I brought Baby Gertie home to my first apartment the October that I turned 20. She was three months old, and fit easily in one of my hands. I hadn't put much thought into the decision to adopt a kitten (or any other decision I made at that age), but it wasn't long before I couldn't imagine my life without her.
For such a little thing, she could really make her presence known.
She was always very chatty - like her mama - and had a purr you could hear from across the room. She used to sleep on the pillow next to my head, and lick my eyebrows when she thought it was time for me to get up and feed her. Although she looked like a little angle, she had her share of devilish little kitten habits - the ones I remember best are that she would dig all the dirt out of my potted plants every day while I was at school, dart out the door every time I went in or out (so that I had to chase her up and down the hallways and stairs of the building I lived in), and use her sharp little claws to climb up the window screens. If she thought I wasn't paying enough attention to her, she'd hop up on my bookshelf and start knocking things off while looking at me to see my reaction. But man, was she cute.
Gertie was there when I realized photography was what I wanted to do with my life. She was there when I first moved in with a boy, when he and I got married 7 years later, and when he and I got divorced 5 years after that. She was my only office mate when I quit my job and started freelancing, working from home most days. She understood - I think ;) - when I had to leave her with close friends while I went to Northern Ireland to follow my heart. And when Norman moved here from Belfast and we bought a little bungalow, she was very patient (as were Dave and Julie) while she stayed with these same friends during our renovations.
When we were finally all under one roof, she settled in quite quickly - found her favourite chair, figured out the sunniest times to lie in the front window, taught us her favourite game. Almost every day, she and Norman would play "string" which looked a lot like fly fishing and which she was very entertained by until she'd had enough and walked away.
For years, Gertie had been quite shy - hiding under the bed whenever company came over. She never hesitated to let anyone know if she didn't feel like socializing, and taught more than one cat the precise art of hissing. But whenever I picked her up, she purred. She purred like it was possible to be completely content and fulfilled in life just by being picked up by one certain person. In case that wasn't convincing enough, she would start with the little sandpapery kisses that tickled like crazy. I've been very fortunate with having amazing people in my life, but I'm not sure that anyone has ever made me feel as important, unique, and necessary as my Princess Gertie did.
In her "old age" (15 1/2 people years = about 84 years old for a cat), she mellowed a bit with other people, and started coming to check everyone out when they came to visit. She had a croaky old lady voice, and still had plenty to say. If you met her this past year, there's a good chance she even let you touch her before she hissed at you ;) She always knew where the treats were kept, and trained my sister to fetch them every time she walked in the door. She hated car trips, and wouldn't waste any time in telling you how much she hated it - the whole way there.
There was never a time that I unrolled my yoga mat that she didn't take it as an invitation to flop down right in the middle of it. There was never a tin of tuna opened that she didn't think was opened just for her. There was never a cardboard box that she didn't love like it was the best thing ever invented.
If you've made it this far, I assume that you knew Little Gertie. I'm sorry to say that her fantastic little cat life ended the morning of December 29th, 2011. Her death was sudden and quite a shock, but happily the vet told us she didn't suffer. Always very proud of her pretty fur and tail, I'm sure she would also have been happy that she went out looking as if she was in the prime of her life. She stuck around for the party that Norman and I had this past fall to celebrate our recent wedding. She got to visit with my Moms and my sister and her husband over Christmas, and got spoiled with treats and catnip. The last two things she ever ate were her favourite two things - yogurt and tuna juice.
I've had to deal with my share of sadness and loss, but nothing quite compares to the last few days. I keep hearing little noises or seeing things out of the corner of my eye and it takes a second before I realize it's not Gertie. That it will never again be Gertie. It's a strange type of sadness though - the kind of sadness that just makes me so grateful that I was ever lucky enough to be owned by such an amazing little creature. I just keep thinking of things I'm so glad she was here for, and the top of all those things is that I'm so glad she and Norman got to know each other. She was the first pet Norman ever lived with, and they both changed each others' lives in a way that was beautiful to watch.
My heart is full of thanks for many people and the part they played in Gertie's little life - my first husband Peter, for teaching her some much-needed rules and manners and for many hours of playing; my Moms Kezia and Joanne who babysat many times in spite of Gertie trying to trip them at the top of the stairs and other murder attempts; my dear friends Dave and Julie for long-term babysitting (of both me and Gertie); and Kym and Adam for more recent babysitting. My sister Amanda lived with me and Gertie for 4 years with her little cat Benzo who was very patient with Gertie's bossy behaviour, and I thank her for being such a great Auntie.
Most of all, I would like to thank my husband Norman - the self-proclaimed "non-cat" person that he is - for letting Gertie into his heart and for all the hours of playing and learning that she enjoyed with him. He made a video of Gertie and I doing yoga together that seemed a bit crazy to me at the time, and which is absolutely priceless to me now.
And of course, thank you from the bottom of my heart to Whoever it is that matches people up with exactly the perfect kitten, and who made sure that Gertie found me.
Gertie loved life. Most of her days were pretty simple - eat, sleep in about ten different locations, lie in the sun, purr, eat more, play, hiss, sleep more - but she seemed to enjoy it all like it was one big vacation. She was my little shadow, and I hope that even though I've lost her I might keep the lesson of enjoying the simple everyday things. I'm not sure that "regret" is a concept known to cats, but I'm sure that Gertie wouldn't have regretted anything. She got exactly what she wanted out of each day, which is an example I hope to follow as much as possible.
A friend once told me his theory that the more nicknames a pet had, the more loved he or she was. If that's any indication, "Miss Gertie" aka "Go-Go", "Fuzzy Bum", "Pretty Girl", "Princess Gertie Pants", "Little Gertie", "Boadie", "Baby Gertie", "Gertle", "Gert", "Mama's Girl", "Kitty Kitten", "Gertroot" and "Wee Rascal" was very loved indeed :)
If you have any memories of "wee Gertie" to share, we'd love to hear them below in the comments section...