June 2000. After a rather uninspiring beginning to the Year of Many Zeros, mid-year became a landmark in my life when, while standing in my carport, I heard a little mew and discovered a beautiful kitten had come to visit. Getting no response to inquiries or handbills I posted around the neighbourhood, I adopted the six-month old, had her examined, vaccinated and spayed. I considered many names, but finally had to settle on a pretty one, because she was so pretty herself. I named her Juniper.
Juniper quickly and easily became the most important friend in my lonely world. The joy she brought, from affection to funny kitten behaviour, was a life-saver. We had rituals of mutual affection. Every night, when I got home from work, we would spend five or ten minutes on the bed bonking foreheads. Only my developing relationship with my girlfriend, Katharine, would eventually surpass the bond I had with my all-time favourite cat.
Her wonderful face was matched by her personality. She liked to balance on my shoulders and in other odd places: on the back of a chair, on a tall scratching post, on the top of an open door. We used to play hide and seek. I would run through the house and hide. She’d follow, looking for me. I’d say, “Boo!” and she’d run to some other room. I was expected to follow her and start the game again. She liked to drink from the faucet in the guest bathroom. I bought her a guinea pig’s water bottle, and for a few months she liked to get her water from that, too.
Juniper usually liked other people (except veterinarians) but I was her person. As much as I loved her, I could not protect her from a few stressful challenges. Her affection for Katharine grew after Kat and I moved in together, but even after two years she was just starting to tolerate the two other cats that moved in, too. We moved 1300 miles/2100 kilometers to a new home with less room and something called winter. Still, she never stopped liking to find a place on my lap (if I was sitting) or on my chest (if I was lying down). She made me feel special.
September 2007. Our first visit to a vet in Toronto was traumatic for Juniper. But worse than that, it began two weeks of seeing her health fail. We naturally suspected a bad reaction to a vaccination.
October 2007. Eventually she had to go to an emergency clinic, where the neurologist thought the blame more likely to be either a viral infection or a tumor in her brain or on her brain stem. Steroidal medicine revived Juniper to the point of a nurse calling her a miracle cat. Getting an MRI could rule out tumors, so we took her to an imaging centre. We hoped for a diagnosis of some non-fatal infection that we could work on curing.
October 5, 2007. The MRI revealed a golfball-sized tumor at Juniper’s olfactory frontal lobe. Options included high-risk surgery and/or radiation, but neither was recommended. She would not last the month. So rather than watch her lose the sense of well-being she had recovered temporarily, we made the difficult choice to put her to sleep before she began to suffer again. After half an hour of snuggling and goodbyes, we let her go.
It’s been a miserable two weeks. So what? They cannot overshadow the seven-plus years of love, play and felicity Juniper and I shared.