Remembering MacKenzie

MacKenzie was purring, her eyes were expectant and her little tail straight up when I peered into the pet carrier to meet her and her littermate, Molly. They were 12 weeks old, born June 12, 1996, and were so tiny a Tupperware sandwich container served as their litter box on their flight from Florida. (Neither one of them has ever weighed more than 9 pounds.)

My friend saw their mother being tossed into a canal by teen boys. She plucked out the cat, brought her to a vet and was told the six-month old cat was pregnant. MacKenzie and Molly were among the seven kittens in the litter.

MacKenzie was a sweetheart. At night she loved burrowing under the covers nestling into my right armpit, purring as I fell asleep. For 14 years, she was my appreciative shadow.

I heard her hiss only once. She and Molly were still little fluff balls when I accidentally stepped on one of their tails. I took off my shoes and a few moments later they were both standing at the back of the high heels hissing.

MacKenzie was a sensitive sort. She veered clear of anything with a strong fragrance – from oranges to hair spray. She spent 28 days at the vets after being spayed, allergic first to the stitches and then staples before finally healing.

And then there was the fiddle. I couldn’t expect anyone else to enjoy it when I didn’t much enjoy the sound myself. While Molly would run and hide, MacKenzie sat and cried every time I played. Then she’d throw up and go downstairs. (A real confidence booster!) At a checkup, the vet diagnosed stress-induced vomiting and asked when she threw up. “Every time I play the fiddle,” I said, cringing. MacKenzie stayed there for two days on IVs. I returned home and put my violin and brand-new pernambuco bow away.

She was beautiful on the inside as well as out with her warm brown patches offset by dabbles of orange and white stripes.

Her favorite hiding place was under the living room couch but she’d dash out when she heard it was time for a “blessing,” which always ended with a kiss on the forehead. She also delighted in a massage from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail and in having her belly kissed.

Among the other things MacKenzie loved were her bed at the wall window where she could watch birds, sitting in the kitchen window, naps in the sun, drinking from a cup, being brushed — and me! She’d sit on the back of the couch and head butt me every once in a while or pat me on the shoulder. No matter where or when I worked in the garden, I could look up and see her sweet face watching from one of the windows.

MacKenzie loved to play in water and would sit and wait until someone turned on the bathroom sink so she could drink it flowing from the tap. She’d wait for the shower door to slide open so she could jump in and lap up any dripping water. When she’d hear the furnace humidifier click on, she’d run down the basement to play in the water as it drained into the laundry tub.

She’d sit in watch every evening and greet me at the door, walking in a figure-8 pattern, tail held high, waiting to be petted. Then she’d run off ready for her favorite game – hide-and-seek.

I’d been out of town for nearly two weeks this fall and on the first night home, she crawled under the covers, snuggled up and let out a most-grateful and long-awaited sigh.

Four days later, on Sept. 30, a mass caused labored breathing. An X-ray showed it was either an enlarged heart or a cancerous mass. The vet said either one would have a complicated surgery, painful recovery and a grave prognosis. MacKenzie purred as she snuggled into the crook of my arm. Peacefully she left. I knew she was gone as the purring waned.

— Marylynn G. Hewitt