones, she demanded we be her playthings.

Four and a half weeks old was quite old enough, thank you, for her to start weaning herself, as we discovered the morning she tried to eat her mother's kibble because nursing just wasn't cutting it for her anymore. She wanted noms! (Never mind that her teeth weren't big enough to crunch them down. Wee Miss would have all the noms and the milk bar, too!) It's hard to truly say she hogged the plastic dinner plates we used for the soft kitten food, because when no one else is even trying, it's not hogging. Unless you take up the whole plate.

Which she did.

It was around this same time that I realized both tiny bits of black fluff (her and Kitten Six, last (also a surprise) of the litter) were girl kittens. Hubby had set stipulations on this kitten-fostering. We had four cats. We were not acquiring any more. Mama and babies were all going to good homes. Okay, I agreed...unless a black male was born. I wanted a black male. In my tween years, a black male cat belonging to my neighbors had been my dearest friend. Hubby relented.

I wheedled my case for Kitten Four. In truth, she'd already decided she belonged here. She would throw herself at the baby kitten gate (a piece of modular wire shelving) and try to climb it just to try to get to us. She was first at everything: first to eat solid canned food, first to eat kibble, first to litter train.

I wanted my black kitty, even if she wasn't the nice, easy-going male I was hoping for. (Newsflash: she wasn't.)
"Tiny human, this is for me."

Hubby caved. Twice, in fact, because Kitten Four and her older sister Number Three became permanent parts of the family. (Everyone else did, indeed, find good homes.) Three returned to us as Minouchette, and Four became Koa Umalu.

Loosely translated, Koa means fearless. Courageous. Umalu means shadow. Hubby wanted something in her name that hinted at her color.

And fearless she was.

Having decided upon her goal of world domination, she found in her way one immovable obstacle: Popoki.

Po ruled the house with a gentle but iron paw. Almost three and a half years Koa's senior, she didn't have time for this nonsense, and Koa often found herself abruptly slammed back into her proper place in the feline social hierarchy with a heavy paw smack to her head. (Po had a Gibbs-slap before Gibbs did.)

A Suitable Throne
Koa merely took it upon herself to keep everybody under her in line. As she was still a kitten, this was tolerated with some amusement and the occasional headsmack from the other adult cats.

Like the others before her, we taught her to play fetch. And she would, with just about anything. She just wouldn't play return very well. That didn't stop her from wanting to play. She'd drop whatever her current object was six feet from us, and give us that scathing cat look of, "Aren't you going to go get it for me?" We first. I'm now convinced that the fact we stopped is why she would bring things to us in the middle of the night, yowling at the top of her lungs around whatever she had stuffed in her mouth, and leave whatever in the bed.

She was very proud of her kills that she brought to us, too. There were many.

Milk jug rings. Pens. Pom poms. Pens. Small dolls. Pencils. Plastic silverware. Toy lipstick. Legos. Did I mention pens?

If it could be stepped on in the middle of the night, during the day, or in a sleep-induced haze, Koa was probably the source. She made as many messes as the kids.

She also had at least two extra helpings of attitude, which she would vocally express when life went not according to plan.
Koa's spot on the loveseat

She skipped the line for feline grace to get those. I've never seen a clumsier cat. She fell off a pile of blankets she was sleeping on once.

Koa finally achieved total domination of everything from the shingles down in 2012 after we lost Popoki and Keiki in rapid succession. Nobody else put up a fuss. Well, except Mika. But he didn't fuss. He had seniority, she knew it, and the beat went on. She bossed around everyone but him.

She liked the girls a whole lot more as they grew up than when they first arrived as scary interlopers. But when Special Edition came into our lives, Koa annexed her. I often found the two of them together in her room. If Koa wasn't sleeping on her side of the back of the loveseat where I often worked, she was probably in with Special Edition.
"Human, my bowl is empty."

I often wished Koa had been less of an angry little tyrant, and more of a benevolent despot, because I thought she had it in her, but she never got over getting a little brother in 2003. She did not want a personal trainer in the form of a new kitten, and she nursed that grudge for a decade.

I also think that Koa as benevolent despot would be much less Koa of her, so I suppose it all worked out in the wash. She had a personality three sizes bigger than the body that struggled to contain it all.

I noticed in June that she was losing weight at an astonishing rate. We had just come through the crisis with Mika and his abscess and miraculous recovery. We couldn't afford more vet bills. And Koa had been having other health issues as well. I knew her time was drawing close...closer than any of us wanted to admit.

I will sit here and be cute.
After all, Hubby and I had had Koa her entire life. Longer, really. Those three weeks while she was still in her momma's belly counted, too.

Koa didn't want to do the stairs much, although she did them. Usually to leave unpleasant messes for me to clean up. She didn't want to get back up on the back of the loveseat; the cushion next to me was close enough (and definitely in the way enough) to suit her.

In July, I warned Special Edition. I sent her a picture showing how much Koa had deteriorated. And, I promised, she could be there if and when we made the call.

It was about four weeks after that when Hubby finally admitted that Koa had to be suffering, as she was down to skin and bones. So I called and made the appointment with the vet.

Special Edition was devastated.

So was I. As I'd spent time typing up and polishing an old manuscript, Koa had often kept me company. She'd watched over my shoulder as I added scenes. Koa had been a near-constant companion in my little home office.
She really got herself wedged in there once.

We promised Special Edition, who went with us to the appointment, that we would get information first. We wouldn't just do and make a decision without talking to the vet. Dr. C, who had examined Pa'ani and helped lay him to rest, examined Koa.

Her kidneys had shrunk. Koa was in end-stage renal disease, if not outright failure. She also had a tumor on her thyroid.

"But you can fix it?" Special Edition asked desperately.

Dr. C shook his head slowly. "Her kidneys would be far too scarred."

And so, on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, after more than sixteen years together, we said goodbye to our dear stubborn friend.

She was stubborn to the end, I can tell you. I was there for the passings of Popoki and Minou, and Hubby was there for Keiki and Pa'ani.

Koa held on to that last breath, hanging on, until she finally, peacefully, let go.

Because, by golly, she wasn't going to go gently into that good night. Not if she could help it.

I wouldn't expect anything less.

Koa Umalu
May 4, 2001 ~ August 15, 2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Precise Definition

Several weeks ago...

Middle: Mom, what does obstinate mean?

Hubby: Go look in the mirror.

Me: Stubborn and unmoving.

Middle grinned impishly and without apology.