Other Cool Things

Gilda

I have written several posts about Gilda, my gold cat. My old gold cat. My favorite ever cat.

She arrived in my life, totally unexpectedly, one day in early 1999. My dear friend Christina (who lived across the street) and I were talking in my driveway when a tiny kitten, perhaps just five-weeks-old, scurried up to me, stood at my feet, and meowed. Loudly.

I picked up the tiny furry thing. Where had she come from? Where was her mommie? Where were her siblings?

Awash with these questions, I asked: “Hello! And who are you?”

Meow! Meeeeeow! Loud.

I was unsure if her response answered my questions, but as I pondered the petite bundle of warm fur in my hands, an intuitive thought announce itself.

“Chris? I have the feeling that this kitten is for you or me.”

“It’s not for me,” Chris replied with assurance.

As I absorbed the ramifications of this response, a closer look at the kitten revealed two things. Her neck was terribly scarred (but healed) and four of her front claws were deformed. In a split-second, I knew what to do. It was clear that this tiny, loud thing had experienced disturbing things in a very short life. But no longer. No longer! No more! I held the wailing thing close and said: “Welcome to Ross Land.”

Meow! Meeeeeow! And she nudged my chin with her tiny tiny head. And with that, just that, I was smitten.

 

Gilda, the movie.
The glorious Rita.

 

Thus, Gilda came into my life. As she was a gold tiger, I named her after the Rita Hayworth character in the movie of the same name, where she wears the famous gold dress.

During the next 24-hours, I had never before experienced a cat which so quickly settled in. Gilda evidenced no fear or concern over my many other beasts – Oh, yea, hello – and she immediately introduced behavioral patterns which shot her to the top of my favorites list that very first day.

Normally, when a new feline is introduced into a household they will hide under the bed for a few days and nights. Not Gilda. After investigating every nook and cranny she settled in my lap for the evening, no matter that two cats were already so ensconced. The elders growled and hissed rather furiously but after Gilda showed not the slightest concern or response, they chilled, and she snuggled between them for a warm nap. The elders looked at each other, obviously stunned and confused, but they, too, were soon asleep.

Me? My mouth was agape!

Retiring to bed, I was amazed when Gilda clawed her way up the side of the bed, scampered across the sheets and over numerous elders, her little paws then padding over me, to settle in against my face. My nose was in her fur, and she smelled nice, you know, kitteny. Later, when I rolled over, I was again astonished when Gilda hopped over my head and repositioned herself against my face.

This was impressive. A few moments later, I deliberately rolled over again. Would she repeat the effort? She did. As she continued to do for all the many years thereafter. This was major cute. Where did she learn this? Why did she do it? I hadn’t a clue.

 

Don’t get me wrong; Gilda normally proved a complete bitch. This is her default mode during the day.

Mraaaaaaa! Hisssssssss! Grrrrrrrrr!

But her nighttime mode was the total opposite.

Purr! Purrrrrrrr!

My friends, who aren’t predisposed to spend the night cuddling with me, were baffled that I liked Gilda so much.

“She’s such a bitch!”

I could never explain. One just had to experience nighttime Gilda and the sheer delight she radiated while mashing herself against my face during the wee hours.

“Ehwwww! You like having your face stuck against a cat?”

As it developed, yes. There’s something blissful about waking up in the middle of the night, morning, too, and having your face warmed by a soft, furry, small, warm body.

Gilda is also the only cat I’ve ever had which let me mold her to me. She would just go limp when I did this. Now, this is decidedly un-cat-like behavior. My other beasts, obviously more concerned about the ancient High Order of Feline Behaviors & Peccadilloes, were never so accommodating.

WHAT are you doing? Are you crazy? I’ll decide how I deign to sleep with you.

Gilda was, in short, a spooning cat. I had not known there was such a model.

It was nice.

 

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Nestled into my coat.

 

The years passed, and all the cats and doggies I had when Gilda arrived, departed, one after the other. So, too, with all Christina’s cats and doggies. But new furry beasts arrived, each with their own distinctive personalities and quirks.

Gilda though, never liked a single other animal I had. I kept hoping she would bond with one, just one, but no.

I have a large yard and it is fenced with steel panels which make it cat-proof against climbing. Thus, my beasts are safe. They even have a heated winter cat house.

Over the years the cats migrated to the yard full-time, and Gilda became the only indoor cat. This was an arrangement she was entirely satisfied with.

She did though enjoy spending warm days in the yard. Until Stevie arrived.

All my cats, and even Bruiser, my dog, gave Gilda a wide berth. Then a stray got into my yard and had a litter of kittens. One survived, Stevie. He is one of those fully-loaded models, with tons of personality and a take-no-prisoners attitude. So, when Gilda emitted her don’t-fuck-with-me growl, Stevie was like: Are you kidding me? Then he went after her. Gilda was stunned! And she bolted, terrified.

In short order, she refused to step into the yard and became a full-time indoor kitty.

