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Cats are my favorite kind of people. Raisen? Raisen was one ... especially. Raisen was the best of all the friends whom I have ever known. We had a love and an appreciation for each other that knew no bounds, that could surpass all transgressions. Our time together was all too short. Not long enough. We were supposed to be together forever. Instead, our time together lasted but seven-and-a-half years. But in that time, I got to know someone so very brilliant, so beautiful, so wonderful, and so very, very special. I realize now that I was so very lucky, and so rarely blessed by God, to have been able to share in the experience of her beautiful life. I feel so honored to have known her. But I am so painfully hurt by her loss.
These are my memories of Raisen, taken from many notebooks that I started writing to since immediately after her death in an effort to try not to ever forget a moment of time spent with her. They were written over the course of the first few weeks after her passing.
I will never forget you, Raisen. You were the best friend I've ever had. You loved me so deeply, and I felt it. You didn't need to tell me because I experienced it, and I knew. We were a part of each other. Our spirits soared together. I miss you so very much now, Sweetheart. But we will be reunited, someday. And on that day, our spirits will again soar together, so happy to see each other, and all of our pain will be gone. Wait for me, Sweetheart. I'll be there, too, someday. And in the meantime, remember ... I will always love you ... forever.
In The Beginning...There Was Muffin
It was not originally intended to keep Muffin as a permanent resident pet. She came to our door one day out of the blue, meowing and meowing, just waiting there at the front door for someone to open it. As soon as we did, in she just walked. Of course, being SO really turned off by the rude manners of this pushy, presumptuous kitty, we of course `punished' her by feeding her immediately...and staring at her as she ate. "I don't want to keep her, now, so let's not get too attached...okay?" I remember saying to mom. Somewhere along the way, those words were forgotten, somehow.
When Muffin first came to us, her stomach always seemed kinda extended. Mom's first thought was that she might have worms. And of course, in my infinite and wise knowledge, I'd say "naw, she's just gorging herself for some reason; but she doesn't have worms. Then mom thought maybe she was pregnant. Naw" I says. She's not pregnant ... else she'd be really fat - and she's not really fat." (Her stomach was kinda firm to the touch; but not really that large. And I never felt any movement.)
About a week before she gave birth (according to my mother), we took Muffin to the vet to have her checked for worms. At that point, we finally discovered that she was definitely pregnant. The doctor would not give her any worm preventatives or medication then - not while she was pregnant.
In the two months before she gave birth, I had already noticed an intelligence in Muffin. In just those two months, I'd trained her to walk beside me on walks around the block, and to use the Pet Taxi without fear. Even had a video of Muffin walking out the door with me and walking out of view as we headed up the street, her walking beside me. However, that tape got erased by someone who recorded the movie The Abyss over it.
One afternoon, I was peacefully reading a book on my bed (Shakespeare, believe it or not) when I was rudely interrupted...
Muffin suddenly jumped on my bed, walked right up my chest to my face, and started meowing repeatedly and loudly in alarm, and pawing at my face, softly. "...WHAT?! ...WHAT?!" I said, or something to that effect - being rather bothered that I was interrupted from my reading and, yet, realizing that there might be a problem. Right there, as if she had immediately understood what I had said, Muffin turned around and ... I kid you not ... this cat actually stuck her butt in my face and showed me. Then she turned around again to face me, just staring, as if waiting for a reaction. Clueless at first, I looked again and couldn't figure out what I was looking at. Then it finally hit me. (Duh.) "Oh-my-god! MOM!!! Muffy's having her kittens now! And I think she's telling me we need to take her to the vet! She's apparently having problems!" "How do you know?" says Mumsie. "Uhm!...Because she's SHOWING me!" Mom walks into the room by then, with a "what are you talking about?" look. I picked Muffin up and turned her around and, after that, no further arguments were necessary.
We rushed to throw a towel in the Pet Taxi, and then we put Muffin inside, and we got in the car and raced off to the vet.
She would have had four kittens; but the one was stuck - blocking the junction of Muffin's two birthways, which was blocking the birth of the other three. A very quick decision had to be made, and that was...to sacrifice one to save the other three - if the one blocking the birthways could not, at the best efforts made, be saved.
Unfortunately, that was not to be, and two of the kittens were lost.
The Birth of Two Miracles
Raisen and Bran were brought into the world by C-section on May 5th, 1993. They remained overnight at the vet hospital for observation and the next day, we were allowed to pick them up. Since then, I've been with them almost every day of thier lives - except for rare trips later to Washington, D.C., or to Walt Disney World - each of which took a few days.
