My Shadow Box is Gone

Her name was Box, and her passing reminds me of the joy and the sadness that rescuing feral cats always brings.
I know you’re asking yourself why anyone would name their kitty Box and I’m not sure I can explain it fully, but I’ll try….Originally I called her Shadow. She was one of a litter of four kittens that Mama Cat, who resided in our neighborhood when my husband and I moved into our house, presented to us. Upon arriving home from a short trip back east, these four ceremoniously appeared, one by one, from under our nearest neighbor’s house, unoccupied at that time, and promptly moved into our home and our lives.
Our back screen door had a small hole in the bottom part of it, and these kitties soon learned they could come and go as they wanted from there; and so they did — cavorting about on the deck amidst the flower pots during the day, and wreaking havoc inside at night while we slept. Many the morning I woke to find curtains pulled down and lamps overturned. All survived this growing-up period, ourselves includedCat - Smart kitties enjoying a warm electric blanket, as you can see:
In the evening, when it was time to come in, I would call out “Bee Jay, Button’s Baby, Sophie, Shadooooo Box”, and in they’d come. Soon the Shadow part of her name was dropped and she became simply Box. And it really did seem to be a perfect name for her.
Even before these kitties moved in with us, I had seen Box once. Sitting in my small morning room, I looked out the window and there was Mama Cat walking down the road towards the neighbor’s house with a small dark bundle in her mouth. I’m sure it was Box. Each of the litter-mates is uniquely marked: Bee Jay is mostly gray with some white, Sophie is a calico, Button’s Baby mostly white with some dark gray markings, and Box has theRescue - Box dark tortoise shell coloring.
Of the four kittens she was the most timid and frightened. The day I took her to the vet in a neighboring city to be spayed, I had not even returned home when the vet’s office called to say she had gotten loose.  They had gone through one hard time corralling her, and would I please come right away and get her?  This was before we had a cell phone, so I didn’t know the situation until I’d already returned home. They had managed to catch Box and spay her, so I went back and brought her home and put her in a small room by herself to recover. Several times I would go in and speak softly to her and cuddle her – something I had not been able to do before (and probably only something she allowed because she was still groggy from the anesthetic) and this was, I’m sure, our bonding period.
Box was also quite stand-offish, not only from people, but even from her litter-mates. The other three often cuddle and play and sleep together, but not Box. But she cuddled with me and over time we became the best of friends.
At first the kitties were all inside/outside cats, free to come and go. Eventually the three girls became inside-always cats, and only Bee Jay comes and goes. Box had about three terrifying episodes outside:  once I had to go up the street and coax her out from under a porch; two other times she was either up a tree or on the roof, howling with fear, and it was only with great difficulty that we were able to get her down and inside to safety.  After the third time, it became clear she had decided that being inside safe and sound worked better for her.
She was, while my husband was alive, our bed partner, sleeping between us. After my husband’s death, she continued to sleep with me. It was a very rare night that we didn’t go to bed together.
And then she became ill with liver and kidney disease – and things changed, including some of her habits. She distanced herself and stopped coming to bed with me. She began to meow pitifully when she wanted to be fed, and she seemed, strangely, to be more accepting of someone else in the house.
Before becoming sick, she rarely appeared when I had company. My bedroom was her sanctuary where she spent most of her time. Occasionally, if one of my children was visiting for several days, she would come out briefly, but never to stay long. After getting ill, things were very different….
Wednesday, January 6th, I had to make the hard decision to let her go.  After I did so, I realized I had probably waited too long…She was so thin and so ill. Although she had distanced herself from me somewhat, during those last days she often came onto my lap and purred and stayed. Was she saying ‘goodbye’?
The very worst aspect of having a pet is knowing we may have to experience eventually what I experienced, which is making the awful decision to end a life and say ‘goodbye’ to a sweet being who has shared our lives over the years. But, when we take a pet into our lives, we are making a commitment to them …to care for them and be responsible for them until the end, and so, if they live long enough, the end may be very sad indeed.  I had more than ten years with Box, and wouldn’t trade a minute of that time. Nevertheless, I miss her.

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