 

Gilda. My favorite ever cat.
My sweet indoor pea.

 

The years passed, and Christina and I developed our own ritual.

Somehow, and I don’t recall how, we stopped using words like DIE or DEAD. No, when one of our precious peas departed, it was announced that they had moved to Florida.

Moved to Florida.

Absurd, yes, but we both found this oddly satisfying. One of our beloved ones would not have, you know, DIED. No, it just moved to Florida. Our intellectual selves knew this was ridiculous, of course, but our emotional selves grasped at this tenuous explanation with a surprisingly eager tenacity.

Moved to Florida. If you repeat this enough times it proves kinda somewhat maybe a tiny bit plausible.

And broken hearts are easily deceived.

 

oi
Sunny Florida.

 

The years passed.

I like to read a bit in bed before turning out the light. While I read, Gilda would snuggle in between my left arm and chest. She LOVED this. As I read, my other arm would gently stroke Gilda and she purred and purred.

There is not much I am certain of, but am 100% confident that there are few better experiences.

I would then turn off the lights, pull the down quilt up close, and Gilda would position herself against my head. I always particularly enjoyed the moment when I would wrap my arm around her, and pull her even closer. She would then nudge me wth her head. I could never help but smile.

 

The years passed, and more cats came and went. Bruiser also went. But Gilda endured. I am used to cats departing between eight- and twelve-years-old. But Gilda was twelve in 2011, and still going strong.

She settled into a routine. Nestled against my head at night. Nestled into a small box on my work table during the day. She LOVED her box. It was just a 12x12x8 cardboard box from the post office, and I would continually refresh the crumpled paper inside. She LOVED having new paper, and would delight in crumpling it further. I adored her joy.

 

The years passed, and a new ritual started.

In increments, I became aware of just how old Gilda was getting, and developed the uneasy awareness that our magical bedtime moments would not, could not, last forever. I also knew that Gilda was irreplaceable.

So began the ritual. Each night, just after the lights were turned off, and just after Gilda snuggled into position, my arm would tighten around her, I would mash my face into her fur, and let her know how much I loved her. She had long before gone deaf, so my thoughts were, ah, conveyed rather than spoken. I can’t really explain this, but felt that she understood. She would make subtle purring noises and nudge her little head against my arm.

My intention was NOT to take for granted, for even a single day, just how special Gilda was.

With each passing day, I knew these nights were increasingly ephemeral. And I had enough sense to cherish each one.

 

Gilda. A year ago.
Gilda. A year ago.

 

The years passed, and a few months ago Gilda suddenly changed her behavior. It was as if the axis of the Earth had shifted. Rather then spend all day in her box atop my work table, she instead would nestle between my chest and one arm as I sat at the other desk. I did a post about this a month ago.

The change startled me, but it was major adorable.

Then, a month ago, she stunned me again by darting out the back door into the scary yard. Stevie was still very much around, and I stood back while waiting to see what mayhem would invariably ensue.

But none did. Over the next few days, Gilda would again dart out into the hot yard (and, damn, it was HOT), and Stevie would wholly ignore her. What had changed?

This new behavior delighted me. Gilda seemed very happy in the yard, and would growl when I hauled her old ass into the house at bedtime. But I had long ago learned to show indifference to her ferociousness. And…I was bigger.

 

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Snuggled.

 

The image above was taken six weeks ago. Gilda was old but fine.

Four weeks ago Gilda was old but fine.

But two weeks ago it was as if Gilda started to fall apart. Rapidly. I was alarmed one day when picking her up. She suddenly weighed nothing.

Gently stroking her while reading in bed, all I could feel was bones. More so as each day passed.

A week ago I was in a panic about Gilda. What should I do? COULD I let her go?

 

I have a collection of sad stories in my head, all told to me by friends. Each story has a collective warning: Don’t wait too long.

People I know have lost thier beloved animals to old age or cancer or illness. One friend had a cat with cancer. When diagnosed, the vet advised, strongly, to have the cat put to sleep. My friend was horrified. Instead, he had his sweet kitty operated on, and she hung on, grimly, for six more months. Six horrible months. My friend says that to this day he is haunted by what he did. “I tourtured my baby! How could I have done that?” And then the operative words: “I just couldn’t let go.”

I just couldn’t let go. These were the words ringing in my ears these last few weeks. And I knew I had to, somehow, make a descison before things got too grim.

But how? HOW does one know? HOW does one let go?

Then yesterday morning I knew. Overnight, Gilda had so dramatically declined that all doubt was erased from my mind.

A flight to Florida was booked.

 

The drive to the airport was twenty-five minutes. Gilda was in her cage, which she normally likes. But not now. So I opened the metal door, and she climbed/stumbled over to my lap. My eyes filled with tears. She laid down, and I gently, very gently, stroked her for the rest of the drive. Normally when I do this her tail waves back/forth as if caught in a breeze. But her tail did not move at all.