Had it survived, the third kitty likely would have been named Banana Nut. (Can you imagine your neighbor's reactions whenever you called a cat by that name home?) It seemed to fit the theme, anyway. 8^)
Although I did not know it at the time, Raisen and Bran were both "Non-Pedigree Blue Cream Shorthairs." Thier differences were obvious from the start. Raisen's face was darker than Bran's. Raisen had a light patch of fur on her chest, while Bran had a light, diffuse, but thick strip of fur going around her midsection. Bran also had a long white patch of fur along her rear left paw. Raisen had a small light patch of fur on her forward left paw. Raisen was polydactyly on both her front paws, while Bran was poly on both her front paws, as well as one of her hind feet.
They looked nothing like thier mother at all. Muffin was a typical, grey, shorthair tabby cat. Plain, no poly paws, slimmer, trimmer, lighter in weight (and later, it became apparent, size). She had none of the features of her kittens. Obviously, those features came from the father - whoever that was. We never found out. What the kittens apparently DID get from Muffin was her apparent intelligence. Muffin seemed a quick-learner - as we learned the day she'd gone into labor; and that carried down into Raisen and Bran, as we would eventually find out. (I've often wondered if Muffin was one of those cats that would jump up on your bed and alert you when the baby was choking, or if there was a fire, or something bad was about to happen. I just have this feeling she is.)
I remember at one point asking the vet what sex Raisen was. He said that she was a male. And for the longest time I went on through life with her believing that - probably for as long as 6 months to a year, believe it or not - never really checking and just taking his word for it. Then after such a time having passed, and checking again, and noticing the absence of something which should have by then been obvious...I suddenly found myself looking at Raisen's face and thinking "Oh-mi-gosh! I'm sorry, sweetheart! All this time I thought you were a boy!" (That particular vet seemed to consistently make judgement mistakes. The one that got us angry a couple years before was in accusing us of "malfeeding" Midnite, our previous cat - who kept getting skinnier and skinnier, and increasingly lethargic and weak over time. Actually Midnite had pancreatic cancer. And that was not uncovered until AFTER Midnite had died and then an necropsy had been done. This one was much more minor; but still...you wonder how a vet could make such a mistake. Then the vet suddenly started a new thing - trying to sell us multiple different products every time we came in. It was like being hounded by an auto saleman or something every time we came in there, and if we didn't buy what they were trying to sell, you got frowns, and you were made to feel like you were being so cruel to your cat. We decided we'd had it. On October 31st, 1994, we transferred our records over to the Millhopper Veterinary Medical Center. We used the excuse that it was "closer." My pets were not going to be treated like so many gullible, alzheimic senior citizens are - being targetted by people who seem not too far off from those involved in political party fundraising campaigns. My own vet...putting kickbacks and commissions ahead of my pets. DAMN! What's this world coming to?)
On the first day that they came home - the day after they were born - I set up an old, black & white CCTV camera that my father had given to me and began recording the kittens with thier mother in her bed. The camera was old, the video occasionally would go to black, and/or the horizontal and/or vertical stabilization would distort; and it was unable to record any sounds, unfortunately.
At some point, someone recorded over the first of the two videos I'd made - and that video was permanently lost. I do have a second tape of Muffin sleeping in her special bed with the kittens suckling and sleeping on the first day they got home. It also includes when the kittens' eyes opened for the first time, and a later date when they're able to run around and play. But it is all that I have left of images of Raisen and Bran as kittens. In fact, that video is the only record that I have of Bran's existence.
After the kittens were born, something happened to me. I immediately went into a sort of "parental"-like mode. I grabbed a notebook and started planning out what I wanted to do with these kittens, how I wanted to raise them, when I was going to teach them what, and feed them what. Sort of a "blueprint" of ideas on what I wanted these cats to be like when they got older. I didn't want them to be afraid of people, or sounds, or enclosed places, or water. Ideas came as time and life and opportunities came. The ideas often came on a whim, randomly.
I remember just lying on the floor by thier bed and watching Muffin as she slept with the kittens, and cleaned and took care of them. I remember petting Muffy and saying things like "Hi, `mom!'", and complimenting her on her pretty little kittens. I was careful to put on a rubber glove so that I didn't get any of my own human scent upon the kittens - which might cause mom to reject her kittens if that were to happen. Whenever I'd touch the kittens, she'd poke up her head from lying down to see what I was doing - with a gentle "Mrr?" Her eyes would open wide in concern, but she would not make any threatening moves. After noting that I was not doing anything to threaten her little babies, and after a gentle little scritch upon the head, I would leave the kittens alone, and Muffin would lay her head back down.
