Back in July, I wrote about our poor sick kitty Marbles, who'd been diagnosed with thyroid trouble and kidney failure. She was acutely ill, and our immediate concern was keeping her alive while her main human, my daughter Robin, was away for six weeks of archeology field school. We did. With daily medication and subcutaneous fluid injections, she survived until Robin returned and then another five months besides, until this morning.
Marbles was our "beta" cat. Her sister Rose is our "alpha," the boss of the pride (while Amber the Simple Cat is our "lower-case omega" cat). However, Rose subcontracted home security to Marbles, who performed her duties diligently. No bird, squirrel, dog or cat could pass by a window without drawing her laser gaze, no visitor could cross our home's threshold without first passing her inspection. Some visitors didn't; although she never took a bite or scratch out of anyone, there were a couple of people she just didn't care for who came to fear her hiss. Marbles's affection was selective and precious. I felt honored to earn almost as much of it as my girls did.
Some people get silly about their pets. I never confused my pets for my children, nor forgot that taking on a dog or cat means knowingly taking on heartbreak 10 or 15 years down the road. We are nevertheless heartbroken. Marbles fought for life last summer while Robin was away, and continued to fight after my daughters returned to college in the fall. The girls said so many "final farewells" to Marbles it seemed she might never call their bluff. In the end she waited until we were all together, and even until after Christmas, more than fulfilling the bargain I made with her in July that if she survived the month she could play it any way she wanted. I can't help but believe that Marbles died doing what she did best: looking out for her family.
Master of intimidation.