It’s always sad when a friend’s cat dies. My heart hurts for what I know they’re about to go through as they mourn their loss. We’ve all been there, and even though everyone grieves in their own unique way, we all know how hard it is. This past Wednesday a tortie named Brooke lost her battle with cancer. Brooke has a special place in my heart. She belonged to very dear friends of mine, and if it wasn’t for Brooke, I never might have met them.
In August 2009, I wrote a post titled Tortitude – the Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. It rapidly became one of the most popular posts on this blog, but it was so much more than just a blog post. Readers started leaving comments sharing stories about their torties. With more than 14,000 comments to date, it turned into a real community of tortie lovers. A core group posted almost daily for several years, and what started as an exchange of tortie stories turned into online friendships, and even sparked a romance. Brooke was one of the torties in that core group.
But rather than trying to describe Brooke myself, I’m going to share the beautiful passage her human Harry posted on Facebook on Wednesday (with some minor edits:)
“14 years ago this past July, Julie fell in love with a tiny, tortoiseshell kitten who fell asleep in her arms at an adoption event. Later that afternoon, we returned to the house with that calm, docile 16-week old tortie, who then woke up, realized she was forever home, and proceeded to race in a circle around, on and over the couch, and including the kitchen and hallway, at 90 miles an hour – for an hour. A human psychologist we once met at an adoption event described Brooke perfectly – she was passionate about life. She loved us with intensity, the same way she went about – well, everything, including bullying other resident cats she didn’t like.
We learned a great deal from Brooke, including the name of an excellent pet behaviorist, and that Prozac can be formulated into a transdermal gel applied to a cat’s ears…
We also learned about tortitude – an attitude that brought us to a group of wonderful people who are owned and managed by torties, people we’ve now called friends for 10 years. We’ve had the great fortune to meet some of these people in real life; with all of them we maintain an internet friendship, and there are some with whom we will eventually cross paths IRL.
Brooke had been slowing down the past year, and this past summer it became clear that something was not right. She was diagnosed with mast cell cancer of her digestive tract – diffuse, not operable. We fought the cancer with the same passion that we knew Brooke would have asked of us, going to specialists and trying any and all possible treatments. Indeed, Brooke fought cancer the way she took on life, allowing steroids and chemotherapy and acupuncture to help with the side effects. Can you imagine doing acupuncture on a tortie? Well, our vet can.
It became clear this week that she was losing the battle, and losing it fast. The last gift we can give our companion animals is to not let them suffer – though we certainly suffer because it is not an easy decision.
Our friend Jay says that when a tortie goes to heaven, she is welcomed with a thunderstorm that is caused by the roaring of the great torties that came before her. Monday night there was an unexpected thunderstorm, and Brooke – who used to be afraid of such a storm – sat on the rail of the screened porch, looking up. I knew she heard them calling her. Now she is with them.
We could all use a little tortitude in life, I think. Or maybe just a little tortie. I’m glad we had ours.”
Rest easy, sweet Brooke. I will forever be grateful to you for bringing your humans into my life and to our tortie community.
Harry Shubin is a patent attorney in Northern Virginia who has been active in cat rescue for most of his life. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Feline Foundation of Greater Washington. He shares his home with seven cats. His wife Julie, daughter Rachel, and son Michael are also involved in cat rescue.