Twenty years is a long life for a feline.
But that doesn’t mean that twenty years feels like enough, or that “goodbye” at the end of twenty years feels anything like okay. So it is with sorrow and surprise that we bid farewell to one of Tabby’s Place’s beloved elder statescats, the extraordinary Nickey.
Nickey first came to Tabby’s Place many moons ago, before my time. She’d lived in a house chock-full – too full – of cats, and was joined in her Tabby’s Place journey by housemates Puff Puff, Tipper, Taffy, and the torbie with whom she shared the title of “oldest cat at Tabby’s Place,” Hillary. Their lives had been full of love in their cramped home, but they’d also been too full of roommates, and so, through a series of events, they made their way to a new life at Tabby’s Place.
From the start, Nic was a standout. In addition to being the only FIV+ member of the group with which she came, she was a star in her own right. Between her serene self-assurance and her endless benevolence to all human and feline acquaintances, Nickey was something like the feline Katherine Hepburn: iconic, very much her own woman, beautiful and bearing warmth and wisdom for everyone – but also willing to stand up to the boys when necessary.
And, oh, was it ever necessary! As part of our FIV+ crew, Nickey stood out as a very ladylike lady in the land of big, bumbling boys. While affectionate, comical titans like Fuzzy and Nuttin would forever battle it out over wet food and human attention, Nickey kept things at a higher level, and the fellas quite evidently respected her for it. Even among such larger-than-life personalities, Nickey very rarely needed to hiss or flatten her ears to make a point; the boys fell into line when Nickey ambled their way.
Nickey’s last year at Tabby’s Place, her 20th on the planet, was by all accounts a blaze of glory. She continued her favorite hobby: causing Dr. C to shake her head and say, “Nickey looks perfect.” Never mind the FIV and heart disease; other than those seemingly forever-stable diagnoses, Nic had the blood work and vim of a cat one-fifth her age. We took to calling her our “FIV mythbuster,” and I would always use her as Exhibit A when sad-faced visitors remarked, “oh, FIV…don’t they live sad, sick, short lives?”
When a mass in her abdomen turned out to be colon cancer in January ’09, we feared Nickey’s end might be near…but she went on to thrive as she’d never thrived before. After surgery to remove half of her colon, Nickey proceeded to add some healthy pounds to her tiny frame, and rallied with a fresh courage and grit. She’d now join the rowdiest boys out in the FIV+ solarium, fearlessly bopping Thomas on the head if he deserved it, and not hesitating to jockey for position among the attention-hogs. At age 20, Nickey was in her prime: the epitome of everything a cat can be, FIV+ or otherwise.
I guess that’s why it was so surprising when I got the call from Danielle on a Tuesday morning.
Kelly and Danielle had arrived for early-morning rounds to find our elder statescat flat on the floor of Suite FIV. They raced her to the emergency vet, but it was already too late. The vet pronounced that the 20-year-old wonder had most likely thrown a blood clot, and gently let her go in Danielle’s loving arms.
After 20 years of Nickitude, we “shouldn’t” be shocked that our old wonder-torbie has left the earth. We “shouldn’t” feel surprised, much less cheated, that she won’t be adding class and sweetness to Suite FIV any longer.
But “shoulds” never really apply when it comes to cats and their dreadful need to leave us, do they?
What is clear beyond doubt is that Nickey lived life to the very fullest, squeezing each drop of joy out of every day and every endeavor. As much as Nickey loved life, she was loved by friends all around the world.
She was blessed to be loved by each of you.