It was the spring of 2000, and I was a junior at JMU when I found and adopted an adorable calico kitten. I named her Ally. The guy I had just started dating was allergic to cats, but who knew if he was going to be around forever? I just told him not to pet her.
After living with me for a summer at my parent's house, my dad started calling her Squirt because she loved to play with water. If you didn't keep the toilet lid down, you would find the bathroom soaked with water that she had splashed everywhere.
She returned to JMU for my senior year, and then moved with me to my first apartment in Alexandria. The boyfriend was still around, and they tolerated each other. My apartment was small, and Squirt insisted on pushing her water bowl all over the place and getting water everywhere. So I put her water bowl in my bathtub. Soon I would just plug the drain and add some water to the tub a few times a day. It kept her out of the toilet.
Every day when I'd come home from work, I'd pick her up and she would perch on the top of my shoulder while I sorted mail and cooked dinner. She loved to play in the mini-blinds. At Christmas I left her for two days while I was visiting home. I came home to find the entire Christmas tree on the floor, almost every ornament broken.
A few months later she decided to climb on top of my TV in the middle of the night - a TV that was precariously perched on a too-small table - and the whole thing came crashing to the floor at 2am. My boyfriend bought me a new TV for my birthday. It came in a big box and, knowing Squirt's fondness for boxes, she probably thought she was doing us a favor.
Fast forward a few months, and the boyfriend was now my husband. We lived in a townhouse in Fairfax. They continued to tolerate each other, but he wasn't really allergic to her anymore. She ruled the house... until we got a dog.
When Duke entered our home, he had never been with a cat before. He chased Squirt around the house like she was a rabbit. She smacked him across the nose about three times, and he never bothered her again. She did spend several days sitting on top of the refrigerator and loudly protested this new addition. But in the end she decided she would tolerate Duke in much the same way that she tolerated Eric.
A few more years and our little family made the move to Richmond. Squirt continued to drink out of the (much bigger) bathtub, and now she had twice as many windows to sit in. She spent a lot of her time contemplating her escape to the backyard, and when she did occasionally slip out she would sit contentedly at the bottom of the deck and eat grass. She was thrilled when we built a screen porch (just for her) and she could sit and watch the birds.
Fast forward a few more years, and I was insensitive enough to bring a baby into her house. Instead of sleeping at my feet each night, she was now wakened every few hours for me to feed a baby. It was quite inconvenient, especially when the baby started crawling and thought that there would be nothing better in the world than to grab Squirt's tail and chew on it. She was mildly upset when Duke Dog died in 2011, and seemed to simply sigh and roll her eyes when we brought home Dixie. She started to question whether she could possibly tolerate anyone else coming into the house. Then we brought home another baby. To show her displeasure, decided she would no longer sleep by my feet at night. She did, however, eventually grow to tolerate both children.
As she got older, one of her favorite places to be was in front of a warm fire. If a fire wasn't available, she would sit as close as possible to one of the floor vents.
A sunbeam was close to heaven - even if only part of her body could be warmed.
She also loved to crawl into (or on top of) any paper bag that came into the house. Big shopping bags with handles were a particular favorite.
As we come to our first Christmas without her, I think about how much she loved the holiday season. The Christmas tree was a favorite - she would spend most of the day hiding behind it, buried in between presents, where she could watch everything in secrecy. She would occasionally chew off a bow or try to crawl inside a gift bag. She always tried to drink water out of the tree stand and would end up with sticky paws from the tree sap.