When I was growing up in a small town in North Dakota my Mom was fond of cats, and we almost always had one in the house, even though my Dad, Fast Eddie, wasn’t so wild about them. The first one I remember was a gorgeous fluffy Calico named Kitty, who had several litters of kittens. When my older sister Julie and I were about four or five Kitty had one of her litters. One day when we were playing with them we decided we wanted to load the kittens, all of our dolls, miscellaneous toys and ourselves into one of our twin beds, which was no small feat. The kittens were not very cooperative, and I don’t think we succeeded in our mission. We tried various ways to position the kittens in the bed, including putting them under the covers at the bottom of bed where they proceeded to play with our toes, which only made us giggle and wiggle with the rambunctious kittens ending up back on the floor over and over again.
Fast forward a few years – well more than a few – and I got my own Calico, a kitten who I named Jenni. I was living in the Washington, D.C., area at the time and had recently lost a cat to cancer named Morgan (a Tuxedo cat named after Morgan the pirate cat from the T. S. Eliot book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Jenni was brought to me on Labor Day weekend 1997 by a friend who had some property in West Virginia where a neighbor’s cat had had a litter of three kittens, two black boy kitties and Calico Jenni. I still remember her first night in the house. I ordered a pizza, and she went crazy over the aroma, clawing at the pizza box and meowing fiercely, although I doubt in the wilds of West Virginia she dined on much pizza. Like most kittens she was a fireball, a tiny bundle of energy. In the townhouse where I lived I had a bay window full of plants, and when Jenni first discovered it she proceeded to shred those plants in Edward Scissorhands fashion, her small furry self whirring through the leaves with her sharp claws leaving them in bits. It was around that time that Jenni was introduced to the neighbors, who cooed excessively at her cuteness, and received one of her first nicknames from a neighbor who called her Jennyanydots – another cat from the T.S. Eliot book. Over the years Jenni had multiple nicknames, including Jenny Benny, Jen Jen, Little Girl, Queen Jenni, Kit Kat Jenni and, unfortunately, Barfie.
Morgan and other previous cats hadn’t been fond of riding in cars, and I was determined that Jenni wouldn’t be the same, so I took her lots of places as a kitten, including running errands around the Virginia burbs. She would sometimes sit on my shoulder or directly behind my neck on the top of the seat. On some of the initial rides she meowed in earnest, however as time went by she grew content in the car. In fact, over the years she became a champion traveler, which proved to be a good thing because travel we did moving from D.C . back to Denver and points beyond.
She also learned to adapt to other animals, including cats and dogs, although a bossy, feisty side of her could come out in her around them, and she came to be known as Queen Jenni. When I bought my first house in Denver I decided I wanted a dog. One day I went to a shelter and came home with Sammi, a mixed breed adult dog. Upon meeting Sammi for the first time, Jenni (who was a small sized cat with Sammi at least five times her size) sniffed her and then gave her a welcoming hiss, followed by swiping her nose with her paw. The
two never really warmed up to each other completely, and being an indoor cat Jenni seemed to resent Sammi when I would let her outside the sliding patio door into the backyard, sometimes giving her a hiss and a swipe. This kind of treatment resulted in Sammi being somewhat afraid of her, and Sammi would often go to great lengths to avoid her, although they eventually came to a truce of sorts. The household also included cat Cinder, and Queen Jenni liked to sit at the top of the stairs or in the upstairs hallway, swatting her tail and gazing over the living room as if she was looking down at her kingdom.
Jenni inadvertently gave me a scare or two over the years. One of our moves included Wisconsin, where me moved in the dead of winter into a beautifully elegant apartment in a renovated old Victorian house. The only piece of furniture I had upon arrival was a bed my brother, who lives in Wisconsin, had given me. One frigid morning I stepped out early to go to a local gas station to use the facilities, as those in the apartment weren’t working. Upon returning Jenni was nowhere to be found. I walked around for quite some time calling her name, searching in every nook and cranny. After awhile I became alarmed, thinking she might have slipped outside when I went out. Eventually I started walking up and down the streets of my new neighborhood calling her name. I called animal shelters. After a good five or six hours (and a few tears), I was standing in the bedroom contemplating my next move, and out popped Jenni from what seemed to be inside/under the bed. To say I was surprised is an understatement. It turns out she had somehow crawled under the mattress and inside the platform box which was serving as a box spring. I was absolutely flabbergasted and more than a little stunned. Jenni of course was nonplussed and sat in the sunshine sleepily licking her paw. She pulled a similar disappearing years later in my parent’s house in ND, where Fast Eddie and I had to work extremely hard to find her, eventually luring her out of her hiding spot with some catnip.
For 20 some years, Jenni happily greeted me at the door in all of my households, snuggled with me, played with me, road tripped with me, listened to me talk and sing, made me laugh at her antics and more. She was the only constant at my side 24/7 all those years. When you are single and live alone, your pets just aren’t part of the family. They ARE your family.
So it is with extreme sadness that this week I had to say farewell to my sweet beautiful girl. Bye bye dear Jenni. You are now my angel.