As some of you might be aware, Dyssa was a very valued and loved member of our staff and family. Here at Chasing Rabbit Holes.com, she was known as The Analyst and was a heavy hitter. There is an initial profile of her here. She came to us at about six months old and was always there for 16.5 years. I have had an agreement with my animals from the moment they walk in the front door. As long as you are healthy and in no pain, this is your forever home. Sometimes that agreement was stipulated because I was broke or unemployed. But most often it was to describe my responsibilities, not theirs. The cat before Dyssa was named JuJu and lived for 18.5 years, dying of old age in my arms.
To understand Dyssa, you have to know her pals.
When JuJu died, I lasted about three weeks before finding Doven, a crazy combination of beagle, cocker spaniel and something never quite identified. At five months and 30 pounds, Doven could knock a grown man on his butt. People would stop in the street to exclaim over her. She loved everybody and could wag every part of her being simultaneously in pure joy at seeing you. She turned out to be a submissive pee-er and the only thing she wanted to chew was books. Specifically, the sequel to the one I was currently reading. She could locate it on the shelves and have it shredded in no time flat. I used to cry when I’d see the pages strewn all over the living room and carefully gather ’em together for some snowed in day when I thought I’d piece them back together again. You might roll your eyes, but some of those books I’d had since I was 12. They were good friends of mine. Doven was an escape artist, who would go visiting all the neighbors and bring things back to me from their yards on returning home… One day, a co-worker told me about a cat that had followed her daughter home from school. “I know you wanted a kitten, and this one looks to be about five or six months old —” I was firm. “No, no and besides, I’ve got a dog right now—” “Yes, but let me tell you a bit about her – she has five fingers on each hand…” Well, how do you resist that? She brought the cat over on the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle to the after hours Friday social the law firm had once a month or so. She lifted the lid and this small slender cat rose up out of the box, looked around at the party, jumped out, walked around visiting and came back to sit with us. Her utter poise and street smarts fascinated me and I took her home on a trial basis, not sure how she and Doven would do. I walked in the door, put the box down and lifted the lid. Doven thought she was the cat’s meow and she took control of Doven instantly. Doven never ate another book. Turns out Doven was lonely and the two were inseparable from that moment on. They went for walks together. Doven woke me up the morning Dyssa had three kittens and Doven raised the kittens. All three of us drove across the country from Seattle to Virginia and back again. I’d been told what a nightmare cats are in a car. Dyssa took it stride – pretty vocal the first 30 minutes, but then she rode on the neck-rest of the backseat or on my lap or on the floor by the heater when it was snowing and Dov wanted her car window open. By the third day, pulling up to a hotel had become routine. I’d open the ground floor hotel room door, and Dyssa and Doven would jump out and walk in to inspect the latest digs. Doven was with us for 10 years. At nine years old, Doven got sick and I took her to the Vet. The Vet’s name is Dr. Liu and they do not come any better than this woman. She’s straight-forward, realistic, pragmatic and very tender with her charges. Dr. Liu diagnosed Doven with having a mass and that it was almost always malignant. We went back and forth over life expectancy of maybe two weeks vs. 24-48 hours of bleeding out, which was the current status. Doven had surgery and Dr. Liu removed a three-pound tumor with Doven coming out weighing 27 lbs. Lo and behold, she called to tell me that it was non-malignant, an unheard of result in her practice. Thereafter, Doven was known as “the miracle dog.” Doven developed seizures and Dr. Liu explained what that entailed, which was not going to be pretty but never lasted long and Doven was fine the rest of the time. Dyssa stayed by Doven’s side no matter what was going on. And, the deal with Doven was for her to let me know when she was done. She was not to stay around on my behalf. Doven eventually went into a non-stop seizure that I did finally stop with a couple of tranquilizers. She let me know it was time and off we went to see Dr. Liu, who was ready as soon as we walked in the door. Dr. Liu asked how I was and I said “Fine. You don’t have to worry, I’m not going to burst into tears or cry or anything.” Dr. Liu shot me a glance, “Well, I might!” OH… If you have never experienced this, it is amazing and grace-filled. There was Doven worn out from the night and Dr. Liu gave us some time alone. She came back in and Doven’s paw was prepped for the needle. Dr. Liu said, “It happens very fast, from one breath to the next. Are you ready?” And that is exactly how it happened – not even three seconds and Doven was gone, blissfully at rest. Dyssa had known before we went out the door and had said her goodbyes.