While she seemed unresponsive, I treasured this last bit of precious lap time.

 

Last year, I had to rush my wonderful Herbert to the departure gate. I was a wreck. I cried so hard at the boarding platform that my shirt was wet.

Yesterday though was not…so bad. My eyes were watery the whole time but my tear ducts were otherwise contained. What surprised me was the total inability to speak. People who know me will find this shocking (“Impossible!”) but when the flight attendant asked how old Gilda was, my mouth opened, but no words came forth. My vocal chords were seized by sorrow.

The attendant said: “Ten? Eleven? Twelve? Thirteen? Fourteen?”

I just stared at her. She looked at the pilot. They both looked back at me, with my mouth parted. But still silent. Then I raise a hand, held out five fingers, then closed my hand, and did five fingers again, and then repeated. I then tried to figure out how to do just two fingers, but my mind was so muddied by emotions that I could not finish.

“You mean, fifteen?”

I nodded no.

“Sixteen?”

I nodded no again.

“Seventeen?

My head dropped. One hand raised slightly, and waved a bit.

“Oh. Seventeen.” Then, very gently: “That is really old.”

I nodded.

Then quickly, Gilda’s boney forepaw was shaved, and a needle injected.

Because I had been through this situation before I knew that, even before the needle was removed, Gilda would have moved to Florida.

Sunny Florida.

 

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The last picture. A few nights ago. Except I didn’t know it would be the last picture. Gilda, snuggled between my arm and chest, as I read in bed. And you can appreciate how unwell she looks.

 

A few hours later I was at the Cross House, up on scaffolding, and painting. Then I realized that I had not received a vision. This had happened numerous times before when one of my sweeties departed. After a few hours I “saw” them happy and running.

But nothing came through from Gilda.

Just as I thought this, the following popped into my head: A vision? Oh, Gilda was SO done. She got no time for visions.

Gilda. A bitch. To the very end.

 

Life can change in an instant.

In 1999 I was standing in my driveway when a tiny kitten, perhaps just five-weeks-old, scurried up to me, stood at my feet, and meowed. Loudly.

I picked up the tiny furry thing. Where had she come from? Where was her mommie? Where were her siblings?

Awash with these questions, I asked: “Hello! And who are you?”

Meow! Meeeeeow! 

And my life changed. Gloriously.

 

Gilda. 1999-2016
Gilda. 1999-2016.

 

 

 

 

23 Responses to Gilda

  1. Oh Ross I am in tears! I am so sorry the time had to come. Your Gilda sounds exactly like my Bella to a tee. My Bella is now 9 and those thoughts of age have been coming in my own head lately. I cherish every day that she’s here with me. My condolences.

  2. My deepest sympathies, Ross. I’ve been unable to write nor articulate to anyone the depth of loss and sadness regarding the “flight” our two sweet kitties took to Florida within a week of one another a little less than two months ago. They were 19 and 17 years old. Thank you for sharing your and Gilda’s story here. (Though I could barely read it through tears that continue to flow.) It has helped me in ways I’m know you understand.

  3. My sincerest condolences Ross. I’m shedding tears for you and Gilda, not so much because of her “moving to Florida” but because of the beautiful time you two spent together. Truly a reminder to us all that the time spent with our “furbabies” is fleeting. It sounds like Gilda was very loved and she knew it. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  4. Ross — my 15 year old Poo (he came with the name) is preparing to join Gilda in Florida; we’ve been anticipating his trip for several days now. Needless to say, I wept like a baby when I read your wonderful tribute.

  5. Tears are streaming down my face, Ross. For you and Gilda, and for all my furbabies that I’ve lost. Thinking about the ones that I have now that won’t be around forever…

  6. My sincere condolences Ross. You obviously gave Gilda a wonderful life. I’m still crying: I don’t deal with trips to Florida very well.

  7. Sending you hugs Ross! I know how special Gilda was in your life! Your heart will open to another furry soul who needs you desperately. Rescue On My Friend…

  8. So sorry to hear about your loss, Ross. It sounds like you were both lucky to have found each other, and your lives were enhanced because of each other. May the bitch rest in peace, and your heart be filled with peace. 😉

  9. Dear Ross…..I am also so sorry to learn that Gilda has moved to Florida. I also do not do well when our beloved furry friends move to Florida. I don’t like it one bit when they move to Florida; in fact, it breaks my heart.
    Your sharing is beautiful, as is your love for Gilda, and hers for you.
    Sending you a big hug.

  10. Ross,
    I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. I was in tears the moment I realized this was about Gilda’s move. I know words don’t really do the situation justice, but my heart is with you.

  11. Tears by the end of your beautiful tribute to Gilda. I empathize and wish to convey my sympathy, though no words can adequately do that.

  12. I’m so so sorry to hear of Gilda’s move to Florida. One of our beloved cats caught her flight last month at only four years old. It was an incredibly sudden, four o’clock in the morning departure, and it was so so hard. My heart goes out to you. <3

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