Friday, May 18, 2012

My Sweet String Monster

My mom was the one who began calling my black and white cat "String" even though I had already named her "Cookie". She was in that "gangly" kitten stage, with a long body, big mother said "That's a stringy-looking kitten you have." The name stuck.

A good friend of mine had a black and white cat named Lizzie....I thought Lizzie was beautiful and sweet...and the most endearing thing about her was....her little black nose. I just loved it. One Saturday, I decided to go over to the Animal Refuge Center, and take a peek at the adoptable kittens. There was String right when we walked in, perched in the middle of a throw pillow that was on the floor, balanced right in the center of it. She was so fragile. And lo and behold...she had a tiny heart shaped black nose. Yep...she came home with me that day.

String had a grumpy but endearing personality. She was cranky 100% of the time. She loved to scream-meow, hiss and growl....all the while purring away and rubbing her little face on you. I found out how she came to be at the Refuge Center, and it was no wonder she was grumpy. Her life started out in a dumpster behind a Publix grocery store. She and 4 other kittens were stuffed into a plastic grocery bag, their eyes still closed, and dumped in a dumpster. Someone heard their cries, fished them out of the dumpster, and took them to ARC. So, I always forgave her grumpy attitude, because I figured she was entitled to feel that way, starting out life blind and surrounded by garbage. String and the other kittens nursed on another mommy kitten at ARC until they were ready to be adopted out.

String came home with me right before Christmas in 1993. She got along famously with my other cats, and our Samoyed Snoopy. One of my favorite photos is this one that I call "Monster in the Middle"...String eating between Kate and Punkin. My Girls.

Anytime you spoke to String, she would answer you, using her extended vocabulary of meows, hisses and meow-purrs. My mother would say "Good Morning String!" and String would Hiiiiiiiiiiiisssssss back at her, but want to be scratched behind her ears. I also had an exclusive call that I would use to call a sing-song voice I would call out Monnnnnnnnsterrrrrrrr....she would appear, eyes bright and a closed mouth purrrrrmeowwwww? would be her answer. She also loved to rub her teeth on you when she marked you...on your hand, leg, and take little love bites to any exposed skin. Another favorite of hers was to come in the bathroom while you would be on the toilet, and nipping at your thighs as she would walk by. I would hear an Owww! come from the bathroom, and then I'd hear "String got me!" Her meows could be long and loud....she loved to express herself. She would go into the laundry room sometimes, and meow over and over again....she loved the sound of her own voice.

I bought the cats a round plastic toy that had a ball inside that they could bat around, and in the middle of the toy was corrugated cardboard for them to sharpen their claws. One day, I was holding String like a baby in my arms. I would kiss her right on her mouth....I started doing that while she was a little kitten, so she was used to it. One day, after a kiss, I put her down and she ran over to the toy and angrily scratched her claws on the cardboard. She began doing that every single time I would kiss her, so I entertained friends with this antic of hers.

She was a tiny girl....she didn't get very big. Even when she was full grown, she still looked like a kitten. I figured it was because she had a rough beginning and was taken from her mother. What she was short on physically she made up with personality-wise. She was full of herself. She also loved ice cream....that was my fault because I would give her a little bite of mine. She could be anywhere in the house and hear me open the freezer. I would try to open it quietly, and sneak some out for myself...and always, when I turned around, she would be behind me, with her banshee scream as soon as I turned around. I had better give her a bite of ice cream, or else!

String was with me through many life-changes; she moved with me from Florida to Cape Cod, and then to Nashville TN, then finally to North Carolina. She slept on a pillow, next to my head each night. We called her the Troll of The Pillow. Only she was allowed to lay there, and she hissed and growled if the others tried to take her spot. If she had to be left at the vet for any reason, it was only I who could remove her from the cage she was in. I once left her at the vet for a flea bath. When I came to pick her up, a vet tech came out to get me..."Uhhh, Mrs. Balmer? Could you please come get String out of the cage for us?"....I went to the back, and they had hung a bath towel over the front of the cage. The noises that were coming from inside the cage sounded like a Tasmanian Devil was inside. "Monst?" I called...."Monnnnsterrrr"....and she answered with her "mrrrrrow?" She knew I was there to get her.

When we lost String, it happened so fast. She got sick almost overnight. She started looking like she was losing weight so we took her to the vet and found out she was hyperthyroid, which we felt lucky that it was NOT diabetes. I had treated some of my other cats for hyperthryroidism, no big deal. Well, what I found out later was.....2% of cats cannot tolerate Methimazole, the drug of choice for hyperthyroidism. String was in that 2%. One morning she came into the bathroom, and crawled into the shower stall to lay down. I took her right to the vet. Her liver was malfunctioning...she was jaundiced. And could not hold anything down. She came home with us that night, but she did not come sleep on her pillow. She stayed in one place, with her little head down between her front paws all night, and didn't move. The next morning, we took her back to the vet. I had her wrapped in a towel, and sung to her the whole way to the vet in the car. We said goodbye....I kissed her little black nose, and she was gone.

I keep her ashes in a cedar box that is decorated with her name and her picture. There will never be another String. I feel so fortunate to have had her in my life for 16 years. I hope and I pray that we will see her again. Until then, I hold her close in my heart, and not a day goes by that I don't think of her with love....Love you, little Monster.