What can I write about Cammie? What can I not?
I suppose I will start chronologically, and describe how she came to live with me, in June, 2013. Cammie, who had a different name at the time, was taken from an abusive home by a woman who was concerned about her welfare. The woman couldn’t keep her, so she called the Lethbridge PAW Society, of which I am a member. We hear this often; how someone takes in a cat, but won’t keep her, and wants someone else to take the cat off her hands. Well, the person’s heart was in the right place.
So, whether we could or not, we had to find room for this new girl, who was unspayed at eight years of age. She came to my home, which at the time was in a house. I was unsure of Cammie. She seemed friendly sometimes, or, rather, tolerant. But she hissed and growled, and I was afraid that she’d cause me injury. To put her in a carrier to take her to the veterinary hospital, not just at first but for several years, required throwing a blanket over her and pushing her into the carrier. Cammie screamed and yelled each time.
She was isolated at first, and when I let her mingle with other cats, she hissed at them, a behaviour which she never ceased. I made better progress with her myself, though it was two months before she purred. I was stroking her fur in the back parlour of my house, and I heard a low rumble. I remember being very pleased at the development, and knew it would only improve from there. The other cats hoped, I think, to make friends with her, especially Renn and Bear-Bear, my foster-cat at the time, but she would have none of it.
Cammie did seem to want to make friends with Tungsten. She would follow the orange one about, not menacingly, but almost curiously. Tungsten, however, adopted Cammie’s attitude, and continually warned her off.
As she progressed in her new home, Cammie taught me things about herself and cats in general. Her hissing, I realised, was not always a sign of hostility, but of over-all dissatisfaction. She disliked disagreements between other beasts: when two were having a growling match or a squabble, she would come racing out of wherever she had been and yell and hiss at both parties. I think she felt that being annoyed with someone was her prerogative alone. I also learned that she became somewhat loopy when smelling onions…
Then, in December, six months after her arrival, she jumped up on my lap. I had been trying to get her to do so for a while, of course, patting my lap and urging her to come up. When she did, it was of her own volition, with no encouragement. I felt that a milestone had been passed.
Thereafter, Cammie started coming onto my lap frequently. She had demonstrated that she could trust. Thus, when an offer to adopt her came in the spring of 2014, I and the PAW Society felt that we could not afford to miss this opportunity. The prospective home was in Regina, which made me a little anxious; in other cases, if there was a problem with the adoption, we could easily retrieve the cat in question. Regina, 624 kilometers away (378 miles) was a different proposition. The adopter seemed a little apathetic to the advice I gave her about time and patience, but there was nothing concrete that made us think there would be anything amiss with Cammie’s new home.
The reality was quite different. There was a reluctance on the part of the adopter to respond to telephone calls asking about Cammie; this worried me. Fortunately, one of the reasons we allowed Cammie to go to Regina was that a colleague in the PAW Society travelled there now and then on personal business. She decided to check on Cammie.
No one was at the adoptive home when she called; she decided to wait. Just as she was leaving, a member of the adoptive family arrived. He described Cammie in unflattering terms, suggesting that there was something mentally or emotionally wrong with her. Cammie was clearly frightened and miserable there, and her new people expressed no reluctance in giving her back. My colleague returned with her the next day, sending me a text-message about the situation.
To be honest, I was not pleased. When I heard the whole story, I knew that Cammie had to have been removed from the home in which she had been put, but when she had left me, she was still only on her way to being sociable, and was quite stand-offish, despite coming on to my lap periodically. I thought of all the times I would have to catch her to place her in a carrier – I was still having to drop a blanket over her to do so – and her misanthropic – or misfelinic – attitude. I little guessed that I would eventually regard her second rescue and return to me as little less than miraculous.
A month after her return, she had settled in again as though she had never left. She was pushing her head against me and purring by this point. She was relenting in her attempts to stalk/befriend Tungsten, but was, in turn, stalked (with, I think, an eye to friendship) by my then-foster cat, Kola.
I loved watching Cammie grow. When autumn came in 2014, she found the relatively new heated cat-beds, and began a love-affair with them that never ended. Early the next year, she startled and delighted me by coming up on to the bed after I’d retired. This was the first time of many when she would lie on me – eventually choosing my neck as her spot – and purr. She did it even when other cats were on the bed – assuming that she didn’t have to be close to them. In a less joyous vein, she developed the first symptoms of what I came to decide was her allergy to almost every food. Lumps grew on the side of her head, eventually breaking like pimples. At the time, I was alarmed and took her to the vet. As her food was regulated, she had them less and less, and they never bothered her; she didn’t even know they were there.
I adopted Cammie in April, 2015.
