Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winnie has left for the final adventure

Thank you all for your patience these last weeks. It's been quite an emotional roller coaster and I hope you understand that being with my wonderful Winnie was my priority. Unfortunately, her illness coincided with my busiest time at work, leaving little time for anything else, but I should have at least posted something to let you know what was going on.

Last Saturday, November 20th, Winnie took off on her biggest adventure yet... she left terra firma to explore the wonders at Rainbow Bridge. I am so sorry, but I just didn't have strength to do a post. Even now, it's hard to type this for the tears.

Almost a year ago, I recorded this short video:

My beautiful Win drifted to sleep with belly rubs - her favorite caress in all the world - while making biscuits. I am very grateful to Doc Andrew and his staff for making sure our girl's last hours here were warm and soft and peaceful.

In many ways, Winnie made our introduction into fostering possible. She was the grandma - the arbiter of good behavior - and a calming influence on all of our residents, permanent and foster alike. Nothing ruffled our Win - a new foster could be aggressive and she'd just sit and look at them, even as they charged her... and then drew up short, not knowing what to make of a kitty who didn't even twitch a whisker - threw 'em for a loop every time! And everyone behaved well around her.

Win has been part of my life for 16 1/2 years. She's seen me through joy and sorrow. She was never much of a cuddler yet if I cried, she was on my lap, or next to me in bed, headbutting my face and sticking to me like glue until I was in a better place. What I wouldn't give for one of those headbutts now. My family and neighbors often threatened to steal her away from me and, around here, she was known as Winne the Wonder Cat.

Win came to me as no cat should... she was a gift. And a gift she truly was. When I was living in Aspen Hill, I lost my Little One (also a black cat), at the age of 17. Friends of mine, Jan and Les, and their family were temporarily bunking with me - a long, but good, story for another day... it was a big house, unlike the Casa of today. They saw me through four months of nursing Little One, and Jan was with me when we helped Little One to the Bridge. The next weekend, Jan and the kids went to my vet, Doc Meyer, and asked about a new cat for me. I remember being in our church's kitchen, and young Paul coming up to me with a sparkle in his eye, saying he knew something I didn't. Jan and family were always full of fun, so I didn't think too much of it.

When I got home, everybody was lined up and grinning from ear to ear. The kids, Paul and Liz and Rachel, came forward to present me with a little black ball of fluff. I'd been heartbroken over losing Little One and really didn't feel ready for another cat, but I just didn't know what to say, with those children looking so happy and expectant. I wouldn't have hurt those kids for the world, so I smiled and cooed and made over the tiny kitten, still wishing they hadn't. Not that I'd ever recommend gifting an animal, but you know how glad I am now!

The first night I brought the wee one into my bed, but she was having none of it... she was off to explore the house! It was clear she was an "alpha" from the start. There were already 3 man-cats and a dog in the house and this pint-size pumpkin made it clear the premise was hers. She backed down from no one.

The next day, Jan told me that the kitten had been considered hard to adopt. Her hind legs were longer than her front (giving her what, later, became known as the "Winnie Walk" or the "Winnie Waddle"), her head was too small for her body, and she had an extra lens in one eye, giving her a kind of spooky appearance. And, of course, she was black... not the most adoptable color. One of the kid's favorite videos was Disney's "Hocus Pocus" and it was viewed with irritating regularity that year! After the umpteeth time of the kitten displaying her headstrong tendencies, I called her a little witch. Ahhh haaa! There's the name! And, so, she was christened Winifred, after Bette Midler's character in "Hocus Pocus."

In those days, the vet recommended kittens be fixed at around 9 months old. Now my cats are indoor only but, at that time, they were indoor/outdoor. My cats had always been indoor, until my Dad came back from living in Europe and stayed with me for a year, just before Jan and Les's family moved in. Dad had declared it was unnatural to keep cats in and, despite the fact that they were my cats, and it was my house, started letting them out. *sigh* What's a daughter to do? I think you may see where this is headed.

I took Win in to the vet at 8 months old to have her spayed, only to be informed that she was already pregnant! What??? I know the signs of a cat going into heat and she never displayed a single one! Little hussy just went out and took care of business. Win is the only cat I've had to get pregnant on my watch and I was mortified. Jan had known, though... she'd said, "That kitten looks like she's sitting on a tennis ball... I bet she's preggers." *double sigh* She was right.

And so two more little black cats came into this world - a boy and a girl. Being way too young to be a mother, Win lost three of her five babies at birth, and the little male who lived was an "at risk" kitten. All eyes and not much body. The little girl was strong and healthy - I called her "The Tick" - she'd plug in and visibly swell up with maternal goodness! Despite her youth, Winnie was an awesome mom and, soon, the babies were toddlers. Paul, seeing the little boy weave and stagger one day, said, "You should name him Lurch." Another "Ahhh haaa!" moment. Keeping with the spooky theme, they became Gomez and Morticia.

