cats, death, loss, pets

The Princess Has Left the Building


Princess Tuga.  Crown photo shopped by Mariah Chase.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Princess Tuga. Crown by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.


She was dainty yet elegant. When she took possession of my Las Cruces home, she proudly padded around with tail raised high. But like all royals, she had a flaw – a poor braking system. She’d leap toward a destination yet often miss her mark looking clumsy as she struggled to regain her balance. “You’re just like me,” I’d comment, trying to make her seem like she was truly kin.

Up to now, her life had been traumatic. She had spent her first year and a half in an unstable relationship with an owner who had substance abuse issues. Then when her owner died and lay in their home for four days before discovery, the poor princess was equally untended until authorities marked off the house with yellow tape, tossed the cat into a county animal facility as they carried her owner’s body to the morgue.

Fortunately, a compassionate neighbor adopted the frightened feline from the shelter despite the maximum number of cats she already owned. That’s when she contacted me.

I had recently euthanized my beloved first cat, Tom. Before he became sickly and old, he had been a good companion but very independent. When he jumped onto my bed at night and I petted him too much, he would move to the corner of the bed, and if I persisted in talking lovingly to him, he would leave the room. The princess was different and I treasured her contrasting personality.

When I sat in my recliner at night watching television, she would stretch out above my head on top of the chair. Then after a while, she would make little sounds, seemingly to request a move down into my lap where she would snuggle. I was in the proverbial seventh heaven, and she seemed equally appreciative.

I told her that she would be my furry companion until I exited this plane. My daughter, Andrea, had already agreed to take her after my death. We even joked about it when Andrea visited and regularly asked, “Where’s my kitty?”

But the joke was on me, when, less than a month ago my sweet princess stopped eating.   I took her to the vet, and an x-ray showed a cloud covering her left lung. Further tests and surgery revealed that she had a diaphragmatic hernia. Her stomach and liver had pushed into her upper cavity and her left lung was necrotic.

She survived the surgery and seemed to be recovering but still refused to eat on her own. For over a week I drove her daily to the animal clinic where they force-fed and hydrated her – but to no avail. She failed to thrive. Finally, I couldn’t stand to see her continued suffering and called the euthanasia vet, who concurred that nothing more could be done to improve her condition. When the doc administered the sedative and lethal dosage, my princess, Tortuga, had her eyes focused on me. I kissed her head and told her how much I loved her. Then she was gone.

Farewell, darling Tortuga. Your life was too brief, yet you will remain forever in my heart.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist, who, after an acceptable time of mourning, will adopt another cat. Let’s hope that this third time will be the charm.

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