Friday, February 19, 2010

Goodbye, sweet Allegro...

So I mentioned in my last post that I had a huge headache after my day of traveling last week... I think it also had to do with the fact that last Friday was a really stressful day. It started with a 70-page annual report at work that I wanted to get through before I left for the day (because I knew I would be out on Tuesday so I wanted to make sure I had it back to the originator in case he needed it). I finished my proofing marathon, my back feeling rather stiff from hunching over my desk all day, and proceeded to start working on few more odds and ends. I was winding down, knowing the weekend was just around the corner, and then Rick called. He had gone home early, and was there when Allegro had another apparent stroke -- she couldn't stand up, and while Rick was talking to me on the phone, I could hear her meowing mournfully in the background. After a year of watching her slowly deteriorate, we decided this was as far as she should have to go -- it wouldn't be much of a life if she couldn't even stand up. So we made the difficult choice to take her into the vet and have her put to sleep. I felt horrible already, but I felt even worse because of the fact that I happened to be at work when this happened and couldn't go with Rick to the vet. I didn't get a chance to look into those big, round eyes once more and say good-bye...

It was because of those eyes that Allegro ended up with me in the first place. It was 1992, and I had just moved from my parents' house in New Jersey down to Austin. I was living on my own for the first time ever, although I did have a roommate named Lori. Lori, however, had a habit of spending nearly every weekend in either Houston or College Station, and would often be gone even longer. When I was by myself, every little sound in that apartment would rattle my nerves, and I decided if I was going to live alone half the time, I needed a companion of some sort. Enter the Austin Humane Society. Rick and I drove down to their location near Town Lake (or Lady Bird Lake as it's called now...) and asked to see the cats who were up for adoption.

We were led to the "cat" section of the building, where rows of small cages lined the walls. In cage after cage I saw groups of kittens huddled together, fluffy and adorable... I guess I must've decided I wanted a YOUNG cat, and at first, the kittens were definitely calling to me. But how could I decide which one belonged with me? How could I choose just one to take home? I looked around for a few more minutes, and then turned to glance into the cages on the opposite wall. And that's when I saw my cat -- the sun was shining in through a high window, spilling into the cage where she was residing, and the first thing I saw was those huge, round, beautiful yellow eyes. I'd never seen a cat with eyes like that. And even though she was past the "kitten" stage -- she was about a year old already -- I instantly knew that she was the cat for me. She was brought to the humane society by a family who just decided they didn't want her anymore... just changed their minds, like they'd decided on pizza for dinner and then realized they actually wanted hamburgers. Eh, just get rid of the pizza. (I suppose I should applaud them for at LEAST leaving her at the humane society instead of dumping her on the side of the road...) But now she would have a new home with me...


I can't remember why I decided on a "musical" theme when I was choosing a name, but eventually "Allegro" (which means "lively" or "cheerful" in Italian and is used in music to dictate tempo) came to mind. Over the next few months, Allegro grew into her name quite nicely, tearing around the apartment at high speeds, lively and cheerful indeed. She kept me company when I was alone, and slept at the end of my bed every night. She wasn't much of a "lap cat," and would never let me hold her for more than a few seconds before protesting with loud meows -- but she always wanted to be NEAR me. She may not have wanted to sleep on my lap, but she wanted to sleep on the couch cushion next to me. If I walked to another room, she would follow, just to see what I was up to.

About five years after she became a part of our family, Allegro suddenly stopped eating. It seemed like one day she was fine, and the next she'd dropped from her usual seven pounds (which is already a pretty small cat) to five pounds. The vet was totally stumped... she had some liver damage, but he said that could be caused by not eating -- so which came first? Did the damaged liver cause her to stop eating, or did the lack of eating cause the liver damage? She was still drinking water, but I had to take her to the vet to be force-fed at least every other day. It was horrible to hear her crying in the vet's office as they fed her -- I knew I couldn't keep that up for very long. I remember Rick bringing up the possibility that we might have to already say good-bye to her at her young age. I definitely wasn't ready for that. So as a last resort, I decided to switch to a different vet to see if another doctor had different ideas...

I'm still not sure what the new vet did, but within two days, Allegro was eating again. Needless to say, we've stuck with that vet through the years. (In fact, I just received a sympathy card in the mail from them, signed by everyone in the office -- what a sweet gesture!) That one strange little scare was the only hiccup in Allegro's life -- she went on to live for twelve more years, never once resorting to a hunger strike again. :) Actually, the last few years, she LOVED to eat -- and she'd eat pretty much anything you set in front of her. I've never seen a cat eat such a variety of things -- whatever WE were eating, she'd want to eat, too. And more often than not, no matter what it was, if it was a small enough bite of food, she WOULD eat it. 

I know a lot of people don't have pets, and probably don't understand how these furry little creatures can work their way into your heart until you're totally in love with them... but I can't imagine not knowing what that's like. Pets love unconditionally, don't care who you are or what you look like, and have an amazing ability to gauge your feelings. I can't even count how many times I was feeling sad or upset, when Allegro instinctively KNEW that I could use a furry friend next to me to keep me company. She was a part of the family, a companion, a source of happiness and joy, someone who could always bring a smile to my face.

Allegro purred contentedly until the last day of her life. And I know it's because I made the perfect decision 18 years ago, when I brought home someone else's "reject" cat -- their loss was my gain. 

3 comments:

Rick said...

Very nice post! I miss her too...

G said...

A heartfelt post.

Cats do have a way of making themselves an intergral part of one's life (I'm currently on my second one, and it really hurt when my first one passed away).

Allegro will always be there, in your memories and your heart, and for the rest of us, in the archives of your blog.

Anonymous said...

That was really beautiful, Lisa. You know I loved her, too.

Mom