Monday, June 8, 2015

Switchie-Poo-Pie, Switchie-Poo-Pie, Switchie-Poo-Pie, My Kitty Ballerina

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee
I met Miss Switch--Switchie-Poo-Pie, as I came to call her-- when she was but a few weeks old. She was the companion-kitty of my son, Lindsay.  He had called me in panic because she was desperately ill, limp, and unmoving. Within a matter of minutes, I found myself thinking she was dead in my lap as I drove frantically trying not to look down to the animal hospital. 

"Tiny, white, fluffy thing," I just kept thinking. "Tiny, white, fluffy thing." "Please don't die in my lap." 

"Please don't die."

She was breathing--but barely, and I think many might have decided to let her go once they saw the diagnosis: feline leukemia--a death sentence for cats far and wide.

She was so tiny. Possibly a pound; possibly not.

After weeks of treatment--intravenous fluids and medicine, shaved legs, and bruised veins--and weight-gain recovery time so that she could stand, Miss Switch lived. 

A debt of gratitude is owed to some of the most important people on the planet--veterinarians, vet. techs., and some very compassionate veterinary hospital worker-folks. I could not have been more grateful.

Miss Switch went home to Lindsay, and for years I saw her just now and again. The trauma of her early kitten life had made her skittish and retiring--the kitty you just don't see, but wish you could.

Then one day, about six years ago--Miss Switch came to live with me, five other kitties, six doggies, two parrots, an Amazon Green Iguana, and a cockatiel named "Bird."

You'd have thought that this menagerie--really a refuge for the disabled and/or elderly and/or just not that good-lookin' critters in need of a home--would have struck terror into the heart of this tiny ballerina of a kitty cat.

And for nearly two years Switch--now, Switchie-Poo-Pie--lived on a shelf in the bathroom with her own bed, her blankie, and her window--gazing at me while I brushed my teeth, got ready for school, thought about my classes. 

For two years she gazed down at the other five cats--Fiona, Rosie, Madeleine, Tess, and Denver--with wary contemplation. She listened to doggies--Cordy, Charlotte, Jackson, Disney, Mr. Luv-Lyte, and Ella-Mae--with curious, but very guarded, interest barking downstairs, barking out in the yard. 

She'd tip-toe down in the night to eat and use the kitty box, but by dawn, there she was--in her appointed place on the shelf, as if she were reporting for duty, guarding the bathroom window, making sure errant birds didn't get in.

Then one late afternoon, Switchie-Poo-Pie got down.

Just like that.

And not only did she get down from the bathroom shelf, she strolled right out onto the stair-landing, and pranced down the stairs to the big-old, beat-up sideboard directly at the bottom.

We were all flabbergasted.

Did she have a brain tumor? Did something befall her shelf-home?

No--it seemed that Switchie-Poo-Pie had simply decided that two years in self-seclusion was enough, that there was a world out there to explore, and that it began with a survey of the living room.

From that day on, Miss Switch was the undisputed leader of the cat-world in my house. Undaunted by either kitties or doggies, until the middle of last week she was jumping the upstairs gate to the cat-sanctuary room, leaping in ballerina-style from the stairs to the sideboard, going nose to nose smell-check with a relative newcomer to the house--Jenny the Three-Legged Greyhound Wonder Dog, and positively taunting my small-jumping-slightly crazy Maltese Bischon--Mr. Luv-Lyte.

And then in the middle of last week, Miss Switchie-Poo-Pie, now thirteen--and having lived far longer than even the most generous of predictions given her rough start--was no longer able to leap the gate, dance on the sideboard daring the dogs, or fly up to her shelf-home.

Kidneys, as I have often reported, are the most damnably convincing evidence on the planet that there is no god.

Miss Switch had been on a very disciplined regimen for about ten months of injectable kidney-medication, fancy kitty-kidney food, and fancy-canned-kitty-kidney food.

But kidneys are like glass slippers--you can walk in them for years, but they're still made of crystal. 

In any case, the details don't really matter.

What does matter is that while she could not ascend to her shelf-home, her other favorite place was next to the bathtub--where she and I played "splash-the-kitty" for years. 

Here's the game: Switchie-Poo-Pie would glide defiantly up onto the bathtub ledge, and dare me--as if I were Mr. Luv-Lyte--to, well, move.

I'd spritz some bath-water in her direction, and she'd skeeter off before it could as much as graze her sparkly fluffy tail. 

I'd turn to wash my hair, and there she'd be on the bathtub ledge again--as if it were her fashion show cat-walk.

And Switchie-Poo-Pie was beee-u-ti-ful

Glassy pale green eyes, fluffy fur white as the first Winter snow, pink nosed elegant aristocratic kitty-ballerina.

So, her second favorite place was next to the bathtub. And that's where we arranged her bed early yesterday morning when Switchie-Poo-Pie could no longer stand.

I thought back to that tiny pile of white fluff in my lap; only this time, there was no magical veterinarian that could save her.

No pain. No suffering. No shortage of kisses. 

The last sounds Miss Switch heard--other than the sumptuous sounds of a house full of animal life--were the tinkling notes of the "Switchie-Poo-Pie Song":

"Switchie-Poo-Pie, Switchie-Poo-Pie,  
Love, Love Love,
Switchie-Poo-Pie, Switchie-Poo-Pie."

Miss Switch is buried under a lovely maple tree next to Fiona, Rosie, Madeleine, and Mr. Luv-Lizard. She, like they, will become the leaves, the bark, the life of that tree.

I could hope for no better for myself.

Good night my sparkling elegant kitty-ballerina.

Love. Love. Love.



Lindsay Lee-Brandt said...

Thank you for this.

MarcellusMadman said...

Digging a grave moves more than dirt.
I was compelled to call this cat “Switchplate” as no man, no matter how open-minded, would ever call out the name “Switchie-Poo-Pie” for fear he would follow Bruce Jenner onto the cover of Vanity Fair. I had originally attempted to affix the moniker “Switchblade” but, as evidenced by her picture above, gang violence was not her forte. Instead she displayed an amused distain whenever she purposefully taunted and teased the canine population. Her loss leaves empty spaces on the sideboard, the bathroom vanity and the top step. She was an alpha feline and did not appreciate the presence of either dogs or men. In fact I suspect she saw them as inherently identical – disgusting, smelly clumsy barbarians. She routinely would exit her perch on the bathroom vanity and trot to the closed door upon my assuming a seated position. This cat understood decorum.
I’ll miss this cat but, as Wendy Lee describes, this was a being that overcame adversity and lived up to its potential. She was fortunate that her life’s trajectory brought her into a home that values all life. Too many of our fellow travelers on this planet never get that chance.
Climb up into the branches of that red maple Switchplate. Provide a home for the grey squirrel – he has the same attitude towards the dogs as you do…

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

Thank you Lindsay.

Thank you too Marcellus Madman. Miss Switch-Plate will no doubt be a rich and vibrant part of that red maple--indeed, it's easy to imagine it's branches and leaves swaying against the wind in a fashion not unlike Miss Switch-Plate flying over the gate to the kitty room.

As for a home that values all life--yes. Absolutely. Until we rather chauvinistic human beings begin to see beyond the edges of that value, we'll remain doomed to do what no self-respecting cat would dream of--treat the planet, its other inhabitants, and even our human neighbors like a cat box.