A few years ago I prayed a very specific prayer: “God, I know this is kinda weird but could you please make sure Dotty stays alive until I find my husband?”
Somehow I knew He heard me and would answer.
So when Dotty was put down last week, I cried lots of fat, salty tears but I was also reminded of God’s faithfulness and the intimate ways He cares for us. Only He knew that 15-year old Katie was going to need that kitten for a long time. Only God knew that “Dot,” named after my favorite Animaniac, would become Dotty- my faithful cat who lived to be 18 (96 in human years).
I can still picture myself in the locker room 18 years ago. Sarah Rangle was telling me about the kittens her cat had just had and I couldn’t wait to go home and ask my parents if I could have one. Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned myself 18 years later, finally saying goodbye to that kitten.
Dotty saw me through my teenage angst years. I’d come home from school and collapse on my bedroom floor, exhausted from all the homework and the basketball practices and the drama that only teenage girls can truly understand. Dotty would silently approach and lay on my back. No questions asked.
When I switched high schools and my best friend moved away, Dotty was there to keep me company on lonely Friday nights.
She was there when I was wearing cropped sweaters and she lived long enough to watch our beloved puppy Swish grow old and eventually die.
Dotty forced me to keep “our” room clean and would pee on any pile of clothes left lying on the ground. Who knew a cat could teach me to tidy up? She once peed in my open gym bag and I had to practice wearing a jersey soaked in cat urine.
Dotty was a feisty cat for sure. To be honest, not many people liked her when she was young. She was fiercely loyal to me but didn’t let many others touch her. If, on the off chance, she did let you pet her, she’d be purring one moment and in the next, she’d attack your hand. Sometimes drawing blood. Her mood swings were fast and dramatic. She sometimes tore up my homework and she often terrified small children.
But when my grandma died and I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone, Dotty was the one who nuzzled close to me, purring hard, while I cried myself to sleep.
When I went off to college, I left Dotty with my parents. I’d come home for Christmas and again collapse in my room. In college, the homework was longer, the basketball practices were harder, and sleep was a precious commodity not easily found when there were adventures to be had. So on that first night home, I would sleep for 14 hours straight. My mom would check to make sure I was breathing and Dotty would remain curled up next to me until I awoke.
Dotty was there when I first started teaching. I had moved home after college and was pulling 12 hour days at the school and discovering that being a first year teacher is even more exhausting than being a 15-year old girl. I’d come home from work too tired to talk. But Dotty never demanded conversation.
When I moved back to America and found a new job and roommates, I decided to take Dotty with me. My parents had acquired a new puppy who didn’t know his know own strength and was terrorizing my poor cat. She meowed the whole way to our new place since she had never left my parent’s home and was terrified, but after a week, she loved her new set up.
For the first year, Dotty stayed upstairs. She spent her entire day in my room or sun-bathing on the balcony. This was the year I needed this cat the most. I was experiencing reverse culture shock and felt wildly out of place everywhere I went. I came home from the grocery store in tears because I was so overwhelmed by the excess. I felt like no one understood me- understood how I’d changed in Africa and how my world had grown so much bigger. But Dotty understood my sadness and continued to comfort me by simply sleeping by my side. Or on my back. Or my stomach. Or my face.
After a year at our new place, Dotty started venturing downstairs. My gracious roommates let this frisky cat roam our halls and when I’d leave on vacation, Dotty would sleep in Becky’s bed. I forgot to warn her about Dotty’s need for a tidy room, but luckily Becky has a good sense of humor and laughed when my cat peed all over her stuff. Dotty once brought a giant bird into the house and my other roommate, Rachel, put on gloves, caught the bird, and literally threw it out. I’m so grateful for these girls who put up with me and my crazy cat.
I was in my late-20’s, living in a house with single girls and an old cat. There were lots of “crazy cat lady” references made, but I didn’t care. I loved that cat. And I loved my life. Even though there were many lonely nights.
