Live fast, die young...

...leave a good-looking corpse.

Selkie didn't live fast, and she didn't die young, but she had a long and healthy life. One month before she died, she looked like she was still eight or ten years old.

Selkie Memorial Page

(1987? - 1989?) - Jan 8, 2003


Selkie was a cat. Before I met Stef, I'd never had a pet, and I'd spent less than a year in college living with someone who had pets (four cats and a dog).

Stef found Selkie in 1991, a year before she met me. Selkie was in the San Francisco SPCA facility, and Stef fell in love with Selkie when Selkie rolled over on her back and looked cute. The SPCA claimed that Selkie was four years old, but she might have been as young as two.

When Stef and I moved in together (1994), it really wasn't just two of us, it was three of us. Although I've always liked cats, Selkie was still "Stef's cat" in the beginning. It took several years for Selkie to become fully "our cat". Selkie helped, of course. Selkie was a wonderful cat. Not only was she beautiful, she was moderately smart and affectionate. She wasn't a maniac, but she was playful. She wasn't a lap cat, but she did like crawling onto laps, and she liked being in bed with us -- but always on her terms.

Above all else, though, Selkie was the most polite cat I've ever met. We've got a house full of knick-knacks and tchotchkes, and Selkie never knocked things down. She clawed the carpet, but not the furniture. Toward the end, she even learned to pat people with her paw when she wanted scritching.

Selkie also spared us many issues that ail cats. She generally threw up less than once per month, and she almost always threw up where it wouldn't damage anything. She only required vet care two or three times prior to her final illness (aside from routine checkups).

Selkie wasn't a big beggar, but there were definitely some foods she wanted, most notably bacon and jerky and juice from tuna cans. In keeping with her polite nature, she usually didn't push too hard to grab food off of plates, but lamb was one of the exceptions.

She was a creature of habit. In the morning, I'd close the door to the bedroom so Stef wouldn't be disturbed, and some time around 7am or 8am, Selkie would sit near the door and demand to be let in. When she joined us in bed, she'd make a patrol circuit to make sure everything was in order.

For ten years, this arrangement worked very well....

Shortly before New Year 2003, Selkie started acting sick. She spent most of her time upstairs (away from us), wasn't eating or drinking much, and was rather weak (though she improved briefly Tues, enough to jump on the bed). Because of the holiday, we didn't get her to the vet until Thurs 1/2. Friday we got the results of the blood test, which said she was fine except for anemia. They suggested an ultrasound, but the tech who handles them wasn't going to be in until Monday, so we took her home for the weekend.

While Selkie was at the vet, getting rehydrated made her hungry, and she ate a fair bit of food. Once she got back home, though, her appetite lapsed. I was able to convince her to drink, but she started being unable to pee in the litterbox unless we stood over her (she'd pee outside it, onto the newspaper). The whole weekend felt like we were basically waiting for Monday.

When we took Selkie back on Monday, we chewed our nails until we got the bad news: Selkie had a big tumor around her pancreas and lymph nodes. There were no treatment options, and she'd last another few days, maybe a couple of weeks at the outside. We decided to bring her home for a last couple of days and have the vet put her to sleep on Weds -- this way she'd die before she was in a lot of pain. The vet gave us some steroid pills to make her more comfortable (she had some fluid buildup).

Once we brought her home, she completely refused any more food, though she was drinking steadily when we pushed water in front of her. We sent an e-mail out to our local friends inviting those who wanted to (and felt comfortable) come say good-bye to her.

Selkie perked up some on Tues. She even made a point of coming over to the couch to sit on my lap (though she needed help getting up on the couch), and she scratched at the carpet. She'd lost interest in all her toys save one: she still liked getting thumped on her back legs with a pair of bongers (semi-hard rubber balls three inches in diameter, attached with flexible metal shafts to wooden handles -- supposed to be for massage), and she liked it enough to walk over when I thumped the bongers on the floor. That night I dumped her on the end of the bed, where I expected her to run off, but instead she walked up to to the top to cuddle with us, just like she always did.

If this sounds like a tear-jerker, it should. Each time I saw Selkie doing something "for the last time", I started crying. That kind of surprised me; I knew that Selkie meant a lot to me, but normally I'm the kind of person who only cries when I'm shocked by something, not "just" because I'm sad/grieving. Then again, this is the first time I've killed someone, and I knew I was going to kill her.

Weds morning I woke up early because Stef and I had a 7:30am appointment. After I woke Stef up, I put Selkie on my lap, figuring she'd want to leave in a little bit, but she stayed there until I had to take her off (making me miss my shower). When we got back, Selkie refused to drink any more water. The vet arrived shortly after noon. I kept Selkie on my lap. Stef took care of the paperwork (cremation, ashes scattered over a nature preserve near Santa Rosa).

We lifted Selkie up and put a double-thickness of towel on my lap, then put Selkie back on my lap. The vet wasn't able to find a suitable vein in the first leg, so Selkie suffered the indignity of getting both of her hind legs shaved. Even though she'd been struggling a bit, she went completely limp right when the plunger was depressed -- she was ready to go.

Copyright 2003 by
Written 9 Jan 2003

One person posted this memorial to rec.pets.cats.anecdotes, then offered it to me:

I first met Selkie in 1995, the first time I went to Stef's house. I thought she was a strikingly beautiful cat - seal point Siamese with a round head (not the angular, pointy kind), chunky body, and blue eyes. She was smart, very friendly and affectionate. Whenever I'd go to their house, I could always find her on her kitty bed next to Stef's computer, and she always greeted me with purrs. She also loved to be brushed - that was always the easiest way to make friends with her. She was also a very playful cat and would "hide" behind some wire mesh on the floor, because then, of course, no one could see her (OK, not an indicator of her intelligence :)). I've cat-sat her many, many times over the past 7 years, and we've spent many nights curled up on the couch together, with her sitting on my lap and purring. I'm really going to miss her.