Remembering Curie

We just lost our beloved cat Curie, a Russian blue, who gave us eighteen years of happiness and precious company.  For those of you who have pets, I don’t need to explain how terribly painful it is; for those who don’t have pets, there’s no way I can explain it.

Curie was old, had arthritis, and liked nothing more than to spend hours curled up on my lap. She could be quite insistent about it: if I was trying to use my laptop or read a magazine, she would come up beside me and reach out with her paw in a very human gesture, nudging me again and again, “Hey, this is my laptime.”

She had been losing weight recently, sleeping more and more.  When I left on my book tour, on an early morning flight, I made sure to pet her and say goodbye, but I didn’t give a thought to the fact that it would be the last time I ever saw her.  Curie had been in our lives for so long.

We got her as a kitten from the Humane Society. After six months we had a scare when a routine test indicated that she had been exposed to feline leukemia in the shelter. Because we had other cats, the vet recommended we put her down immediately before she infected the others, but we had him run a second test—only to find that it was a false positive.  No leukemia after all.

Curie loved catnip more than any of our other felines, getting herself all dopey as she rolled around with catnip toys.  For some reason, she was fascinated with shoes and liked to stick her face in my tennies or hiking boots when I left them by the door.  She also dominated the cat post by the window, as she spent hours watching “bird TV” outside.

One morning of my book tour, I flew into another city and Rebecca called me on the cell phone as I was walking to the baggage claim after getting off the plane. Curie had taken a serious turn for the worse. When she got up that morning she found Curie in the floor in her room, breathing heavily, barely able to move.  Rebecca rushed her to the vet, and called me again with the grim update that Curie had a large tumor, her systems were shutting down, and that she had only hours left to live.  I talked with the vet, who said that with superhuman efforts we might be able to keep Curie alive for another day or two…but almost certainly not until I could get back home. And she was clearly suffering.

Rebecca and I reached the only decision we could. Rebecca held Curie on her lap while I was on the speakerphone, hoping she could hear and recognize my voice.  And as I sat crying in a bookstore parking lot very far from home, the vet sent Curie away from her suffering.

Then I had to pull myself together and do a booksigning fifteen minutes later.  That was a very rough day.

It saddens me beyond measure that my travels denied Curie her precious laptime in the last week of her life.  When I came home from tour yesterday, we picked up Curie’s remains from the vet and Rebecca and I buried her on the hill behind our house.  We looked through our pictures of her, remembering all her funny quirks, how much we loved having her around.  She warmed our laps as much as she warmed our hearts.

Curie demonstrates her signature “Hey, where’s my lap?” nudge

Enough room on the lap for Curie and Harrison