A Story Of Love -> Taggart 2002-2020
This week was Valentine’s week, a week I usually love to blog about (being the undying romantic kinda gal that I am), but this year was rather different.
We were spending our last few days with one of our family, a bittersweet and crushingly hard week. And on Feb 11th at 4:30pm that little ginger girl departed this world, a small light extinguished that opened a huge void in our hearts. It’s taken me many days and many attempts to find the strength to write about it, but it’s a story that deserves to be told, so that’s what I am going to do today.
This my Valentine. This is my love story. This is Taggart’s story.
18 Years Ago I Asked A Question
It was August 2002 and I was sitting on the cool tile floor of Paul’s moms house in Florida. It was hot and uncomfortably sticky, as it usually is that time of year, but clear sunlight was streaming through the white lace-chiffon curtains of the side window, and the atmosphere was alive with cute, little meows.
You see Paul’s mom had taken in a pregnant stray several months back, and the result of that was 8 playful little fluff-balls, who were now climbing the curtains and creating general kitten mayhem all over her furniture. They were irresistibly adorable and as soon as we saw them, we knew that two of them would be coming back home with us to San Francisco.
So I sat cross-legged on the floor in the middle of the ruckus of tumbling kittens, reached out my hand and asked a question
“Who wants to come travel the world with us?”
All the cats ignored me, far too wrapped up in their kitten-play-world to care about such mundane things. Well all except one. A precocious little ginger tabby strutted confidently out of the pack and put her face right into my hand. That was Taggart, the girl who knew always what she wanted. She’d made her decision and she captured my heart right from the start.
She Who Would Not Be Ignored
It was Aug 2004 and I was in a business meeting in Taiwan. We were negotiating a big $$$ deal, and I was the only woman there, as was often the case back then. So I’d made an extra effort to look and act professional, doing my best to pull off the whole savvy-iron-willed-salesgal thing. It was a difficult meeting too, and the deal was touch and go, so tensions were running high.
We were taking a brief break when my pet sitter called from our apartment in San Francisco. I wasn’t expecting to hear from him, so I took the call
“I can’t find Taggart” he said, his voice nervous and tight “I’m sorry I think I lost her”
My world stopped
“What???? How’s that even possible??
Turns out the cat had been missing for over two days, and the sitter had finally mustered up the courage to tell me. I burst into tears, instantly heartbroken. And of course chaos ensued. My local sales guy ran over to see what was happening, and I mumbled some kind of excuse about a family thing, all the while sobbing uncontrollably.
“I have to get home” I exclaimed “right now”
So we left the meet, changing my flight on the way to the airport, I called Paul (he was also traveling), and then I cried on and off for most of the 12 hour journey back across the ocean. All because of the cat. When I finally opened the door to the apartment, emotionally spent and totally exhausted, I see Taggart sitting nonchalantly in the middle of the floor.
“Oh my GOD cat, where have you been????”
“Meow” she replied, obviously hurt “you left me….”
It took a week or so to figure out what had happened, but we finally got the answer one day when we crossed paths with our new-to-us neighbor. Turns out our little ginger gal had gotten bored while we were gone, so she’d jumped over the balcony railing to his flat where she had taken up residence for a few days. The neighbor, not knowing who the cat belonged to, but not being able to resist her (no-one ever could), had just given in and let her stay there. A few days later she suddenly left again.
Ah yes, our little girl did not like to be ignored.
She Wanted To Be A Part Of Everything
Taggart was a cat who never wanted to miss anything. If we had a party, she would want to meet everybody who came. If we were walking the dog, she would want to come along. If we were working on the RV, she insisted on being part of that process too. She loved participating and no-one scared her, not even other dogs. Plus no-one got away without meeting & greeting the Queen.
It was Feb 2016 and we were getting lithium & more solar panels installed on the rig at the Escapees park in Benson Arizona. Marvin (our installer) was working furiously on wiring and components, both inside and outside the rig, and we were all wrapped up in the process, filming and documenting it for the blog. We tried early on to keep Taggart separated in the bedroom, but she scratched and meowed so much that we’d eventually given in and let her out. She participated for a while in the install, and then went to sleep, or so we all thought….
Around 5 PM in the afternoon as we were wrapping up for the day, I realized Taggart was missing.