She was a remarkable creature, my princess. I determined that her full name was Her Serene Highness Camarouska Albigensia. I don’t know why. She suffered much from reactions to food, having ‘episodes’ during which she would vomit, and keep vomiting, even after her stomach was empty. Only an injection of Cerenia from the veterinary would reverse the symptoms and give her ease. She would sometimes have an episode because I was not vigilant enough in keeping her from others' bowls; sometimes, an episode seemed to be spontaneous. It came to the point of feeding her only Z/D, a hydrolised product to which it was nearly impossible for a cat to be allergic. Initially, she disliked the tinned variety, and so was restricted to the bland hard version. How she must have looked forward to meals with a sigh, knowing she would receive the cat equivalent of tasteless gruel. Years later, I tried again with the soft, and she not only ate it, but grew to enjoy it. I still kick myself for not re-introducing it sooner, but dinners were pleasant for her again.
Reading my blog’s past articles, I am struck by how many are about Cammie’s evolving personality. Was she changing, or was I simply noticing it more? Moving to the Cosy Apartment didn’t affect her much at all, though she found new spots to inhabit. She also went through a phase of bringing toys into the bedroom, even up the cat-tree in which she sat. She would announce her successful hunt with a cry of triumph; sometimes, she would sit in front of a toy and talk to it. Her playing was abrupt to start and abrupt to end, and she liked to fight a simple stick with which I would provoke her. She and I both knew it was play but she played seriously.
Her sense of smell was always strong. She enjoyed sniffing my breath after I brushed my teeth; mint is similar to cat-nip and, indeed, Cammie would start purring if the smell was strong enough. Sometimes, she would appear at the bathroom door after I had finished, so I would have to put more toothpaste in my mouth, just for her to smell it. She also liked the aroma of baking bread.
I learned early on that a princess has dining habits different than those of the masses. I had to accommodate them. It was bad enough when she could see, but after her blindness, actually holding the dish for her became the norm.
She and I grew close. She would come up on to my lap on the couch, and lie across my neck, at least for a few minutes, most nights, after I’d gone to bed. It had taken years to reach this point, and I think of how many cats, loving, longing cats, would never find their homes or families because people were not patient enough for them. I cheated, really. As a foster-guardian, a cat would be with me whether I wanted to adopt her or not. She would be given the time and opportunity to evolve as she needed, not as the human wanted. I could provide that for a cat, in a foster-situation. I was able to give that to Cammie, and thus, after a long time, win her trust. That’s the only reason I was able.
The end of May, 2019, brought Cammie’s second great tribulation (following on the mercifully short adoption of 2014.) At three in the morning of May 26th, I woke and found Cammie wandering in circles, dragging her left rear leg. She appeared unable to see, as well. I took her to the hospital’s emergency ward – which will open at any hour of the twenty-four; it costs more, but is worth it – and sure enough she had had a stroke, or something similar. Cammie was blind and, despite beliefs later that she had recovered some of her sight, would remain so. The doctor did raise the possibility of euthanasia, but she did not encourage it. She told me that many of the worst effects are temporary. I brought Cammie home and, within a few hours, she was walking and even jumping as normal. But her eyesight was gone.
How astoundingly resilient Cammie was. She was purring within hours as I petted her, and when daylight came, she managed to climb the shorter bedroom cat-tree to smell the outdoors. She conquered her blindness, as much as anyone could. She found new ways around the bedroom, discovered how easily to climb and descend the cat-trees (the latter direction was the tougher), and soon learned about the new location for a water-bowl, near one of her favourite spots in the corner of the bedroom (soon to be augmented with a heated cat-bed.)
My princess did not restrict herself to the bedroom, but wandered about at least once a day to discover what might be new, or enjoy what was old, in other parts of our little kingdom. Even blind, she commanded respect from the other beasts, and I was amused at how quickly my newest foster-cat, Neville, learned to move out of Cammie’s way, or face her wrath.
So things continued for almost a year. I note that I wrote in March observing Cammie feeling a little under the weather, and she did seem to be moving rather frailly at that time, somehow older. Her appetite remained good, and she continued to want to lie on my chest, where she received her pets and purred. (If she sensed that I was at my computer – and I always spoke to her to let her know where I was – she would sit on the near edge of the bed, leaning forward. That was how I knew she wanted some chest-time.)
There were encouraging signs of a possible friendship between Raleigh and Cammie - or at least Raleigh thought so. But they weren't given the time.
The end was sudden. In the evening of Thursday, May 14th, Cammie suffered another stroke, making her walk in circles again, dragging a rear leg (the right, this time). Now, her sense of smell appeared to have been stolen. The next morning, nothing had changed. There was not going to be recovery, as after the previous attack. While I had been at work, she seems not to have left her beloved cat-bed, even for a drink of water at the bowl a few inches away. It was time to say good-bye to my little Siamese.
The picture above was the final one I took of her. The one below was taken by a professional photographer for last year’s PAW Society calendar. Cammie never struck me as smiling, as Tungsten did sometimes. Rather, hers was an almost perpetually melancholy face, when it wasn’t annoyed at something. But it was a beautiful face, with green eyes, the pattern of which resembled gems. This is my favourite image of my princess – for that is what she was: Tungsten may have been my queen, but Cammie will always be my princess.