I have had cats in my life. Several in fact. Some belonged to the family and some were mine alone. But I've never experienced the kind of love, companionship and joy that my little Siamese, Nina, gave me. In fact, I believe I shared a relationship with her that is rare even in animal-person relationships. You see, our first ride home from Sao Paulo, my little kitty cried for 6 hours, but stared at me deeply, right into my eyes with her own soulful eyes. She looked at me deeply that way, making eye contact, for her whole life. It was moving. I shared with her complete trust and devotion. She was a warm-bodied friend who kept me company for many lonely nights that I spent during my first year in Brazil.
During our first year, Ro worked almost exclusively at night. Combine that with a language barrier, homesickness, and not having many (any) friends, Nina brought me pure happiness just by staying close to me and clearly 'choosing' me, just as I had 'chosen' her.
She licked my tears. She sat in my lap and purred her soft comforting purr. She 'helped' me plan classes, watched Sex in the City with me, and helped me finish my ice cream. There was no need to buy her a cat bed because we slept together every night in the bed that we shared. It was our room. The three of us. She was our 'baby child'.
Although I could never imagine the loss of a child, the thought of losing her was inconceivable. Even before I knew she was sick, I couldn't imagine life without her. I planned my life with her in it. I imagined growing older, having human babies with Ro, moving to Canada, etc etc and all the while having Nina by our side.
Although it's been said before, the unconditional love of a pet is like nothing else - it's beyond words that I'm even capable of expressing. And truly, the only downside to having a pet is losing them.
Nina was The Queen. She had the run of the house. At night, when she chose to sleep at the foot of the bed, or settle down against my back, we would do everything we could not to disrupt her, careful not to create too much noise or agitate her enough to run away. The same way I felt pure joy inside when I felt her jump onto the bed, I felt sincere sadness when she got annoyed and jumped down. I missed her when I was out but knew as soon as I stepped out of the elevator down the hall, she would be listening and meowing at the door until I opened it. She was waiting for me every. single. time.
Without words Nina was able to communicate clearly and loudly what she wanted. Siamese cats are known for being very vocal. She had approximately 7 different cries and she exercised her voice all the time, much to my delight. She wanted water from the tap, she saw a bug on the wall, she wanted a kiss, she wanted Jose (our other cat) to leave her alone, she wanted more petting (that one was more of a series of trills), she was standing in the hallway and nobody was there and she just wanted someone to come in and look at her. Each meow unique. Each one like music.
She's the only living creature in the world that I would let lick my mouth and also put her butt right in my face. Well, the butt in the face wasn't really that great. But the licks on the mouth every morning and night were so so wonderful and I miss them so so much.
Sunday night, Brazilian Valentine's Day, Nina didn't come to sleep with me in bed. Ro said she also didn't come to the door when he came in from work. Monday morning, Nina crawled into my bedroom just before I was leaving for work, let out one sad meow and lay down on the floor. She was having obvious difficulty breathing. Right away I called work to cancel my classes so we could take her to the vet.
We spent 12 hours that day driving to 3 different vet offices. She had blood taken, x-rays done, oxygen given, an IV inserted... It was discovered that she had fluid in her lungs and around her heart and had developed pneumonia. She hadn't even shown any signs of being sick.
Breathing was getting harder and harder for her, especially with the added stress of the car rides and various strangers poking and prodding her. We were advised to take her home after the 2nd vet, to let the antibiotics work and to let her relax a little, but from there things took a turn for the worse. When she could barely lift her head and started vomiting blood, we knew we had to take her to emergency. She died 2 hours later on the table, terribly, but in our arms.
I will never forget the last hours we spent with our baby. She was so weak but she kept lifting her head to make eye contact with me. She asked for the special chin rubs that her daddy gave best. I felt that she knew we were with her until the end and I want to her know that we really were.
I was lucky to have Nina in my life. My only solace in her sudden death comes from my belief that her purpose here, in her short one and a half years, was to help me through my first year in Brazil. I believe that, because that is exactly what she did. I hope that she is spreading her love and warmth to others who need her now.
Nina, my baby, I miss you so much and I will love you forever.
The reason I started Eat Rio
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