I’ve known Dotty longer than I’ve known most of my friends, so they all know her well. They’ve sat on my bed and found themselves covered in cat hair. They’ve shared my bed and been pounced upon in the middle of the night. Two of them have learned the hard way that your clothes will be drenched in piss if you don’t zip up your suitcase at night. One of them even found a turd in her bag, courtesy of Dotty. (Sorry about that, Lindsay!)
Dotty was there every time I hung a new bridesmaid dress in the closet. Twelve in all. She was waiting for me as I came home from bachelorette parties, from bridal showers and weddings and later from baby showers and little kid birthday parties. She was by my side as I checked out profiles on e-harmony. And she was there when I’d come home after yet another awful first date.
She laid beside me as I journaled and cried out to God, “When?! When will it be my turn?” She accompanied me on the balcony as I studied the scriptures and found comfort in my Savior’s words and contentment with the life I’d been given.
When Rachel got married and Becky and I decided to move, this is when I pleaded with God to keep Dotty alive. I was 30 and still had never had an official boyfriend. I had a wonderful job, wonderful family, and wonderful friends, but I still spent every night alone in my room. And I needed that cat.
After 5 years in the single girls house, Dotty and I moved back in with my parents. The puppy that had terrorized her before had grown into a 90-pound beast with a gentle soul. This massive chocolate lab, who was more afraid of Dotty than she was of him, now joined us on my bed at night.
These two became unlikely friends, forced to enjoy the other’s company when no one else was home. I enrolled in night classes at Biola’s seminary so I only saw Dotty from 10 pm to 6 am during the week. Again, I would come home exhausted and collapse in bed. Again, Dotty would crawl on my back and we’d drift off to sleep.
A year later, I met Paul. This was the first boy I brought home to meet my parents. And to meet Dotty. I told him about her on our first date. I needed him to know that I was 31, lived with my parents, and had a cat. I was giving him an out if he wanted one. But he didn’t.
Paul would lay on my bed and watch TV with me and I knew Dotty was miffed. She wasn’t fond of sharing me, but eventually she got over it and let Paul pet her.
Dotty got real sick right before our wedding. I took her to the vet and found out she was dying.
She wasn’t in pain though, so I took her home and when we got married, I decided to leave Dotty with my parents. If she had come with us, she would have been alone all the time and very unhappy. She and Nike, the giant lab, had become friends and in her old age, Dotty had become more fond of humans and wanted company. The vet said this often happens. When cats get really old, they often become kinder.
Paul called it the “9-life theory,” believing cats must sense when they’re on their 9th life, so they drop the snarky attitude. Dotty still shied away from small children (she wasn’t stupid), but now she demanded attention from everyone. When my grandparents from the Philippines stayed with my parents for a few months, they didn’t realize this cat would want to share their bed:
When I came home to visit, I’d always run upstairs to find my cat in our old room. My niece and nephews were fascinated with Dotty and in her last days she started letting them pet her. She had grown sickly skinny, but she still chased birds, insisted I pet her while I was on the toilet, and refused to allow her stomach to be touched. She kept some of her sass until her last breath.
My parents cared for her until the very end. They didn’t sign up for this job 18 years ago, but I’m so grateful they let my cat live out 13 years and her final months with them.
And this is the very first picture I posted on Instagram:
I never did teach her to cross her eyes, but she was the inspiration for many blog posts (see the category entitled “Dotty”) and the subject of many other Instagram posts:
I came in and out of Dotty’s life- jetting off to college and Africa and my new married life- but she never held that against me. I mean sure, she’d sometimes poop on my bed when I had been gone a long time. She knows how to use her feces to voice her displeasure. But she always welcomed me home, no matter where I had been or how long I had been gone.
Dotty was there for more than half my life. She saw me through the mountaintop moments and the lonely valleys from age 15 to 33. She was a constant when everything else in the world was changing.
At age 15, I had no idea how much I would need this cat, how much she would comfort me in the next 18 years. She was sassy, often puked on the carpet, and clawed me when giving a “massage.” But she was faithful. And she was mine.
Dotty was truly a gift from God. Her long life was an unexpected and undeserved measure of His grace, for which I am forever grateful.