Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Story of Pippen

Pippen (aka Pippalada Pipsqueak, Sweet Girl, Goofy Girl, Crazy Cat) hiding under the covers and sleeping.

This is the story of Pippen. I had her for about six years, from ages 11 to 17. She came to us from her first home, where she lived with her mother and daughter; her original caretaker named her. My mom, a huge Tolkien fan, picked her for that reason. She adapted pretty quickly to us, her new family, and I can't remember her acting like she missed her first family. I do remember the first night we brought her home. I woke in the middle of the night to find her lying on my chest, gently biting the tip of my nose. I was surprised and pushed her away, but that's actually a fond memory for me -- she was so very gentle and creative in trying to wake up so I would play with her.

During the years that followed, Pippen became my sister, as cheesy as that may sound. I didn't grow up with my siblings (I have 5 step-sisters and brothers, but we weren't so very Brady), and Pippen became a surrogate sister to me. She would come sit by me when I cried, rub my ankles when my parents were yelling at me, wake me from a dead sleep by pouncing on my feet, work her way into every photograph, run and jump on my back, claws extended, if i wasn't paying her enough attention and let me chase her around when she was hyper. In the summers, when I was away visiting my dad in Alaska, my mom would tell me that she'd just sit outside the door to my room, waiting for me to come back. She was silly, annoying, naughty and loving. And a little dumb. She loved to chew on thumb tacks. She'd often get herself shut in closets. I really miss her.

Our sisterhood came to an end the summer before my senior year of high school. I was headed to Germany for a month on a cultural exchange, then I'd visit my dad. My parents had decided to install new carpet, partly because Pippen had developed the unfortunate habit of peeing outside her litter box. They didn't want the new carpet ruined, and I don't think they really wanted to be responsible for Pippen once I left for college. So, they decided she needed a new home. They let me know before I left, so I got to say goodbye and write an in-depth letter to her new owners. To this day, they swear they did give her away and didn't euthanize her. I imagine she has since passed on, since she'd be about 17 today.

Part of me feels guilty for what happened to her and part of me powerless, but mostly really sad. I didn't really grieve losing her and just realized that recently. I worry that she never knew just how much I loved her and how much she meant to me and made me feel loved. A few years back, my mom told me she thought she had seen Pippen at a library in Milwaukie (as the resident cat there, not as a stray). I was tempted to go and see for myself, but I was worried she might have forgotten me or would still be angry with me. I hadn't forgiven myself for what had happened and didn't expect she had either.

Silly as it sounds, I think all of this has affected my relationship with my current cats. I've kind of held back from them, afraid to get too attached. I've even tried preparing myself and J for the day that they pass on; what we'll do depending on who goes first. As though you can really prepare for this sort of thing. Last night, I told my kitties about Pippen and how my grief has held me back with them. They seemed to understand and forgive.

And then they got very, very stoned on catnip and proceeded to attack each other rather viciously. Who knew catnip could make cats aggressive.

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