When the kittens were 8 weeks old, I promptly had Win spayed. There wouldn't be any more kittens, if I could help it... I felt guilty enough that these two had come into the world (and, believe me, my vet let me have it, too!). Much to our amazement, Winnie continued to nurse the kittens. And nurse. And nurse some more. The kittens were five months old before she finally closed the milk bar. Doc Meyer said he'd never seen a spayed cat do that before. Jan was sure it was because Winnie knew Gomez was such a sickly little runt, and I've got to agree.

Well, Winnie's good care paid off. Both her babies grew up big and strong and sleek (and were neutered earlier!). Gomez, by the way, grew up to be one of the largest cats I've had... not weight wise, 16 lbs or so, but tall, and long, with the longest legs I've ever seen on a cat... and the biggest, most beautiful, green eyes. I fell in love with Winnie's babies and just could not give them up. Tisha, as many of you know, passed away last year, at 14, from intestinal cancer. Gomez, sadly, disappeared in 2003. That's when all my cats became indoor again. In 2008 I saw a black cat, with a collar, in my back yard... huge eyes and long, long legs. He wouldn't let me near but, to this day, I pray that was Gomez, who'd found himself another lovin' family.

I had moved to Bel Air, MD, when the kittens were about 7 months old, soon after Jan and Les's family moved on, and rented an historic house, in the "old" part of the city, for a year and a half... and discovered Winnie's exploring nature. The kittens were about 9 months old when she started taking off, for a week (or two, or three) at a time, scaring me near to death. She stayed in the woods near the house, living off the land. And then she'd turn up, as though she'd never been away. I tried to keep her in, but to no avail... she's sneaky. Again, while I wouldn't recommend this, I know she enjoyed walking on the wild side.

When I decided to move back to my home town (Bel Air is only 1/2 an hour from Baltimore, but it just seemed too far away from family), I bunked with my sister for nine months, while searching for a home of my own... she had a big house, too, LOL! I bought the Casa, which is only two blocks away from my sis. Winnie showed up on Lori's doorstep the day after I moved. In fact, I received calls that "Winnie came for dinner," for months afterward!

Those of you who have been reading for a while, have met Gary, my neighbor, who remodeled the first floor of my house (oh, my gosh, I don't think I've shown you the new and improved Casa... ok, then, that's a post to come!). From '98 -'03, when the cats were still indoor/outdoor, Winnie was a regular visitor at his house. She snoopervised all of his household improvement projects and Gary and his wife, Roxanne, would sometimes come home to find Winnie lounging on their bed, with their cat, Jasper. Win would sneak in the house when they weren't looking! Gary always said Winnie could be his cat any time. If they weren't such good friends, I think he would have swiped her. They were disappointed, I think, that I let Doc lay Winnie to rest, instead of bringing her home to be beside Jasper.

I've been so blessed. Gary and Rox have helped look after Winnie these last months... Gary has stopped in during the day to make sure she was OK, ever since we discovered her thyroid condition. Shortly after that, Win also developed kidney problems. And Winnie has suffered from chronic sinusitis for at least five years... Doc Andrew tried everything... fortunately, her lungs had always been clear. On our last visit, Win finally showed signs of fluid in her lungs and we both knew it was time to let her go with dignity.

Doc Andrew had a very soft spot for Winnie. On Monday, the poem below, and "At Rainbow Bridge" were in my mailbox. He emailed me Wednesday, to see how the girls and I were getting along, and to reassure me I had given Winnie the gentle passing that was her due.
The Last Battle

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this -- the last battle -- can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close -- we two -- these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

-- Unknown
Winnie, my darlin', thank you for the love. Thank you for the warmth and the smiles and your special strength. Thank you for a wonderful 16 years. I will love you always.


  1. Oh I am so so so sorry. The Rainbow Bridge has a new and beautiuful Angel! I am truly sorry. What a wonderful post to remember her by - she was with you through all your pivotal points in your life and was just super! She was truly precious! Take care

  2. I am so very sorry to hear that your Winnie had to leave for the Bridge. That was such a loving tribute and our whiskers are so weepy wet. It is awful when such love decides it's time to go, but my sisters and I will remember Winnie forever.

  3. Our deepest condolences on your loss of Winne the Wonder Cat. She sounds truly amazing and we can tell she was very well loved.

  4. Oh I am so very sorry and sad. And yet you did the right thing and made sure beloved Winnie had the best send off possible.

    This is a truly beautiful remembrance post and I am crying for you as I type. I can recall the pain of losing a beloved cat (my adored siamese cat died in 2004 aged almost 20 years old and we had been companions since he was 8 weeks old)~ it's harder than anyone could imagine, to go through such loss. Your heart quite literally aches with loss.