We’d had the RV door open since early that morning, so by now the cat could literally be anywhere. And we were in the desert, rattlesnake country, and my kitty was out there on her own. I started to choke up, imagining my little ginger gal lost amongst the cactus, all because we’d forgotten to check on her. Oh, my poor Taggart!!!
We immediately launched a massive search party calling out for Taggart everywhere, walking up and down the RV lots, getting the neighbors involved in the search too. I hit up everyone, one-by-one
“Did you by any chance see a ginger cat”, I asked over and again, trying to keep it together
Finally, an hour later as the light was fading and dusk started to settle in, one of our neighbors answered in the positive
“Oh, do you mean this cat?” she said, pointing to Taggart comfortably curled up on her living room couch
“She just showed up this morning like she owned the place, and greeted all our guests. She was really insistent, so we just let her stay”
Turns out the neighbors a few lots down had a party that day, and Taggart, having finally gotten bored of our solar install and feeling a little neglected, had decided to saunter over and join them. I picked her up and hugged her fiercely
“Oh my GOD cat, don’t do that again!”
“Meow” she chastised “you were ignoring me….”
She Was Our Velcro Cat
Taggart decided early on in our lives that we would never sleep without her. She would glue herself to one of us every night, usually Paul, tucking herself comfortably in between his legs and meowing in annoyance everytime he turned. Over the years he became well trained, my honey, learning to sleep without movement for fear of bothering the cat.
But some years ago, Taggart decided this was no longer a challenge and she wanted a change.
I had just fallen into a deep sleep and was dreaming about a hike through the woods. It was a peaceful and beautiful setting, green leaves swaying neon in the sun, soft grass under my feet, the start of an epic dream adventure.
“tap, tap, tap” a fly landed on my nose. It must have been a big fly because I felt its fur. I wafted it away in irritation, eager to get back to my hike
“tap, tap, tap” the fly was there again, more insistent this time “tap, tap, tap”
“Go away” I shouted, turning to walk in the other direction “why are even there flies in this place?” I wondered in my dream-head. None of it made any sense.
The dream shattered and I woke up abruptly to a ginger cat staring into my eyes, her nose inches away from my nose. Since I hadn’t reacted to her repeated paw taps, the little devil had expertly extended a claw inside my nostril and given it a quick, but effective scratch. After all, she was being ignored….
“&&%%$$ Taggart, what do you want????”
“meow” she responded, tapping my arm
I was lying on my side, so I opened up my right arm and she curled into it, her front paws draped over my left arm. As soon as she was settled in she sighed deeply and started a rhythmic purr. That was what she wanted.
“okay then, my munchkin, let’s go to sleep now”
For her remaining years this became the norm, the little tap-tap-claw a nightly ritual, unless I managed to react quicker and get into the right position first. I remember thinking at one point how nice it would be to get a full nights peaceful sleep without having to go though all that, a cat velcro’d to my side every night.
Well, I guess I finally got to try it. As it turns out, my little ginger gal, I literally can’t sleep without you.
She Won Hearts
Taggart had a special gift for winning hearts. Part of it was sheer stubborness (no-one could ignore the Queen), but I think she also saw it as her purpose in life.
My dad was a particular challenge.
Dear dad has never been much of a cat person, despite many years of our family owning cats. Sometimes you just don’t bond you know? But of course he had never met a cat quite like Taggart, and couldn’t possibly foresee how she’d succeed. When we moved to France in 2018, my ginger gal sensed this instinctively and decided she’d met her newest challenge.
She started subtly, hanging out around my dad everyday, edging her way in. And then the paw taps began with him too. She’d go to see him in his office upstairs at the same time everyday, sauntering up to his chair and raising her leg to his.
“tap, tap, tap” she’d insist, sometimes followed-up with a “meow” for extra effect
I’m not quite sure how long it took, but Taggart never gave up, and inevitably my dad finally gave in. Those two formed a bond, and became firm friends, like everyone did with Taggart. She won many hearts this way through sheer persistence and love. Literally no-one could ignore her.
She Led Us Places
It was May 2016 when I noticed Taggart was getting thin, far too thin. My gal was always challenging me with her health, and sometimes I didn’t notice until the sickness was quite far along.
