The long dark streaks down my cheeks come from crying for past two-plus hours.
It started when Amy noticed Diva, the long-haired black cat we took in as a feral kitten, raised and loved for much of our time here in Floyd since 2004, appeared near the death we feared was coming.
Diva was a black, loud bundle of kinetic noise when we took her in as one of several feral kittens Amy helped nurse back to help and ready them for adoption through the Floyd Humane Society.
One problem. Amy fell love i with each kitten and didn’t want to see any of them go. We held on to four and gave up raising kittens for others to adopt.
They were Diva, Loki, Coco and Puffer, each loved and adored and they joined our other two cats who arrived in Floyd from our home in Arlington, where we lived and kept cats in the condo we called home for 23 years while working in the nation’s capital.
Diva, as a kitten, woke up in a panic if she was alone and would wander the house looking for other cats and her two human companions.
We arrived in Floyd in 2004 with two cats — A.C. (short for Anti-Christ), a black bundle of alpha-male terror that Amy found in a ditch, cold and soaked, in Belleville, Illinois, while she took care of her mother’s estate; and Trouble, a Black and White cat who kept mostly to himself but became one of our favorites. A co-worker who found him shivering in the streets of Washington, DC and brought him to us.
Loki, one of our first feral kittens, quickly won our hearts with his rambunctious behavior and loving actions but soon began to lose his balance shortly after we got him in 2005. A trip to the vets school at Virginia Tech became a cat scan that showed an inoperable brain tumor.
We took him home, comforted him and he rewarded us with loud purrs and affection. As his balance faltered even more, he would fall and one of us would carry im to his food and water bowls. One day, he tumbled down the steps, turning cartwheels over and over until he reached the bottom. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem hurt but we began to see more and more signs of the growing tumor. Often, he would fall asleep in our arms and would purr contentedly between us when we slept.
When we saw the first signs of pain in his eyes and his cries, we took him in to Tech and they said it was time to put him to sleep. He was less than six months old.
I left the vet’s office, walked into the lobby and sobbed until Amy came out with tears streaming down her face. Tech cremated him and we buried his ashes on our property.
Trouble started showing his age in 2011. Joint problems, missing teeth and slowed him down and he died in Amy’s lap in July of that year while she fed him with an eyedropper. I buried him in a quiet spot on our property, again with tears clouding my eyesight.
A.C. died in 2017 after living a long life as a cat with a purr like a steam locomotive with love and affection. More tears and more time adding him to our growing cat graveyard.
Early in Diva’s life, she didn’t purr, but when one arrived it proved as loud and consistent as AC’s. She also loved attention and often did what Amy called “the dance of joy” when she joined us in bed each evening.
Neither one of us could go to sleep until Diva decided she we had given her the attention she felt she deserved. We did so, with pleasure.
Diva’s heath began to fail with digestive problems. Earlier this year, Amy began mixing baby food turkey and other beef products from an vet-recommended diet and she gained energy and a little weight.
But joint problems joined the digestive issues and her downward slide began to show the end was near. Her eyes failed. Amy tried to feed her late Friday afternoon but she ate less than normal and had an erratic heartbeat.
With tears in our eyes, we petted and stroked her and tried to make her as comfortable as possible but she died shortly before 6 pm Friday. I buried her with the sun setting on a site where she faces future sunsets.
Then I sat alone in the garage with tears cascading down my face.
In the house, our four remaining cats wandered the halls and rooms upstairs and down, looking for a companion that no longer remained. Coco and Puffer, two of our remaining and healthy cats, led the search. They looked and uttered mournful meows, waiting in vain for a response that would no longer come.
Amy and I understood their loss…and we shared their pain.