The 11-pound teacher, gone to chase birds in the sky

A sweet man charms his sweet girl, Hidey.

It is sad for me to write that Hidey died this week. My first cat, Hidey was only 9 and appeared to be healthy until she suddenly stopped eating and drinking. X-rays showed a tiny liver rather than an enlarged one and she was jaundiced. Meds and seringe feedings didn’t help. She developed pancreatitis and IV liquids didn’t help. She went quickly, peacefully – purring and then, not. Hidey was the sweetest soul on earth – a “pound” cat and also a teacher who in her soft, sweet, loving, ‘fraidy-cat way taught me some life changing lessons while bringing much joy.

“When the student is ready the teacher appears.” Hidey came to me one July weekend in 2004. I was new to the area, having moved 1,600 from home and felt a bit lonely. After talking to cat people in town, a friend called saying there was a good “first cat up for adoption at the Petsmart in El Paso. If you want one, better go get her.”

For the longest time, I hated cats. My mother hated cats, and dogs, for that matter. I had a bad cat experience when I was little. Over the years they scared me, popping up on the back of the chair I was occupying, swiping finely honed blades at my bare toes, sneaking into my room when I was a guest in a cat owner’s house. Oh, and I was allergic too. Big time.

Trouble paved the way for Hidey. Trouble was a big, fun and friendly cat, neither smelly nor sneaky. Once, he came into my room and was so peaceful I had a dream he told me about the swimming pool full of chocolate located just outside my window. Trouble got me thinking I might be able to have a cat one day.

The folks at the El Paso adoption agency said her former family called her Starburst. No way I was calling my cat Starburst and I let the clawless adoptee name herself. At home, when I let her out of the crate, she darted for the first hole she could find – a 5” x 6” opening between the kitchen cabinets – and spent the first 12 hours behind the dishwasher. Her favorite spot was under the bed but a sofa, chair or blanket would do. Ah, welcome home, Hidey.

But, but, but – once she got used to the space, got comfortable with people – she was the sweetest girl … loving, rubbing, purring. She would love bite my nose, forehead, the back of my hand. Always looking for a peaceful lap, she couldn’t wait for me to sit still long enough for her to jump up and snuggle in.

She taught me many lessons over the years. At first, I thought she was needy – too sweet, too clingy, too much. Then I began to realize she was the same all the time. It was me – too busy – not her being too sweet. She would nap all morning and then seek me out in the afternoon, paw at my leg until I hoisted her into my lap to be petted. After that work break, I’d nudge her to the side of the desk where she’d sit looking look out the window. If she needed more, she’d walk across the keyboard or over my wrists and plant her fuzzy self on my hands. I laugh as I think about her insinuating herself between me and my work. She had the right idea – you work too much, let’s get real, love me!

One time she pooped on the rug when I came back from a trip to teach me about non-verbal communication. One bad day when I was dealing with a painful emotional issue, she came to me for hugs and I chased her into a bathroom. When I cornered her and saw her cowering, meowing, afraid – I got a quick glimpse of how child abuse can happen. I picked her up and cuddled her, crying and apologizing for being so cruel. Never would I be mean to a pet again.

Hidey paved the way for Aw’gy, my 75-pound Labby-Hound.

For months I held a vision of Aw'gy and Hidey being friends – and I rejoiced when it eventually happened!

It was December 15, 2007 and I was on my way into Petco to buy cat food when I decided to “just see what’s up for adoption over here.” I had no intention of adopting, but made arrangements that afternoon to take Aw’gy home when he was old enough to leave foster care. As I type this, I can hear him snoring on my bed behind me.

Hidey taught me to share. I wasn’t living alone when I brought her home. Tom and I had just moved to Las Cruces.

When he went to work, and I stayed home to work, I got kinda lonely. Hidey was my cat but Tom was the one who pulled her out from under a blanket in the El Paso Petsmart. I’ll never forget him saying, “She’s very pretty and she’s awfully sweet.” Hidey came into our lives because Tom made it ok. When I bought my house, we shared “joint custody.” She loved him and spent five summers at  “Camp Tom” while I visited friends and family in the Midwest.

Summer 2010, I didn’t have the heart to break them up. Couldn’t imagine saying, “I’m back. Give me my cat!” Didn’t have the heart to coax Hidey out from under the bed again to put her in the carrying crate and the car. She hated both. So for past year and a half, Hidey has lived with Tom full time. I have missed her and it was hard for me to visit and find her so reluctant to come to me. She was his cat now. They were great companions for each other.

Hidey died in Tom’s arms. I feel certain he is grieving her loss now, more so than I did last year. Hidey, you were the sweetest soul in a body. Thanks for being afraid of the doorbell so I could use it to call you into the house! Thank you for being so patient with me, for teaching me how to love and appreciate animals. Thank you for finally venturing outdoors with Aw’gy – it gave me joy to see you resting under the butterfly bushes, enjoying the day. You had a tiny liver because you were all heart, sweet pea. We will miss you.




16 responses to “The 11-pound teacher, gone to chase birds in the sky

  1. Beautifully written…with poignant pictures. The last line says it all. I have many happy memories of Hidey. Remember when Pizza died? You were the first person I called. May they both rest in peace. Missing Hidey and Pizza makes me miss you all the more!

  2. Thinking of you, Tom, and Hidey. Thanks for your soothing words and for inviting me into your grief therapy. Dang, I miss you!

  3. Very touching and sweet. Makes me think about how many other blessings we can enjoy when we allow ourselves to say “why not”. Good life lesson.

  4. Kristine – The instant I saw your news my heart ached for you and I recalled our very recent conversation about your sweetie. I actually didn’t think I could read the whole story – feeling vulnerable myself and protective. But each word took me to the next – your writing honored her life and time on earth – she had a way with purrs and you have a way with words – heartfelt. Hidey was a miraculous kitty because her lessons were sticky. Long ago you told me about her lying on the keyboard – the frustration and then the discovery – she’s the same, it’s me that’s different. It was a lesson to me too. Thanks Hidey and thanks K for sharing. Hugs to you and Tom, too! Love, G

  5. Hidey was an amazing friend and animal. The thing about kind souls is they live forever. Rest in peace my elusive friend.

  6. What a awesome story you have written . . . showing your vulnerability, teachability, and human frailties. Loved all of it and thanks for remembering Trouble, a fabulous feline who will always be remembered in the Miller family.

    Love that you write from the heart.


  7. Wow, that line “you had a tiny liver because you were all heart,” made me all teary eyed…that was so sweet! What a great ode to your fur-baby. Well done m’dear and sorry for your loss.
    hugs and sunshine

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