This time it was hyperthyroidism, a disease I knew nothing about. But I learned, and quickly too. It took months of agonizing back-and-forth, struggling with meds & seemingly endless blood tests, before she finally led us to New York City, where she would be cured with I-131 treatment. The journey was an unexpected one for us that year, but it led us to an RV destination that we would end up loving and coming back to over and again, and it taught me about hyperT, which allowed me to recognize the symptoms in her sister Rand almost as soon as they happened a few years later.
Taggart was always leading, and teaching us new things that way. It was part of her gift to us.
In July 2019 I noticed something again. This time she was losing weight and her rear legs were wobbly. It was stage III CKD, kidney disease, and sadly there was no cure. I would learn a ton over the next 7 months; about CKD, meds, SubQ and even how to give intra-muscular injections. Things I never thought I could do, and lessons learned that will benefit her sister later on (who is early-stage with the same disease). But this time the journey would lead to a different place, and we would not return.
She Didn’t Want To Go
Taggart never wanted to leave this world. I think she enjoyed life far too much. She loved the challenge, the people and traveling all over. And she was a stubborn cat that could not be ignored. So, how could a piddling disease tell her to go?
Late on in her diagnosis, just mere weeks before she passed, I took her to the vet for one of her many checkups. She was doing pretty well at the time, eating, drinking, interacting, holding her weight. She looked really good too, her fur soft and smooth, her “meows” as feisty and insistent as ever. But when we ran the bloodwork it was astonishingly bad. The vet had never seen anything like it
“C’est etonnant. Je n’ai jamais rencontré un chat avec autant de force”
I’ve never met a cat with such strength….
She was fighting the disease with everything she had, and for the moment she was winning by sheer will, against all conceivable odds. She’d conquered men, dogs, parties, and every heart she’d ever met. Surely she’d conquer this too?
Her Last Day Was Good, Really Good
It was a beautiful Feb winter day in southwest France. The air was crisp and clear and the Pyrenees shimmering white with a fresh layer of snow. Taggart was weak, but she had woken up that morning on a mission, and she was not to be ignored.
After breakfast she came to see us in the kitchen with a “meow”, “I want to go out…”
So we took her out in the sunshine to sit in the grass. She absorbed the warm rays and closed her eyes in contentment. A cat in her element.
A little while later another “meow”, “I want to go upstairs…”
It was obvious, even without words, She wanted to go see dad, to lay by his side in the office and get petted. As soon as Paul took her up there, she went into a deep purr, content we had understood her wishes.
The whole day passed like that, with Taggart insistent on keeping her routine, following us around and taking us where she wanted to go, her energy levels higher than we’d seen in weeks. That night she snuggled into my arm, her purr weak but there nonetheless. Paul and I were both happy and surprised, thinking we might get a bit more precious time with our girl.
But It Was Really Goodbye
Sometime that night her energy left her, like a fountain suddenly run dry. Through sheer stubbornness and will she had poured the very last of her life force into one last day, doing everything she wanted to do. But then there was no more to give.
That following morning we all knew and I made the call.
She had enough left in her spirit that day to rest her head on my hand, insisting it be so, comforting me as best she could. We sat like that for the entire afternoon while she slept, my hand cramped, but impossible to move. It was our final time together, Taggart and I, an afternoon spent in stillness and love.
At 3:15 pm we all said our last goodbyes before I gave her a deep sedative to bring her to the vet. She left this world peacefully just over an hour later, with Paul and I holding hands, caressing her gently as she passed to the other side. When her spirit departed, my heart broke in two.
Now, Comes The Rest
There is one less light in the earth today. One piece of our souls that is gone. And a house much quieter, and so much emptier. I don’t know when I’ll be able to sleep peacefully again without her in my arms, or when my heart will stop hurting, but I know she will always be with us.
In a week or so, we’ll get her back. Our stubborn, sassy, adventure-loving ginger gal will return to us albeit in a different form, and she will travel with us once more. In her lifetime we visited 3 continents, and drove over 60,000 miles, but I think she still has a few more places she wants to go. I’m sure she’ll let us know….after all, she’s the kind of cat that cannot be ignored.
Fly free and rest in peace, my beautiful gal, there will never be another quite like you.
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