    (((((((hugs))))))) for you, and thank you for giving Winnie the most beautiful loved life. No cat could ask for more.

    RIP Winnie.

    Jan xx
    Milo and Alfie are sending you healing purrs.

  5. All of us are so sorry to hear about Winnie. What a wonderful tribute you gave her. We are also sorry that we haven't gotten to your blog sooner. It sounds like Winnie had the most wonderful home and was a really good cat. We have one here a little like her. She will not sit in Mom's lap but she will be right next to her when needed. Take care.

  6. So sorry you had to let Winnie go. But she had a great life with you and was clearly the ruler of the roost! Peggy Sue will look after you for her.

  7. We are so sorry to read that Winnie has journeyed to the Bridge.

    Please know that we are sending you purrs and Light and (((hugs))) and wish you peace in your heart.

    Your post was a beautiful tribute to a very special ladycat.

    -Mom Kim and the Fuzzy Tales crew

  8. We are sorry to hear that Winnie had to leave you and go on her final journey to Rainbow Bridge. You have done such an amazing last post about her and it has made mum shed a few tears.
    Winnie will be watching you from the Bridge to make sure you are alright.
    Luv Hannah and Lucy (and their mum)xxx

  9. We are sorry to hear that Winnie had to leave you and go on her final journey to Rainbow Bridge. You have done such an amazing last post about her and it has made mum shed a few tears.
    Winnie will be watching you from the Bridge to make sure you are alright.
    Luv Hannah and Lucy (and their mum)xxx

  10. Headbonks to you ... I'm so sorry for your loss.

  11. Words fail me to tell you how sorry I am for your loss... You're in my thoughts. (((((hugs)))))

  12. ((hugs))

    We are so sorry for your loss. And we will miss the lovely Winnie too.

  13. We are so sorry to hear about Winnie. We send you comforting purrs to help you during this sad time.

  14. We are so sorry for your loss of such a special cat as Winnie. Purrs and tail wags.

  15. Oh honey, I am sooo sorry to hear about your girl, you have all been in my thoughts and prayers . Gordy, the furr folk and I send all our love and hugs to you all.



  16. I know how your heart aches. My Aoise went to the Bridge on the 22nd. Its oh so hard and oh so heartbreaking. My thoughts are with you.

  17. We are so sorry to hear about Winnie going to the Rainbow Bridge!! Your tribute to her brought tears to our eyes!! Purrrrrs and hugssss to you and your family!!
    (((((((HUGSSSSS))))))) from your TX furiends,

  18. We are so very sorry to read about Winnie. What a wonderful friend she's been to you. We're all thinking of you here. Martha & Ted

  19. So sorry to hear about your lost. Winnie truly sounds like a wonder cat. Thank you for sharing with us.

  20. Such a beautiful post. Winnie sounds like she was one of the best.

  21. Oh, Lisa, I have tears in my eyes after reading this post. I'm so sorry for your loss. Much love and many hugs being sent your way.

  22. I am so sorry about Winnie. Thank you for posting such a wonderful tribute.

  23. What a terribly difficult year you've had...I'm typing through tears...remembering my own goodbyes and knowing full well how much pain you are in now.

  24. ~sobs~

    What a wonderful life Miss Winnie led. How fortunate you both were to have each other. I'm so sorry that she has moved on.

  25. We are so sorry that Winnie had to leave you for the Bridge, and we think that your post and the poem for her were so beautiful. We are sending our most heartfelt purrayers to you to help you through this sad time ...
    Hugs, purrs and headbutts,
    Sabrina, Sam, Simon and Momma Jan

  26. We are soo soo sorry to hear your sweet dear Winnie left for the Bridge. I know how hard it must be to be without her. Sending lots of loving purrs to you during this sad time. Winnie looks like my Mamacita who also was a very young mother and had two kittens before I knew her. I didn't realize you were in Bel Air - two very dear friends live in your town. Small world.

  27. Sending snuggles and purrs to help ease your loss. This was a lovely tribute to Winnie and she'll be waiting at the Bridge when you get there.
    Taz, Runt, Charles and mommy, Anna, in IL

  28. We send our healing thoughts your way. Winnie was indeed a very special girl. In time, we hope your memories bring you smiles through your tears.

  29. Sending comforting purrrrsss. A great tribute to a bueatfol kittie.

  30. I'm so sorry. It sounds, though, like she had a long and happy life with you.

  31. oh lisa, i am so sorry. :( but thank you for sharing her stories with us, morticia and gomez, it's all so sweet and heartbreaking. but such adventures! rest in peace winnie.

