On a cold, snowy December evening in 1996, my parents and sister and I were about to head out to do some shopping. When I opened the main door, which swung inward, I thought I might have seen something next to the screen door, but I didn’t think much of it. When I tried to swing that door outward, though, I realized I’d hit something, namely a tiny month-old kitten who was huddled next to the door, shivering her little tail off. We brought the kitten into the house and my sister stayed behind to look her over. The kitten had worms on the side of her neck and was malnourished, likely because her mother kicked her out when she saw the worms. (Mom’s always been big on feeding the animals outside, so we always have birds, raccoons, squirrel, possums, and so on around our property.) We got the kitten to the vet, and despite her tiny size and all the troubles she’d been through, she made a full recovery.
At the time we had two cats, Alexander and Rowan, and Dad thought that was two too many to start with, so I didn’t figure we’d get to keep the new kitten, which my sister named Spyder. When Alexander had to be put to sleep less than a year later — the first time a cat had died in our care — it felt like maybe Spyder would remain a part of our family after all. The day of the house fire — the ten-year anniversary is coming later this month — Spyder had to go to the vet to have a tooth removed, and then after the fire she was found upstairs, somehow undamaged even though most of the upper level of the house had been burned to a crisp. Spyder came to live with us at the hotel while our house was being rebuilt, while Rowan stayed on the property since she was always an outdoor cat. It was while he was coming to the house to check on things, and thus had to take care of Rowan’s food, that Dad finally became a cat person, late in his life. Rowan died in June of 2006 — she lived a good twenty years — and then at the start of 2008 Spyder moved out with my sister and brother-in-law to their new apartment. Less than two months later Dad died.
I’ve only visited that apartment a couple of times, so I really didn’t get to see Spyder that much these past few years. Spyder holds a special place in my heart not just because of the circumstances under which we met, but because she was the first cat we had after I got rid of my childhood impulses to be mean to those around me. Yes, I used to be mean to cats when I was little, and I still haven’t fully forgiven myself for that. I was never Spyder’s favourite, but I still loved her all the same, and I was going to make a point of going out to see her before I move later this summer.
Unfortunately, Spyder began having problems with her ovaries recently, and given that she was still kitten-size after all those years — the infections she had when she was younger must have stunted her growth — surgery was never really an option for her. There was a bit of a scare last week, but she seemed to recover from it okay. Last night her body couldn’t take any more, and I woke up to the news that she’d passed away.
As I approach the ten-year anniversary of the Week From Hell, and as I prepare to embark on a new, very scary chapter of my life, Spyder’s death is hitting me even harder than it otherwise would. Particularly given Spyder surviving the house fire with us, losing her is like losing a very large part of my past, a past that I’m trying to hold tightly as I ready myself to take the largest step into my future that I’ve ever taken. I just keep telling myself that Spyder’s not in pain any longer.