Princess Dolly, 2003–2018

Dolores was more than a pet. She was capa­ble of pro­found love (or burn­ing hatred), and that loy­al­ty made her feel more like a lit­tle per­son than a com­pan­ion. With the abil­i­ty to rec­og­nize peo­ple through win­dows, I’d often find her sit­ting on the sill at the front of the house, wait­ing to greet me with a cho­rus of raspy meows when I came home from work; a rit­u­al only spe­cial guests may be privy to, if they’ve pre­sent­ed the princess with enough presents.

I adopt­ed her in uni­ver­si­ty, and she was a con­stant pres­ence through many res­i­dences, house­mates, girl­friends — we even shared our space with oth­er cats for years at a time. When find­ing me after a few moments apart, she’d come lean against me with an arched back, invit­ing me to scoop her up, and I’d make a point of spend­ing a bit of time to cradling her like a baby, even if I was just pass­ing through. Sometimes we’d lie in the blan­kets and stare into each other’s eyes; there was as much com­fort to be found in her purring as my warmth and attention.

I could tell our bond was spe­cial from the start, and being fear­ful that I’d nev­er share any­thing like it with anoth­er cat again, always made sure to cher­ish every sec­ond.

a flatso catso

She start­ed off as Fatso Catso, then I called her Fatty McBoops for a while, until ____ over­heard and said it was too mean, giv­ing her the new nick­name Pretty McCurvesALot. She final­ly end­ed up as a Flatso Catso.

Her port­ly shape was part of her per­son­al­i­ty, until she grew thin and frail in recent years, with ribs pro­trud­ing promi­nent­ly from her back1. By the end of her life, she became an old lady who lost much of her spark and didn’t adjust well to being shacked up with a row­dy teenager.

Then one day, I woke up to find her wob­bling uncon­trol­lably, with eyes con­stant­ly dart­ing from side to side as if watch­ing pass­ing scenery, even if in the mid­dle of an emp­ty room. With the sud­den­ness of the symp­toms, Heather and I were almost cer­tain she had a stroke. We knew it was time to put her down, and didn’t want to pro­long her life just to avoid the pain of such a deci­sion. By that point, she was already suf­fer­ing dai­ly diges­tive prob­lems, and too weak to defend her­self from Byron’s antics. Just land­ing safe­ly on short sur­faces became a struggle.

Dolly with Heather

Heather offered to go through the process as a way of sav­ing me the anguish, but I knew that if I could make Dolly’s final moments any eas­i­er, it was a small price to pay. So I did my best to tem­per my qua­ver­ing voice, calm my gasp­ing breaths, and repeat her name reas­sur­ing­ly. She was purring until the first shot sedat­ed her, and almost imme­di­ate­ly after the sec­ond shot, the droop­ing of her tiny ear told me she was gone for­ev­er2.

cat in my hoodie

In the last year, she start­ed bur­row­ing into open shirts and blan­kets. I have to won­der if she had a mini stroke ear­li­er that went unno­ticed, and dark spaces with­out objects to focus on was the only thing that didn’t make her nauseous.

It’s been a few weeks, and the house feels emp­ty and still with­out my lit­tle hon­ey gar­lic pork chop. At least hav­ing Heather through the whole expe­ri­ence has made it more bear­able; I need­ed some­one to under­stand exact­ly how hard the loss has been, and for a while we took turns cry­ing and hold­ing each other.

It’s impos­si­ble to say what I cher­ished most about my rela­tion­ship with Dolly, but being part of her rou­tine is some­thing I start­ed to miss right away. No mat­ter her chang­ing habits through the years, she always made sure I was involved, most often to claim some part of my body while she groomed her­self. I can only hope to be so impor­tant to oth­er cats, or even peo­ple, in my life.

cat in bed by the window

Dolly’s favourite bed was a cot­ton cush­ion from the pet store; some­thing I could car­ry around the house with me to trans­plant her while she was sleep­ing. We’ll like­ly end up bury­ing it, along with her red tutu.

cat trying to steal sandwich

Stalking the elu­sive pulled-pork sandwich.

Dolly on Julie
Princess Dolly in Guild Wars 2

I’m for­tu­nate Heather had a few years with Dolly before she passed. Heather imparts so much per­son­al­i­ty into ani­mals, even going so far as do impres­sions of their “cat voic­es” and cre­at­ing social media accounts for them. Here she is play­ing as Dolly in Guild Wars 2, dressed in her fan­cy win­ter out­fit. Mesmer class, of course, so Dolly can admire all the clones of herself.

Dolly on Heather

A cou­ple win­ters ago, Dolly was very pleased to have Heather rock­ing the bear onesie.

cat waiting by the kitchen

Byron has no prob­lem being an obnox­ious brat who con­stant­ly gets under­foot when you’re cook­ing. Dolly, on the oth­er hand, sits patient­ly while doing her best pret­ty kit­ty impres­sion to guilt you into giv­ing her some­thing. After all, roy­al­ty doesn’t serve itself.

Dolly on Rob

One of the things that endears me to Rob is how he’d always ask how Dolly is when we’re catch­ing up, cause he knows how impor­tant she is to me.

Dolly on Heather 2
  1. After his surgery, Byron end­ed up gain­ing a ton of weight, so for a while they were wear­ing each oth­ers cos­tumes. []
  2. In the moment between, when the nurse briefly took her out of the room to insert the catheter, I had the clar­i­ty to know that the expe­ri­ence I was going through was ago­niz­ing, but I’d sur­vive it. And know­ing that the pain wouldn’t stop me from meet­ing more cats and falling in love again felt like an impor­tant step towards matu­ri­ty. []

8 comments

  1. Oh Dolly <3 In our hearts forever.

  2. So sor­ry for your loss. Pets (but they are so much more than that) see into our souls more than any human can. They speak vol­umes with­out utter­ing a word. My wife and I lost our 14 years old pup almost 2 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her dear­ly. Decisions like your’s are always hard but know that you did the right thing for Dolly and that being there for her was the best thing you could have done.

    You nev­er real­ly heal from los­ing a fur­ry friend, you just learn to cope with­out that bright spot in your life any­more. You hold onto the mem­o­ries, the fun, the love…and the fur. That’s the beau­ty. Their fur lit­er­al­ly gets every­where and it still makes me smile when I catch a stray hair from our Roxi, even in places she nev­er was to begin with. Unconditional love is their last­ing gift.

  3. I can still remem­ber wak­ing up at night to find Dolly’s face right in front of mine. When we came home she would be wait­ing for us at the door. She was so human. I won­der if Byron also does those things.

  4. Oh no :-( I’m so sor­ry, Jeff. Connections mat­ter and loss hurts, regard­less of the species. I can relate very much. Dolly and you have had a won­der­ful time togeth­er and I’m sure she’ll always remem­ber you from the place she is right now.

  5. So sor­ry to hear about Dolly, Jeff. Appreciate you shar­ing the pho­tos and how much she was loved.

  6. Thanks to every­one for the com­fort­ing thoughts and condolences.

    It makes me hap­py to know she touched so many peo­ple, even ones she nev­er met.

  7. Oh no, that’s sad to hear. Rest in peace in Kitty Heaven, Dolly.

  8. I am sor­ry to hear about your cat pass­ing. Putting down one of our cats was one of the hard­est things I’ve ever had to do. Glad Dolly had a good life with you. :3

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