  32. We are so sorry for the loss of your beloved family member, Winnie. She was so beautiful and she is missed.

  33. We're so sorry to hear that Winnie left for the Bridge. We know Angel Sniffie was there to greet her.

    You will be in our purrs and prayers.
    The Florida Furkids and Angel Sniffie

  34. Oh we are so so sorry that Winnie had to go off to the Rainbow Bridge. We are sending you tons of comforting purrs and prayers.

  35. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you know that Winnie helped you be an inspiration to people. I'll keep you and yours in my thoughts. She was beautiful.

  36. Oh, there goes the moms eyes, leakin again. She said they was happy and sad tears. Winnie was so loved, we see it in your words.

    headbutts and purrs,


  37. What a wonderful tribute to Winnie! I am so glad you shared her with us, who did not know her well, and I am so very sorry for your loss.

  38. I am so so sorry. I cant imagine what you are going through right now. Just know that all of our thoughts and purrs and head butts are your way. xoxo

  39. We are so sorry that Winnie left for the Bridge. We are heart broken for you. Please accept our hugs,purrs and prayers.

  40. What a wonderful adventurer Winnie was - and her spirit is still exploring! Blessings on you, Lisa, for the loving home you gave her and for this beautiful tribute to her that you've shared with us. {{{Hugs!}}} You are very much in my thoughts and prayers.

  41. I am so, so sorry for your loss. Winnie was such a beautiful kitty with so much personality, and it's clear how much you loved her. It sounds like you were lucky to have each other.

  42. Sundown, the Horde and I are all so very, very sorry that Winnie had to cross the Bridge. I've asked our Ziggy to say "hi" and show her the ropes. (It sounds like those two gentle souls will get along wonderfully.)

    Many hugs, purrs and headbutts to you, my dear! There's nothing to say that can ease the heartache after such a loss, but know that we're all thinking about you and hoping you find what comfort can be found in wonderful memories.

  43. Lisa, you know I'm crying like a baby. I am so sad for the moment Winnie passed, and the heartache you have to work through.

    But I know you'll come to the place of peace and happiness that she could not have had a better life. Every living thing should be so blessed.

    May we all have such a beautiful passing with the one(s) that love us so deeply.

    My heart goes out to you.

  44. We are so sad that Winnie has left you and send you gentle comforting purrs. Such a special girl she was.

    Run free at the Bridge, beautiful Winnie ...

  45. We are so sorry that Winnie had to run off to the Bridge. It's clear she was a special kitty, and that you loved her so very much. Please know you are in our thoughts, purrs and prayers.

  46. We are so very sorry that Winnie has crossed over. We send you tons of purrs and purrayers to help you through this difficult time. She is running free and has met all those who have gone before.

    Luf, Us and Maw

  47. Sending you warm purrs to comfort you. We are so sorry to hear that Winnie went to The Bridge.

  48. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I'm so sorry for you loss. I hope you find comfort in all the wonderful memories you have of Winnie. She was, indeed, very special. Hugs to you dear friend.

  49. I'm so sorry. What a lovely tribute to Winnie.

  50. I am so very sorry to hear about Winnie, Lisa. Sending love and hugs your way. Bella, BooBoo and Amelia send their purrs and headbutts as well.


  51. Just adding my voice to the chorus--I'm very sorry to hear of Winnie's passing, especially so soon after Grey, that has to have made the loss all the more painful. But, at least you and she had many good years together, and many memories to look back on; she sounds like she had quite a personality. I've always thought it rather appropriate that Bastet was the goddess of joy in ancient Egypt, considering how much of that very thing kitties can bring to us humans--and I'm sure She'll be taking extra-special care of Winnie until you can be with her again.

    Love and hugs from all of us here in CO.

  52. I just love your video, what a cherished keepsake it will be!

    I am so sorry you lost your Winnie, I know how hard it is to let our beloveds go. My calico girl went to the bridge two months ago at age 18. There is such a bond when they are with us for many years as you well know. They are so much a part of the family and daily life that there is a big hole when they go. Winnie sounds like such a fantastic girl, you absolutely did the right thing to help her when she needed you the most! And if she had to go then being in your loving arms having tummy rubs when the time came was the best way it could happen

  53. We're so sorry to hear that Winnie had to go to the Bridge. You were a great Momma to her and she was very much loved, we can tell.

    Sending purrs and gentle headbutts during this time of sadness,

    Charlemagne, Tamar and little brother Mal

  54. I am so sorry that you had to lose her, but so glad that she and you had good times together and that she had such a tranquil passing.

    Many hugs,

    Ann F.

  55. Winnie had a beautiful life, which you've written about so tenderly here. Our thoughts are with you, Lisa.


  56. I was directed here by your brick purchase. I'm sorry I missed giving condolences at the time. Hopefully with the passage of time thoughts of her bring more smiles then tears.



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