24 February, 2016

My Girl - The Story of Max

First - click here to cue up the music - "My Girl" written by Smokey Robinson, performed by the original Temptations with David Ruffin as the lead singer.  This post is the story of our girl Max, our cat who died on Monday.

Max's story started a long time ago (1999), in a place far away (Rochester, Minnesota).  It was a November work day for me and Dennis.  Freezing rain had begun to fall around 3:00 pm and the temperature was falling rapidly with the coming night.  Dennis and I were meeting his brother and sister-in-law, visiting us from their home in New Jersey, for dinner at 6:00.  We were both running late, as was the usual case for us at work, and rushed to the parking lot drive straight to the restaurant.  As we drove to the exit gate of the parking lot, I spotted someone's lovely fuzzy hat in a freezing mud puddle and asked Dennis to stop so I could hang it on the gate before it got destroyed.  I picked it up and "it" was a tiny little cat, soaking wet and freezing cold. Its head was the only part of it that was out of the water.  Well, what are you going to do?  Once you pick up a cat it is yours.  I stuck the cat under my coat to get it warm and it started to purr.  The only thing we could do was drive home (10 minutes away), stash the cat in the laundry room with a towel, food, and water, change into clean clothes, and then dash to the restaurant (5 mintues back the way we had come) to arrive only 30 minutes late.  And so Max came into our lives.

We got her sorted out at the vet that week.  We had to have her tested for feline leukemia before we could let her mingle with our other 2 cats, JD and Polly.  She was negative, so that was good.  The vet thought she was nearly a year old even though she weighed only 4lbs.  She had a slight injury on a back leg, possibly from climbing under a car to get warm.  Once that was healed and she gained some weight, we had her spayed.  She was a very lively little cat - she could leap onto the kitchen counter and from there onto the top of the wall cupboards.  She climbed the bookshelves, climbed the plants, certainly would have climbed the drapes if we had had drapes.  All my photos of her early years are in storage still because that was when I was still using a film camera.  My favorite early photo of her is up in tree with her front legs wrapped around an upright limb looking for the world like a little koala bear.

Her first year must have been a hungry one because she made up for lost time.  In no time she weighed more than her new buddy JD.  And so life was good for Max.  She was an indoor cat except for the time she and the others went outside with me.
Max in the sunroom.
Springtime!  Max in the daffodils with JD.
"Oh no!  Dangerous cars out on the road."
Hosta la vista.
Dreaming of toys.
Summer again.   This is the life.
Office help at home.
Snuggled up to Dennis in winter.
Cushions are the best.
No.  Catnip with JD is the best. 
Spring again.
A cat in her prime.
All was well in Max's life.  It was sad when Polly died, but JD is a good friend.  And then, out of nowhere, that bad cat Jazmin entered the scene.
Max doesn't like Jazmin.
Max still doesn't like Jazmin, but no blood has been drawn. 
To Max's relief, Jazmin also died, leaving Max and JD as the two cats of the house.
Another spring and, oooh, are those ramps?
A little excitement when the sunroom was the scene of a crime.  A crime perpetrated by raccoons that broke through the window screen to get to the bird feeders.
What the heck?
I did NOT do this.
Summertime and the livin' is easy.
Things changed in the house as we got it ready to put on the market.  A refurbished closet.
A kitty shelf for Max.
The sunroom is still a favorite place.
The perfect combination of inside and outside.
Something is up there.
Pretty, tempting, butterflies.
Not tall enough to reach.
A real peeping Tom.
Autumn of 2012 - That was the last photo of Max in Rochester.   I purposely left the camera in Belize the last time I went because I knew I would more than have my hands full when Max and I moved to Belize in December 2012.

But before Max could travel to Belize she had to loose some weight to fit in her soft-sided carrier that I would carry on to the plane.  She also had to have a health exam, get her vaccinations all current, and have a statement of health signed by a USDA-approved veterinarian.  Fortunately her regular vet is USDA-approved.  I filled out lots of forms, bought expensive tickets for me and Max to travel first class.  Max was 13 years old when we made that trip and I gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving it.  She hated to travel by car and this trip entailed a 90 minute drive to the Minneapolis airport (thanks for the ride Vivian!), a scary security process during which she almost escaped, 90 minutes waiting to board the plane to Dallas, a 2 hr layover in Dallas, and then another flight to Belize.  She spent the whole time cowering in the back of the carrier, never making a sound, her eyes wide with fear.  I kept the carrier on my lap and was able to slip my hand in to comfort her.  Once in Belize, I had to go through immigration and customs and then get Max through BAHA (Belize Agricultural Health Authority) with more forms and some more money changing hands.  Our friends Sue and Chris Harris met us at the airport and Max had her first ride in a pickup truck as we drove to D'Nest B&B not too far from the airport.  In my backpack, I had made up a little travel litter box which she urgently used once we were in the room.  She had behaved wonderfully well, but was still very scared.  The next day Chris and Sue drove me and Max down to Monkey River Village.  Max's second, and final, in a pickup truck.  Then the poor cat had her first, and only, ride in a boat to get to Englishtown.
The veranda is sort of like the sunroom back in Rochester!
No snow outside and this is January.  Fantastic.  A cat after my own heart.
Looks - no cars, only boats.
Max settled into life in Englishtown.  She was especially relieved when Dennis joined us.
A spot of sun.
Uh oh - scissors.  That can't be good.
Max got her fur clipped as the weather heated up.
Feeling naked.
All tired out after chasing the blue ball to get the kitty treats out.  It's a hard life being a kitty.
So many new things kept Max's life interesting.
She met curious lizards.
Got her fur trimmed again.
This haircut makes my butt look fat.  :-(
No, you look beautiful.
 Max, who used to hide under the bed in Rochester when visitors came over, became quite gregarious.
Life of the party - my retirement party, that is, with friends Julie and Phil.
She learned which spots were shady and cool.
This shot reminds me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the house lands on the Wicked Witch of the West, leaving only her legs protruding. 
Another summer, another hair cut.
 And then we started construction and Max found her passions - supervising and inspecting.
Looks good from out here.
Hard work, but a kitty's got to do what a kitty's got to do.
See above.
No scaffold too narrow or high for Max.
Time to check what is happening around the corner.
This new veranda is the cat's pyjamas.
She was born for this.
And this.
and again.
and again.
Late afternoon sun.
Instead of walks through the garden like we had in Rochester, we go on walks around the veranda.
with rest stops, of course.
 And then one day, we went up, up, up to the sunset veranda on the second level.
Wow, what a view.
Time to wash.
Back to the view.
Is that an agouti over there?
It was soon after the photo above taken in July 2015 that we noticed Max was losing weight and slowing down even more.
Asleep on the inside.
Asleep on the newly screened veranda.  A little too skinny now.
Even though she was slowing down, she liked to hang her legs off the veranda as she slept.  Not bad for a 17-yr-old cat.

And here she is in the final photo I have of her.  She was obviously in the 12 step program, but only made it to step 3.
Taking a rest on Step 3 of a 12 step program.  

Max started fading fast on Friday.  She was very weak.  Her last happy time was Friday afternoon watching the hummingbirds while sitting on our bed.  She ate very little on Saturday and stopped eating or drinking on Sunday.  Max died Monday afternoon with Dennis and me beside her.  We buried her in the avocado tree garden bed by the light of the full moon.

Our hearts are heavy and we miss her so much.  But we are happy that she lived a long and happy life of more than 17 years, with 3 great years in Belize.  And we are comforted that she had an easy death.  My Girl.