Dushenka came to us as a stray. She hung around the neighborhood for about a week, with my husband trying to coax her closer. Then she disappeared for a week. One day, though, she came trotting through our garden and up to our door. She had chosen us as her family.
It turned out that her former family lived just a couple of streets away from us, which we found out because the vet discovered that she had a microchip. (We also found out that her original name was Carmen, which isn’t a bad name for a cat, but we had already started calling her Dushenka because we couldn’t keep calling her Li’l Bit. “Dushenka” is Russian and means “little soul.” But I digress.)
I tried not to love her. I really did. We had recently lost our darling cat Julia, another little calico, and Dushenka reminded me so much of her. I just felt I wasn’t ready to give my heart to another one yet. But there Dushenka was with her little pinky nose, her smudgy chin, her crazy eyes, her super-long white whiskers, her floofy white belly, and her gorgeous, silky calico fur.
I began to suspect that I was falling in love when a neighbor (not Dushenka’s former owners – they never responded to us) lost their cat, also a calico, and came to inquire about the one we’d found. I found myself quizzing them closely about what their cat looked like. He said she was female. Check. I asked if she had a dark smudge under her chin. What were her eyes like? Then I brought Dushenka out for him to look at, and he said that she wasn’t his. I began to suspect she was ours (or we were hers) and that I was in love with her.
It turned out she is different enough from Julia that I was able to think of them as individuals. Dushenka has shorter fur than Julia did. Julia had a distinctive, bitchy meow. (She wasn’t actually bitchy. She just sounded that way.) Dushenka almost never meows, but she has a strong purr. And she snores. Daintily, but she snores.
She has acquired nicknames. (Baby Cat. Pretty Grrl. (Occasionally Naughty Grrl when she goes walkabout.) The Incredible Pettable Pet. Ms. Muss (rhymes with puss). Shenka-doo. (I may or may not have once called her Shenka-Doodle-Doo.) She even has her own song (“Shenka-Shenka-Doo, where are you? On your little kitty adventure!” ttto the Scooby-Doo theme song.) But I digress. Again. At length.)
I’m not sure exactly how old Dushenka is because she came to us fully grown, though still youthful. Now she seems more like a little old lady, or at least on her way past middle age. Lately, she’s been in poor health. She just can’t seem to pee. She eats and drinks just fine, but nothing comes out the other end. Several vet visits later, it seems – no big surprise here – to be a problem with her kidneys. I hesitate to say how much we’ve spent, what with the weekend emergency vet visit, the blood tests, and the x-rays.
We’re giving her subcutaneous (subQ) fluids, a process we learned how to do over the years with other cats. It involves immobilizing the cat – no easy matter – and sticking a needle under the skin between her shoulder blades. (That’s always my job. Dan can’t bear to do it). We have a bag of fluids and a drip set and let about 150 ml run in. The fluid occupies the space between skin and flesh and makes her look lumpy and weird until it gradually absorbs. Repeat the next day. The idea is to flush out her kidneys. The process exhausts us and Dushenka, too. Afterward, Dushenka has a little snack for her nerves and then we all go have a lie-down. These are the things we do for the little soul we love.
Every so often we look at Dushenka and say, “Who could not love this cat?” Other than the people who had her originally, I don’t know. I couldn’t not love her. I tried.
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