By: Kevin Clark
What can one say about a sassy cat, who dunked her dry food in her bowl of water and then fished it out with her extra digit front paws? Hannah, which in Yiddish means grace, was a graceful creature, who lived for treats and being out of doors, just to lie in the sun. She started as a tiny stray kitten that I rescued from a shelter near Bellefonte, PA in 2001. She was skin and bones then but had front paws the size of a German Sheppard. We knew she’d grow into them.
Hannah endured a Trailways bus ride home with me to Pittsburgh and lived as my roomie for a number of years in a small, third story apartment in Polish Hill, where she soon learned polish and an affinity for peirogi. Okay, an exaggeration, but she did learn some English. She was famous for shouting out, “Kevin, mine, now!” which meant that I could not go to bed without opening the bag of treats and giving her a few. It’s likely how she developed diabetes. Still, even with the insulin shots, she got her treats.
Hannah reigned as queen of the household, especially when I rescued Henry, a handsome Chartreux from an abusive situation across the street. She reviled him before she fell in love with him. Years later when my then girlfriend came to live with me, she brought Jasmine, a diminutive Maine Coon cat, who Hannah relegated to the back room and terrorized for years. We all lived with each other and a pecking order that started and ended with Hannah. She commanded all of us.
In the summer of 2011, we found ourselves farm-sitting for a friend in his 1865 farmhouse in rural Danville. The 15 acre spread was a mostly wooded former dairy farm and included his dog, a golden retriever named Morgan and an outdoor, all-white cat with eyes of pink and blue. Yet, even Ike and Morgan had to kowtow to Ms. Hannah. She had the power.
It was on an ill-fated morning that we tried to combat rampant ticks that we first applied (by accident) Hart Moutain’s “Flea and Tick Treatment” to both Hannah and Henry. The tube was sitting on a shelf near the basement steps in the farmhouse. What had appeared to be a cat profile on the tube was actually one of those international warning symbols. That is, it had a cat profile in bronze on the tube with a very faint bronze slash across the profile. It meant NOT for cats. Both cats reacted quickly and violently to the treatment. We raced to the vet. They checked them out. Henry was fine. Hannah would be okay, I was told. But she wasn’t. A day later she was in shock. She went blind. She had the first of many seizures. Her diabetes compromised her immune system.
She had two hospital stays and was returned to us. Losing weight and blind, she walked through her food and into things. Henry hissed at her when she returned. She wasn’t the same. Still, we hoped she’d pull through. But on August 29, she had a grand mal seizure and we rushed her to the hospital and they kept her alive. Two days later, we knew that it was time to say goodbye to a great friend and companion. We sang U2’s “MLK” to her as she was euthanized. “Sleep. Sleep tonight. And may all your dreams be realized. If the thunder cloud passes rain, so let it rain. Rain down on me. So let it be.” And Hannah was gone.