In June of 1995, I was 23 years old. I had just finished my last semester of college course work and was getting ready to start my student teaching after summer break. Having grown up with cats all my life, I had missed the feline companionship in the “dorm phase” of college, and so on a lark one random day, I took myself to the mall because I knew they had a pet store to remedy that situation.
Now, I have to tell you … the mall in Greeley, Colorado, at least in 1995, was SUPER lame. Which is ironic, given that the marquis out front bore the slogan: “The Greeley Mall: Where Good Things Happen.” LOL! But I guess in this case, it did ring true, because on that random day in June of 1995, I plunked down my twelve college student dollars, hard-earned by waiting tables at Old Chicago, and brought home the snuggliest little gray kitten I’d met since Mommacat (who passed when I was in the 7th grade).
I would eventually name that little gray kitty Ashleigh, for her gray color and lack of anything more creative. She became a faithful companion and ever-ready snuggle buddy. Yes, she may have been persnickety at times, but that was part of her unique personality that I grew to love, and eventually Mr. Bean did as well. (He came on the scene much later.)
Sadly, today we are adjusting to our first full day of our new “life after Ashleigh,” as her tough, athletic body rapidly began to fail her this past week. It is a tough place to be in, because of the many seasons of life that she accompanied me through in the past 22 years. So I’m honoring her big personality and place in my heart by remembering some of my favorite memories and quirks. Here are some of the highlights …
- EATING: Ashleigh was an avid seeker of human food. Some of it agreed with her, and some did not, but she never let any of the bad experiences stop her from trying again. LOL One of her favorite treats was tortilla chips. The mere sound of the bag’s rustling would bring her running. In the past two years, and even after she lost her hearing, she never missed a chance to sit opportunistically underneath Little Bean’s high chair at meal time in hopes that he would continue to take his time in outgrowing his food throwing habit. At some unknown point in the last 5-7 years, Ashie had a big tooth go missing. We will never know exactly what happened, and where it went, but her lip smacking eating noises in the last few years have both entertained and disgusted us.
- TRAVELS! Ashleigh was somewhat of a world traveler! I remember bringing her on the plane from Denver to Sacramento on at least two occasions. And when I made the permanent move to Sacramento in 1998, she even got to road trip it with my mom and I for the 1,200-ish mile trip. (I’m pretty sure she meowed vigorously for the first 500 miles or so.) My favorite part of that trip was sneaking her into our “NO PETS ALLOWED” motel in Wendover, NV, on the way. (Please do not rat us out if you ever go there.)
- BOYFRIENDS: I actually give Ashleigh a fair amount of credit when it comes to finding Mr. Bean, since she literally hated every. other. boyfriend. I’d had had before him. No joke. She would hiss. She would growl and bite. And sometimes, she would just purposely turn her back to them! In contrast, I will never forget the first time Mr. Bean came over to my condo. He sat down on the couch, and Ashleigh jumped right up into his lap and started purring. And we never looked back!
- KIDS: As old as she already was when our now 3-year-old energetic Little Bean was when he was placed with us, Ashleigh was never anything but kind and gracious to him. She has been the kitty that we’ve used to help teach Little Bean that kitties don’t like their eyeballs touched, their whiskers and tails pulled, and that there is really no good reason to put your fingers in their ears. She has been sat on, had Nerf guns shot at her (some on accident and probably some on purpose), and been chased around the house on many occasions. Maybe she was simply too geriatric to put up a fight, or maybe she knew, like we do, that Little Bean just needs some extra grace and a whole bunch of teaching to learn these things.
- SEASONS OF LIFE: Ashleigh’s constant companionship and unconditional love bridged the gap from my college years to gainful employment, from my single girl days to married life, and from a childless household to a busy, loud kiddo home. I always knew I could count on her to say hi to me when I got home from work, cuddle with me while I ready, and lay on my bed with me at night. I think that may be why I’m having such a hard time letting her go. She has been present for close to half of my life this far. And I’m not sure I could ask for a much more from a feline companion.
Today, our hearts are broken. We know that time will help, but right now we are grieving and adjusting to our “new normal” after so many years with her. It will happen. I am beyond thankful for many years of love, laughs and cuddles that we shared.
Be at peace, old girl … you will never be forgotten!