But it was necessary to keep an eye on the kittens and to occasionally intervene while they fed because Muffin was just home from having an operation on her tummy (the C-section), and with her stomach shaved smooth to the skin, exposing the stitches, the stitches might easily be pulled if the kittens were to knead a little bit overanxiously.
The first "parental" duty I saw that I was going to have to take on - because Muffin wasn't noticing it, or doing anything about it - was to make sure Bran got her fair fill of fluids. Raisen had a habit as a newborn of always seeking the nipple Bran was attending, and then pushing her out of the way. It didn't matter which nipple they were using, either. Whichever one Bran was using, that was the one the other one wanted. I was constantly having to "realign" the kittens so that they each got a nipple. Raisen was persistent, though, and so, I had to be just as watchful.
Soon though, I knew I was going to have to be prepared for the time when Muffin was going to try to wean them off. So I started looking around for suitable milk replacements, and for tiny bottle droppers.
As A Kitten
It took nine days before thier eyes finally opened, and I have that on video tape. You can see thier half-squinted eyeballs glistening in the camera. I remember waiting anxiously for the day, checking them every day, and finally saying, softly, something like "Hi! Hi, there! Hey you! How are YOU? Nice to MEET you! How BOUT that!"
As they grew, I remember acting like so many other parents of humans, repeating things like "SOOOOOOO big!", over and over, and opening my arms wide. I remember thinking to myself, "THIS means absolutely NOTHING to this cat! But, it seems like the thing to do with a baby, anyway." 8^)
I remember reading poems and stories to them. I cannot now remember them all, but at the time, Shakespeare was something I had for some reason found an interest in, of all things. And I remember reading and re-reading, over and over - so as to figure it out on my own, without help - Sonnet 116. I may have read parts of a cat book called You're OK, You're Cat's Okay; and I think The Intelligent Cat, and Socks were others. As well, I'm sure that I read other famous poems from other famous authors.
I remember singing songs to them, too. Raisen especially seemed to like this. She always reacted to them with wide eyes, and a tilted, inquisitive head. She would often meow back, joining in as I'd sing. Some of the songs I used to sing included Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star... - which was her favorite, and at Christmastime ... Jingle Bells. (Twinkle, Twinkle eventually became her calling whistle. She'd come whether I whistled it, or sang it.)
I remember feeding them with a bottle filled with special milk formulas. That was fun ... especially with Raisen, who would voraciously almost attack the nipple, holding onto it with one paw, and close her eyes. However, as Raisen's teeth began coming in, she'd start gnawing on the rubber nipple, and time after time, bite them off. The point came when she probably should have been lapping water or milk out of a bowl. But I so enjoyed feeding her from the bottle that I bought a different type of bottle with hard plastic nipples to feed her regular milk with. I loved feeding her; it seemed to bond us even closer; and she so seemed to enjoy the bottle. After a while, I taught her to be ambi-milk-xtrous. That is, she could lap milk from a bowl, but also liked feeding from a bottle. (I've even, on rare occasion, fed her from a bottle as an adult ... just to see if she remembered ... and she of course did. When I'd bring out the bottle, she'd look at it with wide, excited eyes, then rush over to it for a drink. Indeed, she remembered.)
I remember when they started walking around. They'd start to explore, slowly, cautiously. At first, always low to the floor, with shakey footing, looking right and left as they'd go. Thier footing would gradually get better, and then they'd start noticing things, and each other.
Soon, thier footing and thier balance became much better, and they started playing with each other, running all around, up the couch, down the recliner, hopping on top of each other and over each other and tackling each other in play fights. Muffin would just watch them from afar, occasionally walking through the scene just to remind us that she was there. But after a time, the hyper kittens started becoming just too much. To her, I suppose, it seemed like these were exceptionally hyper kittens. Always wanting her time and attention, and always sneaking up on her from behind and attacking her, jumping on top of her. I remember she'd just sit and watch for a while while they played, then move cautiously out of the way someplace - in search of more peace and quiet. If the kittens wanted to play with her, she eventually got to a point where she'd start to hiss at them. I suppose this was teaching them...what?...independance? But she obviously thought they were nuts and a little bit too much to handle. I think she decided to step aside and let someone else handle them. "There! HIM! He looks like he doesn't mind the job. I'll let HIM handle it. Meanwhile, I can relax and get some peace."
