Nikki, occasionally also known by a long string of nicknames that included "Nikki Fritz", "Furface", "Cat Head", and "Putty Tat", started her life out in unknown but most likely unfortunate circumstances. She was found in April, 1993, by my father as he was delivering news papers to a gas station near the highway during a particularly heavy spring thunderstorm. Taking pity on the sopping wet, mewling kitten, who possessed neither collar nor tag, he placed her in the back of his camper and brought her home. From this chance meeting, a lifelong friendship would bloom.
Nikki was first taken to the vet a few days after we got her, to find out her gender, approximate age, and to make sure she had all her shots. The vet estimated that she was about six months old at the time.
Nikki proved to be a rambunctious but loving kitty, a bit difficult to manage at first. If we left the house for too long at a time, she might shred the toilet paper, pull up some carpet, or knock over the Christmas tree while batting wildly at its ornaments. She loved to rip around the house, more than likely leaving imaginary roadrunner firetracks behind her in her mind's eye. Many plastic bags, junior high textbooks, and strings became her unwitting victims.
At the same time, she could also be very timid, running to hide beneath the couch at the slighest hint of a thunderstorm, or growling at the sound of strange men's voices outside. She also had a sweet mothering side, adopting very early on a rubber octopus, which she tenderly carried around in her mouth everywhere she went.
Eventually she would become more calm and affectionate, even attention needy at many times. This became more pronounced around the early 2000's when she developed symptoms of chronic viral bronchitis, a common lifelong infection in cats that is picked up very early in life but will plague them for its entirety, its cause lying in an incurable herpes virus. She would struggle off and on with its effects, but she displayed a great deal of strength and determination in overcoming it repeatedly.
In time, the things she loved most became sitting in our laps, being held and petted and patted, having her ears and head rubbed, sitting with us in chairs, and laying on her "blankey." She loved to drink out of her big yellow smiley face water bucket, and absolutely adored having her fur brushed. Sometimes she liked to go out with me onto the front porch, to eat grass and bask in the warm sun. For a total of 20 years, she was my best friend and closest companion in life, always there to calm and comfort with her dependable attitudes and unconditionally loving nature, and amuse with her feline quirks and charms.
Old Age and Death
Nikki's time eventually came to an end after it was discovered that she had heart disease, which progressed with unexpected rapidity to kidney disease. Seizures caused by her condition, which seemed like harmless reflexes at first, eventually lead to a stroke. When her stroke symptoms were recognized, an emergency trip to the OSU Veterinary Hospital revealed that it was too late for the exhaustive treatments that would be required to purchase her more than a week or two of life, possibly at the cost of significant pain and suffering. At this point we made the painful decision to let her go if it was indeed her time.
Nikki passed away naturally and with minimal suffering two days later. She was surrounded by the ones who loved her, who did everything in their power to make sure she was as comfortable as possible through her final hours. She remained mostly aware of her surroundings until the end, and seemed to take solace in our presence with her. She also seemed to fight valiantly to stay with us, unready to depart until her body gave out. On December 15th, 2012, at 10:55 PM CST, her heart made its final beat.
She was interred with loving care the next day behind her house, mere yards from what had become her favorite spot for the last year and a half of her life - my own bedroom. Items included in her casket were a bundle of white roses, and a CD containing an excerpt of her life story and many of the pictures which can also be found on this website. Her grave site will soon become a memorial garden.