On June 16th, 1998 the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitols to win their second straight Stanley Cup. The "16" was important, since it takes 16 wins in the playoffs to win the Cup. "16" was also the number of Vladimir Konstantinov, the Red Wing defenseman who was critically injured during a car crash shortly after their 1997 Cup Win. All year long the Wings wore a patch on their uniforms that said "Believe". For Vlad-y.
I am a Red Wings fan, but the 16th is important to me for a different reason. That afternoon we brought a little calico kitten home, just before Game 4 was to start. We named her Madison and she punched the older cats in the face and she licked beer from my chin as the Wings clinched the Cup.
Madison was our first daughter, in a way, and even though pet owners might shake their heads at this, she was clearly the favourite in the house. Hector and Puck, a year older and brothers to boot, just never did out-cute Madison. She was Emily’s favourite living thing in the world, and I don’t know that I’m kidding about that. Maybe a little, but it’s a close call.
Maddy grew very ill just after Valentine’s Day 2006. Her vet said that her kidneys had failed and that we ought to go home, say goodbye, and bring her in the next day to put her to sleep.
Emily and I were both complete and total wrecks. And in the middle of the night, in the middle of our grief, Emily said "No."
"No, I don’t accept this."
The vet had told us that the UC Davis veterinary hospital actually had a feline kidney transplant program, but that Maddy was just too far gone for that to help. But in the middle of the night that sliver of hope was enough for Emily, and for me.
We brought her up to Davis the next day and then spent a week with her in the veterinary hospital, having her examined, stabilized, and hoping that a donor would come in. None ever did.
But it was during this process, the daily visits, the constant worrying about Madison’s health and future quality of life, that Emily turned to me and said "Let’s have a baby."
Even though no donor ever came in Maddy was stabilized enough to come home after a couple of weeks and then we began our long wait. Twice daily we would give her subcutaneous fluids and medication so that she would feel well enough to eat and put weight back on.
In early August 2006 Erin was conceived, and Maddy was still with us, six months after the vet had said we ought to put her to sleep; six months after Emily said "no."
In late April 2007 Erin was born, and Maddy was still with us. She met the little girl that love for her inspired us to have.
Maddy stayed with us until September 2007, 19 months after she would have died if Emily hadn’t said "no." Once Erin was born the cats received a lot less attention, and so there was always a lingering feeling of either guilt, or that Maddy had just stayed long enough to say hello and goodbye to Erin.
Emily came to me in the kitchen a few days ago: "I had a dream about Maddy last night."
"I dreamt that she came to tell us that she was happy in kitty heaven and not to worry about her."
I almost couldn’t look Emily in the face after she said this. It was quite possibly the most adorable thing she’s ever said in my presence. I felt my heart grow like the Grinch’s, bursting its walls and giving me superhuman strength and inspiration out of love for this divine woman.
And then, proving forever and to the entire world that I am married to the most perfect woman, she said: "It kind of reminded me of that part in Buffy when she comes back from the dead and she doesn’t want to tell her friends that heaven was great because she doesn’t want them to feel bad about bringing her back. Except I don’t think Maddy would lie about it like that."
The only thing I could think to say to her after all of that crushing loveliness was: "You are writing my blog for me, you know."