Really, her name was Gwennevere. And, much to everyone's surprise, she lived for 18 years! I tried to keep her as an indoor cat but for about 3 years we ever saw eye to eye on that matter, so I eventually gave in and let her come and go as she pleased.
And pleased, she was.
I picked her up as a very young kitten in a duplex with a cast of sad sacks that needed to get rid of the litter. She lived across from the town dump and given her affinity for choosing to rip open trash bags and eat the scraps over nice, clean kibble in a bowl, I always thought she must have come from a scrappy mother whose survival instincts were passed on to her kittens.
She loved bread and anything that had gluten in it. I discovered this when I made blueberry muffins and set the pan out to cool. Suddenly, there was a soft thud and I went out to the kitchen to find her knee deep in a muffin, tickled that she had found such a treasure.
She stole bagels from my school bag, rolls off the table and if I dared to leave a bread product on the table or counter, she'd rip into and eat just enough that none of it was consumable by humans.
She'd get a crazed look in her eye that said there was no way she could control herself.
She was also lactose intolerant. Discovered when I let her lick the rest of a bowl of pudding and she hosed the house and nearby shoes with the most explosive force I'd ever seen. And this happened more than once. No cheese or milk for this one!
There were also a few incidents where she took chicken that was thawing on the counter and dragged it over to a special doormat where she took all of her stolen goods. It was a joy to discover this as I came home with a bag full of groceries and slid across the mat on a raw chicken breast as I opened the door.
Eventually I learned what had to be locked up to avoid being stolen by this petty thief.
For most of her 18 years, she wasn't much trouble. There were a few incidents with wild animals that led her to some minor surgery and bonding time with me applying warm, moist cloths to her wounds, while administering the tastiest antibiotics out there (banana!) but really, given her life span, she wasn't much trouble at all.
In her last couple of years, she was clearly overcome with a sense of entitlement or perhaps curiosity that couldn't be satisfied until she checked out what was calling her attention. She went into weird cabinets she had never explored. She licked things (like cheekbones) once or twice and then gave a look like "well, that certainly didn't taste like I always imagined it would" and then she'd walk away.
But mostly, she couldn't get enough of us. This, from a cat who didn't care about people for at least the first decade of her life. She wouldn't come greet guests. She'd make weird noises if strangers tried to pat her. And she didn't spend too much time sitting on us, especially k-ster. In fact, she often whacked his hand away or snapped at him if he rubbed her the wrong way.
And then she got old and suddenly, k-ster was the only thing she wanted. Every moment that he sitting somewhere, she'd try to climb on him and bump his hand and pester him so a refrain of "leave me alone" could be heard while he was watching tv.
The vet said senior cats tend to get like that, wanting lots of companionship even if they never cared about it before.
Our morning ritual for the last year involved shoving half a pill down her throat followed by treats, which she begrudgingly came for every day. And then promptly spit out 50% of the time or completely hid and then spit out about 20% of the time. That I know of....
Watching a pet age, especially in the final months, is hard. She slept most of the day and night and when she slept she was OUT. She wanted to go out and then went out and looked confused and came right back in, sleeping like she'd been out for days. She lost interest in food.
And when I stopped to remember how long it had been since she had jumped on the bed, or come into the sewing room or outside with me, I realized just how old she was.
In the end, she tried to get into the chair she slept in(one that had been forbidden for most of her life!) and her claw got stuck and she hurt her paw. She hadn't eaten in over a week.
And then, it was time.
When you lose a pet in a tragic accident, or as a young animal, or when one disappears, it is very sad. But when I think about her life span and the fact that she wasn't hit by a car or snatched by a coyote or affected by a disease, I think it's pretty remarkable. A little kitten next to the dump, who probably didn't have a very bright future given the house she lived in, lived an extraordinarily long life and was a great companion to me. And eventually to k-ster.
I chose the name Gwennevere from Camelot and back then, I thought really weird spellings for names was cool. Guinevere in the story was wily and conniving. I don't know how much she lived up to her name. In my presence, she wasn't very wily or conniving, just persistent. But, to escape the dangers of outside, she must have been pretty slick, so maybe she lived up to her name after all.