Soon, the kittens were climbing and getting into everything. They've been up atop the 7-foot-tall bookshelf, knocking things off. Both of them would climb up our thin, brown curtains. They'd climb up the back of the couch, up the sides of the recliners. Raisen would climb up door sills, and had this knack for being able to do it without leaving a scratch-mark. You'd walk through a doorway - in the hall, into a room, and suddenly, startlingly, Raisen would jump halfway up and then climb up the rest of the way, until reaching your face level. Sometimes, she'd try to hop off onto your shoulder. But, seeing that cat right there at your face, hanging from a door sill, was kind of a weird experience.
As An Adult
If you held your hand about a foot or so above Raisen's head, sometimes she'd raise up and give your hand a gentle head butt.
Sometimes she'd get hyper and get these "stares" into space, with ears folded backwards; and then suddenly, she'd DART off in the reverse direction down the hallway.
When she'd want water at the sink, she'd hop up upon the counter from the floor, and just sit there, staring at you silently without a word, waiting patiently for you to turn the water on. She'd sit there for 15 minutes if necessary, silently, just waiting until you noticed. Then as you approached, she's perk up and meow and jump up to rub the hand coming towards her, turn towards the faucet, and watch for the water to begin dribbling down.
I don't know why she always did it, but whenever Raisen would hop down from a chair, or a counter, or a table, or someplace on high, when she'd land on the floor she'd grunt a mrr-ful grunt. Her feet would always hit the floor with a "ka-thud."
On sleeping in bed, Raisen would jump up onto the bed, and often sleep, her face to mine, on my pillow. Later, she'd move and lie off to the side of my stomach for a while. Then she'd get tired of my movements and hop off the bed and onto the chair at the computer desk. Sometimes, later on, she'd come back to the bed and lie with me face-to-face on the pillow, again. When on the pillow, I'd put my hand out a little and lay it in front of her, and at that cue she'd always place her paw atop my hand, wrap her fingers around one or two of mine, and knead, or squeeze them, purring. If she stopped, I'd just move my finger a little and she'd do it again.
She didn't like sleeping UNDER the covers. I never could get her used to that for some reason (considering everything else she likes that DOES offer her cover). She just liked lying off to my side, or on my pillow near my face. But it was usually only for a few monents - as long as she could take of my tossing and turning and movements in the bed, and then she'd hop off elsewhere...such as that computer chair.
She often wanted in and out of my bedroom two or three times a night.
In the morning, while sleeping on my chair, if I'd move in my bed, she'd pop her head out from the side of the chair and look to see what I was doing and, if I was getting up, and if so, she'd hop down and walk to the door while looking up at me and meow, wanting me to open the door so she could go out.
Sometimes, we'd catch her atop the china cabinet in the living room, and I'd say "RAISEN! NO! GET DOWN FROM THERE!" She'd hunch down her shoulders a bit - realizing that she'd just did a no-no and she'd immediately walk in a brisk pace back to the other end where she could jump down onto the recliner that she used to jump up there.
She and Muffy would chase each other up and down the house, ambushing each other. Sometimes Raisen would LEAP over Muffin. Sometimes the play would lead to minor fighting, with head-down stances and staring contests, and perhaps some arm patting. But it would never last long, and one or the other would move off and go lie down someplace, ending the fight before it got any worse. On rare occasions, it developed into loud meowing and wrestingling matches, sometimes with biting - at which point it required a loud intervention of "THAT'S ENOUGH!", and it would stop.
She loved the smell of mint - be it from candy, gargling, just-brushed teeth, Tums, gum, mints, etc.
About a month before she died, she'd gone into mom's room, where she'd just added a new computer desk for her new computer, which was empty because of problems with the computer, and it had been sent back. I was on the other side of the house when suddenly I heard thumping and a loud crash from her room. I immediately ran into her room to investigate what had happened. (I was more afraid that Raisen had done something and gotten herself hurt than worried over any damage - although, that was the secondary worry.) As soon as I entered the room, I saw Raisen, hunched down as if she'd done something and knew she was in trouble, walking briskly OUT of the room. At the same time, I saw my mother's college diploma lying on the floor, the glass frame broken into pieces. She of course survived without any apparent injury, but she was a bit skiddish - probably wondering if she was going to get yelled at. I told her that I knew she didn't mean to do it, and that it was okay, that I wasn't going to yell at her, but that she should have known not have been up there.
Memories of Raisen
Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
Gainesville, Alachua Co., Fla.
Created: November 04, 2000.
Last updated: November 06, 2000.
© Copyright 2000 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.
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