We waited a year before finding a new dog, which was Claire, a rescued greyhound. Initially, Claire and Dyssa seemed indifferent to one another, but that lasted about the first two hours or so. Claire came over while Dyssa was sitting in my lap, calmly opened her jaws and tried to fit Dyssa’s head inside them. This was not an auspicious beginning and Dyssa questioned who thought the new dog was a good idea. She grew firmer in her opposition as Claire would let out these full hunt cry sounds that scared the hell out of me, much less Dyssa, who was spending a lot of time under the bed. I got tired of moving them from one room to another and finally set up a fence in the hallway, consisting of two winter tires in their plastic bags and a small step-ladder between them. Dyssa was 10.5 years old and probably a good 12 lbs. The child gate theory wouldn’t work because Dyssa couldn’t slide underneath it for a quick getaway. She was simply too fat. Fantastically, Claire observed the barrier and never attempted to leap it, an easy feat for her. It turned out that Dyssa would hang out underneath the ladder and they would meet in the hallway for chats. It was settled pretty quickly and they became best friends, too. Going for walks together; Claire bathing Dyssa. Everybody having treats before bedtime.
In this household, everybody has tasks. Claire’s was to keep Dyssa clean and Dyssa’s was to put me to sleep with her purr and wake me up. Dyssa’s purr was the soft roar of a finely tuned engine. It rarely took more than a minute to knock me out. Dyssa’s wake-up routine was ruthless. She would come up behind me and slide all 15 lbs of fat fur over my face and rest in the process, slowly sliding down and then circle back around and do it again. Due to her weight, she was not a jumper per se. She was a champion at climbing though, especially for the good night treats.
Back in May of 2012, Dyssa developed diabetes due to her being overweight. We’d tried dieting for years and it simply didn’t work. She went on a prescriptive, very expensive diet and got insulin shots twice a day. Being Dyssa, she would come up to me for the shots, frequently reminding me if I was reading a book or watching TV. She purred while receiving her shots…. And, let me tell you, the difference between dogs and cats having diabetes is about $125.00 for six weeks of medication. If the cat can lose weight, enough weight – in Dyssa’s case she had to drop down to 11 lbs – and at one point, she weighed 15 – they can then possibly reverse their condition. Dyssa made it to 11.8 and then developed serious breathing problems. Dr. Liu took x-rays and called to say Dyssa had cancer and it was time to let her go. I had hoped we would have another miracle, but it wasn’t to be. Claire and I got in the car and drove to be with Dyssa and Dr. Liu.
Now, here’s the thing. Claire hates going in to see the Vet. She shakes from head to toe and for hours, sometimes a day afterwards, panting pitifully fast. We were a bit early, so I turned Claire in to have her nails clipped – badly needed; got a 31 lb of dog food carried to the car and placed in the front seat, so Claire could have the back all to herself on the way home. I came back in and went to the room I was directed. There was Dr. Liu with Dyssa already prepped and Claire pacing and panting. Dr. Liu went to get Claire some water and I gave her a treat I’d had in my pockets for just this sort of thing, belatedly realizing I hadn’t brought any treats for Dyssa, who thought that was in very poor taste. I mentioned it to Dr. Liu, who exclaimed, “Oh, we’ve got some really good treats here.” Off she went, this very busy doctor and back she came with a fistful of what looked like logs to my eyes and that Dyssa thought was heaven. Dyssa sat in my lap and Claire paced over to touch noses with Dyssa before resuming prowling the room. Dr. Liu had also come in with a bowl of dry kibble and a bowl of wet food, saying “Knock yourself out, Dyssa. Today, you may eat as much as you want.” Undeterred by her own labored breathing, Dyssa chowed down on everything with enthusiasm and then went for Claire’s water bowl and finally lay down in exhaustion on the tile floor. Dr. Liu had given us some time and came back in, taking in the situation at a glance. “Well, shall we all sit on the floor and let this little girl rest?” She explained it was a bit different for cats, they go as quickly, but their breath keeps exhaling at intervals for a bit. That was true. Dyssa was gone from one heartbeat to the next and yet her breath would whoosh out disconcertingly over the next minute or two. Dr. Liu picked her up, cradling Dyssa in her arms and we gave a last hug and goodbye. Her ashes would be strewn or placed in an orchard that the veterinarian service used. Somewhere in that orchard was Doven and I had a fleeting image of them meeting up again.
Claire and I came home and rambled about a seemingly empty house for two days. I kept expecting to see Dyssa coming around the corner or in one of her favorite spots. Claire did not. On the third day, I went to Claire and asked how she would feel about getting a new cat. Claire never licks my face or hands. She will touch noses at her most loving, but no licking. When I asked about a new cat, she reached up, looked me in the eye and licked me from chin to forehead. Well, okay then.
This is Elby, who is a Siamese-Lynx, thought to be about four months old, still has his baby teeth and brilliant blue eyes. His given name was Ghost and he can move like lightening. I found him at the county animal shelter. It was too close to Dyssa’s passing to have a cat named Ghost and so I found myself calling him Little Boy to remind myself we were no longer a household of women and then with his blue eyes, I mentioned to him there was a painting entitled Little Boy Blue (L.B.B.), which he liked. He is very independent, wants to be the initiator and very loving. Claire was fascinated by him and within 24 hours, Elby thought of Claire as a very large cat. He’s very smart, but still a bit young to know where his talents as a staff member will shine.
We were graced with Dyssa’s presence for 16.5 years. May it be so with Elby and Claire.