In June of 2006, we got two kittens from the Humane Society; their names are Latte and Liger. Latte is the milk-colored one (he came with that name) and Liger is the tiger-striped one. He owes his name to our love for the movie "Napoleon Dynamite."
David and Katie were thrilled to have kittens, and they took very good care of them. They were kind and firm in teaching them what they could and could not do around the house. Both kids were very loving and gentle with the cats, and we had a great deal of fun during that summer, watching them play and grow.
When Katie's illness was diagnosed, and it became clear that we were not going to be allowed to bring her home for a long time, we moved into Ronald McDonald House. Our dear neighbors took turns letting the cats out of the house in the morning and into the house at night, feeding them, giving them love, etc. This took a huge load off of our minds, yet Katie was devastated to have to live away from Latte and Liger. I made large photo collages for her hospital room, and kept adding to it over the months that we were in Seattle, but a photo cannot take the place of a warm, loving, purring pet.
One day, when we visited the hospital's gift shop, Katie found a stuffed cat on display, curled up in a cat bed, with a motor concealed in its body that made it look as if it were breathing. It also made a little purring sound. We bought it, and Katie put it on her bed, beside her. She fooled alot of staff members, who knew that cats are not allowed in the Hematology-Oncology ward. Katie thoroughly enjoyed seeing their expressions, and watching them jump back when they saw the cat move!
When she was finally allowed to come home for brief visits between the last rounds of chemo, Katie was very happy to get to spend time with Latte and Liger, and they were just as happy to see her. Latte would lie in the doorway of her room, or near her bed, as if on guard. Liger is more submissive, and would just cuddle up to her and purr. Latte is now a very large, dominant, dog-like, heavy, flame-point siamese; Liger is a very lean, happy, agreeable Abyssinian-built tabby. He is the most flexible animal we have ever seen. He has a habit of finding small Playmobil toys and moving them around the house. He used to do this so often that it irritated Katie, since she and David had them set up a certain way.
On the morning that Katie passed away, after Amy (the hospice nurse) and I had bathed her and changed her clothes, Latte got into the house. We were in Katie's room with the funeral home director when Latte marched in, jumped up on Katie's bed, walked over her thighs (as is his habit with everyone) and then went to her face. He looked at her, gave her a head-butt (a cat kiss), walked to the foot of the bed, looked up at Gregg, walked back to Katie's face, and flopped down beside her, purring. As if he took it all in, got it, and lay down to wait and see what would happen next.
Liger, however, never saw any of this. He was outdoors when she passed away, and when he came in that evening, she was gone. He seemed to become very anxious afterward, and though I did try talking to him about her and comforting him, he seemed inconsolable for months. He has just started to calm down in the last month or so.
We often find him in Katie's room, sleeping on her "papasan" chair, on her bed, or under it. He purrs when I find him there. Maybe he can feel her spirit more when he is in there.
Latte, dog-like, walks David up the driveway to his school carpool every morning, and waits in the woods for me to return from my walk each day. He then escorts me to the door of the house. He still likes to lie in the front hall, as if on guard; he is very much the alpha male cat.
I am thankful for the unconditional love of the cats in our lives, and for the laughter they create in our house.