Mandy's Legacy of Love

(picture of Mandy as a kitten)My last tenant moved out for the summer, and I had determined that I was going to get a pair of kittens to keep me company through the summer of 1982. I went to the Adair County Humane Society, but there were too many kittens to choose from, so I kept looking. There was a pet store in downtown Kirksville with a litter of Siamese kittens, and I was already partial to Siamese cats (having grown up with two of them), so that decision was easy. One of the kittens picked me out right away, and I selected the healthiest-looking of her littermates and packed them up to take home with me. The one who picked me out was named Amanda Elizabeth, and her healthy littermate was named Melissa Kristene. Same number of letters, different number of syllables, just like me and my brother.


An early indication that she was going to be an independent-minded cat: Mandy removed her own stitches (a bit prematurely!) when she was spayed.

While living in her first house, Mandy learned her first trick. When I was in the shower, she would stick her paw under the center of the folding door to the bathroom and pull on it to open the door. When I came out of the shower, she would greet me with a reproachful half-syllable: "Meh..."


Mandy used to play with rolls of toilet paper and destroy them in the process; after a couple of rounds of that game, I started keeping my toilet paper in a large can with a lid upon which I taped a hand-lettered card: "Anti-Mandy can".


I don't remember exactly when Mandy learned her other trick, but it may have been around the time I moved to Columbia. Her new trick was communicating when it was time for me to hold her, and she would do this by squatting down in front of me and putting her ears back. She would then jump up into my arms, assuming that I would catch her. We learned two rules to this game in the earliest innings: 1. Don't use claws, even if Daddy isn't ready, and 2. Don't jump on Daddy from behind. Mandy liked to be held, but it had to be her idea.

mandy as E.T.Mandy anecdote: I received a Polaroid camera for Christmas one year, and I was sitting on a chair in the living room of my parents' house (with Mandy, as usual, on my lap) preparing to take a picture of my brother, who was posing on the couch across the room. Unbeknownst to me, while the flash was charging, Mandy was stretching up ("like E.T.", my brother says) to see what was causing the high-pitched noise, and when the flash went off, I got a picture of Mandy instead of my intended subject. It struck us at the time that the picture looked kind of like E.T.; Mandy's dark ears blended into the background, and the resulting oval face was like the face of the character in the movie. I found out later that the the face of E.T. was indeed based on that of a cat.

Mandy had a problem with stones in her bladder, and she had to have surgery twice to remove them. It was very hard to leave her at the vet clinic for several days at a time, and I remember that it was especially hard to get enthused about eating while she was away.

In early adulthood, Mandy used to be fairly chunky. I used to call her "Chubbles", and it was amusing to watch her run on those rare occasions when I let her outside. Her legs would go one way, and her tummy would go the other way. She liked going outside, and she would always eat grass contentedly for a while before deciding to make a mad dash around the house. I also called her "Blam-a-Dandra", "Pukefest" (for her habit of eating too fast and throwing up), and other dumb stuff. I used to sing an alphabet song to her when I was getting ready for work in the morning.

This picture always makes me smile: is it a chubble-cat upside down on the floor?

Or is it a chubble-cat glued to the ceiling?

I lived alone for most of Mandy's life, and when I felt very lonely, I was especially glad to have a kitty who loved me and needed me.

(picture of Mandy on the rug)At one of my multiple low-rent hangouts in Columbia, I had the luxury of getting a new carpet in the living room. I wasn't there to take the call, but when the landlord asked for my color preference, my roommates said, "Siamese cat color!" This picture shows how well Mandy blended into the rug.


I eventually did find a permanent roommate, and he even likes cats, but that meant that he had cats of his own. Mandy didn't take too well to the new roommates, and she didn't make peace with the Shirkey clan until near the end. I had a lot less time for Mandy once there were more of us in the house, but I have no regrets. I realized at the time that my priorities had changed, and that didn't mean that I loved Mandy any less.

The End

Mandy had been losing weight ever since the Shirkeys came to join us, but she had gotten alarmingly thin over the end-of-the-year holiday season in Y2K. We took her to the vet, but he didn't find anything specific wrong with her and put her on steroids to bulk her up a bit. I had never been able to give pills to Mandy, but Andy may be the one mammal I know that's more stubborn than she was, so he gave her pills twice a day up until 01/01/01. She got a lot of use out of the cat pillow in front of the fireplace during this period. This picture was supposed to be our Christmas card photo for 2001:

(picture of Mandy in front of fire)

Mandy couldn't be enticed to eat much on New Year's Day, and I cried because she was so thin and because I thought I was losing her. She only licked the 9-lives a couple of times in the morning then sat on the heating vent while the other cats finished their breakfast. She ate a couple of pieces of chicken-and-cheese Pounce in the afternoon, and she sat up and licked the broth when I cooked some chicken for her, but she didn't eat the chicken. We took her back to the vet the next day, and he thought she was going to be okay after she got some antibiotics, but he asked her to stay overnight, and she died in her sleep at the vet's that night. I prefer to think that she chose her time to die in such a way that it was the easiest for us. We consulted with the vet on Wednesday morning (after crying for several hours -- all the time I lay on the bed, I had all three cats on me), and we decided to have Mandy cremated. Andy and I went to Flat Branch for lunch that day (work was NOT an option), and I ate a tuna sandwich while sitting in front of a big, sunny window. I even symbolically saved a little piece of tuna for her; she loved tuna. She also loved sunny windows, cheese, sitting in my lap, riding on my shoulders, and sleeping on me at night.

(picture of Mandy in a sunny window)

Good-bye, Mandy. You were pretty much a one-person cat, and I am honored to have been chosen by you. I loved you very, very much. I know I'm a better person for having known you, and I will miss you always.

Tribute to Mandy from Mary Helen and her family

Note from Mandy's vet

Container Andy bought for Mandy's ashes

Andy's post to the Rainbow Bridge group about Mandy

Link to Pet Loss -- a place where people understand how much you can love a kitty.

Some songs about cats

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