Almost 17 years ago, Mike adopted a tiny grey tabby kitten from the Denver Dumb Friends League. He took her back to his house, where he and his college roomates and proceeded to feed her bean dip (because the local 7-11 didn't have cat food?) and christened her Vegas. Two days later, on my 23rd birthday, he gave her to me. It was in that moment I realized just how much he understood me - the crazy, animal-loving, me.
She was a green-eyed whirling dervish those first few days in my apartment, climbing the Christmas tree, scratching the furniture, pooping on the futon (possibly because of all that bean dip??) and terrorizing my other cat, Harley--who was one pissed kitty for several days after Vegas' arrival.
(Eventually, Harley forgave us for revoking her only-cat status, and warmed up to Vegas, as this picture clearly shows!)
Vegas was a stocky little cat who loved to eat and had the body to prove it. Maybe because of her portliness, she never had much of the typical cat "grace." Her vertical leaping ability was always a bit stunted (we had to leave a stepstool out for her to jump onto to reach her food on the counter) and she was almost comedically clumsy. She loved to sleep near your head, ready to pounce on your face when she felt it was time to wake up.
But she was oh-so-sweet, with her little ink-spotted nose, the softest fur you've ever felt. She was an affectionate cat who never met a lap she didn't want to curl up in. If there was a sunbeam streaming through a window, she'd be sprawled in it, purring like a Mustang engine. And her purr was extraordinarily loud - you could hear it from clear across the house.
As our lives progressed, these kitties became witness to all the big milestones and events: our wedding...new jobs...cross-country moves...the birth of a son and daughter. They were our first "kids" and taught us responsibility, compassion, and that all-important concept every twenty-something has to learn: it's not all about YOU.
But Vegas also taught me another lesson - that sometimes a snuggle on the couch or a warm spot in the sun is all you need to be happy. That sometimes, life is better when it's simple.
Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our sweet Vegas. After a 17-year life without a single health issue, she began to rapidly decline this week. She stopped eating and became too weak to move from a warm spot on the couch. Yet the one thing that remained normal was her louder-than-life purr, which resonated from her tiny little being even until the end.
Today we are left with hearts that are aching, and with a house that's just a bit quieter without her purring. There aren't really any words to describe how the loss of a pet - a family member - breaks your heart. But these, that I found by Riely's bedside last night, pretty much sum it up:
I hope that somewhere up in heaven, there's a loud purr resonating through the clouds.
Rest peacefully, sweet Vegas.