Kalinka — 8/1992 – 8/2011
I was 21, alone, thousands of miles from anyone who knew me – no job, no friends, very little money. I had never had a bank account or credit card of my own. I was living on canned tuna, ramen noodles, and eggs; sleeping on a camping mattress on the floor; scouring classifieds for work, and spending a lot of time crying, sleeping too much, and reeling from my self-selected but utter displacement.
And then I did that thing that we in the world of animal shelter volunteers would always discourage someone in the position I was in from doing… I went to a pet store and fell in immediate love with a tiny calico kitten who was “free to a good home.”
I was so lonely and disconnected, and you were so precocious and adorable, rascally, hilarious and independent. You were maybe 6 weeks old but with all the personality and confidence of a full-grown cat. You might have been eight inches long, but your gigantic impact on my life started the very day I brought you back to my apartment. I remember thinking, “I have GOT to pull myself together. I have a kitten and I have to take care of her. I’ve got to get my life moving again.”
You were my first friend in my new life, and you filled every single day with your radiant energy. Your non-stop chatter led me to get you your own cat, and you showed that little Toby from the moment he landed in your living room that he better sit quiet, get cleaned, and smell the way a brother should. He was your first student, but, over the years, there would be so many more.
I’ll never forget when you competed and won in the Best Pet contest, fearlessly promenading between the feet of gigantic Weimaraners and German shepherds – to win (of course) “Most Colorful Cat.” You graciously welcomed all newcomers — from the sweet, ditzy Pinkie to that every-crying infant human sister, to one then two then three dogs and more cats and, lastly, a spitfire-breathing kitten. Your calm, confident presence spilled over the menagerie, and I’m convinced it was your influence that persuaded all residents here to play nice and get along.
You always made sure this household was taken care of — alerting us if the water softener was out of salt, litter boxes were not clean enough, food was running low, somebody was locked in a room, or any other of a dozen un-right situations you new needed to be corrected. Of course, a closed door was your mortal enemy, and a cat treat was your constant aspiration.
Nineteen years together, my girl. How completely remarkable! Diabetes, kidney failure, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, retinal detachment, hyperthyroidism, blindness, and muscle atrophe — at each turn, we found a new treatment and you prevailed and flourished, with only your mandate for independence seeming to suffer. I have never known a more up-beat spirit than yours, a more gregarious and generous socialite, a more persistent and undaunted champion of life. Rationally, I knew one day you would have to go, but it never seemed possible because of the life energy you exuded.
I want to thank you, little girl, for what you gave to me, how you saved me, and what you contributed to the beauty of our family life. I would not have been me without you, Kalinka. I am so thankful for the time we had together, and that we had so much time. Every day with you was a gift – you could not have been a better cat or better companion. You couldn’t have been a better human.
I’ve been preparing for your departure for so long that when the time finally came, I felt very certain that I knew what you’d want. Your spirit was too grand to be restrained by that failing body. It served you well and was such a beautiful container for a soul as magnificent as yours.
We will deeply miss you, Baby. If you were a human child, you’d be off to college, and we’d be looking to your future. I do still look to the future, long down the road, when my time comes and you’ll be there waiting for me. I know you’ll know just where to escort me, just like you innately knew so many things during your life.
Play well, bound high, charm them all up there. Purr loudly for Granddad and Nona, and those spoilers will give you anything you want.

Until we meet again, you are forever in my heart.

Love, your eternal friend-Mom Heather
your willing servant Brien
your devoted human sister Kirienne
your loving loyal brother Toby
your mentor-less kid brother Mowgli
your girl-power counterpart Clara
your handsome admirer Strader
your tenderhearted buddy Harvey
your careful-stepping friend Jake
your well-cat-trained devotee Penny

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