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Well, we ended up with 10-year-old Skittles.  As soon as we returned from our holiday travels we determined that she was still available so we brought her home on Tuesday, January 3.  17 days ago. She had a few medical issues, including a lower red blood cell count.  She needed her teeth cleaned.  She was chubby.

The entire family adored her instantly.  Skittles tucked each of us into bed every night.  She’d lay with my daughter until the child was asleep then we’d come into our bedroom and we’d help her onto the bed.  She sometimes lay next to me with her elbow up on my leg, like a guy leaning on a bar.  A really pretty guy, with a sweet, wide-open expression.  She often looked delighted–at least in the beginning.

She slept between us, her ears making little triangles in the night.  I’d wake and look for her; she’d purr.  She loved to be brushed, she loved to be petted and she was so pretty, Skittles was a pleasure to look at.

She looked for the sunbeams and liked to lie on our deck.

In retrospect, I knew things I believe I chose to ignore.  I saw a sort of cloud around Skittles’ head.  I could never get comfortable with the fact that periodically, she would shake her head.  Not hard, not weird, but damn, she’s doing it again.  I could never accept that she was simply “chubby”; every time I lifted her bulk a warning bell went off.

I thought often about how I had said, whatever this cat comes with, we’ll just deal with it. I thought “Skittles” didn’t seem like her name, but I didn’t get around to changing it.  I noticed I was reluctant to write about her.

In the end we could never get her to eat.  After two or three happy days she began to lose her glow.   Her initial exam and x-ray looked neutral and her blood results from November were normal.  We force fed her.  We gave her fluids.   Finally the vet recommended we take another blood panel.  I dimly remembered something I was told at the Shelter:  she needs an FIV test.

We’d had her 16 days when the news came:  she had Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.  Cats live with that successfully, but other symptoms spoke of a secondary complication.  That same day I noticed she held her head at a strange angle to her body.  The litter box confused her.  She began to weave, walking down the hall.  A call to the vet suggested she might have lymphoma which had spread throughout her nervous system.

I brushed her and told her how remarkable she was for an hour while she lay in the sun and purred.  At 4:00 my husband came to fetch us and we made the last drive to the vet’s office.

That was yesterday.  My husband and I have cried a river; I’m still crying.  I miss her obvious appreciation, her devotion to each of us, her beauty.  I miss that she was kind.  I miss that I went to my daughter’s room one night and they were cuddling, purring.  “Mom,” my daughter whispered, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”   I miss all the years we weren’t together.

I always said, we’ve only had Skittles 5 (or 8 or 12) days but she’s already given us ten years worth of joy. I would do it all again, to have the chance to know this remarkable cat.  But for now I have to finish crying.

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