Susan Speaks: Chanter-Tribute


Note from Susan: I wrote this last Tuesday, just after getting home from the vet.

She was the cat I wasn’t supposed to have.


It happened like this: my sister was still in vet school when I graduated from my MFA program. Therefore, my graduation present was going to be a cat.

I knew that. I knew the kinds of cats my sister picked for herself and for our other sister. I knew I was going to get something special. No ordinary cat for Susan, who herself is far from ordinary.

And then my phone rang. “I found your kittenzz!” my sister trilled in my ear. She put the emphasis in the right place; there was no doubt she’d found me more than one.

I tried protesting. I was going to be moving back to Pittsburgh. I had no job lined up, no income on the horizon. And now I’ve got not one but two kittens?

“Mom will help pay for the extra spaying,” my sister told me. Apparently, sister and mom had talked it out before this phone call.

I wasn’t going to say no — but I wasn’t going to say yes, either. I was uneasy about this. We’d had cats when I was growing up, and there had been that orange tabby who’d hung around my grad school apartment who I’d called Enigma, but to actually take care of a cat, myself? And now I was going to have two?

My sister explained the scenario: there were only two kittens in this particular litter. Two little Devon Rexes. She’d laid claims to the little boy for me, but so far, no one had claimed the little girl. If she was still there when my sister went back to pick up the boy, a choice had to be made: take the girl, or put her down.


That’s how I wound up with my Chanterelle. My sister named her because she was blue and she and her brother were covered in ringworm (so was I, eventually). Ringworm’s a fungus. A chanterelle is a gourmet French mushroom. A mushroom’s a fungus. Naming my kitty Chanterelle made sense. And it fit her.

From the get-go, Chan had a sensitive stomach. I’d have to change her food every time I went to the store for more. Friskies this time, Cat Chow the next. I tried different formulas. Still, she’d throw up more than any cat I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t hairballs, either.

About six years ago, my husband and I got tired of the 3AM puke fests, and my sister helped me track down a vet who specialized in internal medicine. With Dr. Kellerman’s help, we diagnosed Chan with irritable bowel disorder. We put her on prednisone and a special diet. The vomiting, by and large, stopped.

We spent six years playing with medicines, adding some, changing dosages… it was a game of trial and error. Chan lost her vigor faster than her brother, Cooper, did. She lost interest in catching flies between her paws. She didn’t get a case of the nuts as often. But she would still play. And of all the cats I’ve ever known in my life, she was the most snuggly. She would walk up to anyone and plop in their lap — more so before we moved into the house we’re now in. As a kitten, safe in my apartment, any visitor’s lap was fair game. I had to tell dates to not bring me flowers because Cooper would eat them and Chan would tip the vases over to watch the water flow out.

Heck, that was Chan’s game. If I left a water glass on the floor — and before I had kids, there was ALWAYS a water glass on the floor by my feet — Chan was likely to knock it over. Just to watch the water flow out.


That’s how it is with a Devon Rex. Cooper and Chanterelle always had the run of the house. As an owner of a Devon, you’d better know these things up front. I can’t tell you how many friends I’d simply shake my head at when they’d say, “MY cat knows better than to do THAT.” Their cats, you see, weren’t Devons. They didn’t eat tape, or lick the water in the water pistol that many cat owners use to keep the cats off the dining room table.

Nope, we put the pads on our dining room table and gave up the battle. We laughed during dinner when Cooper would jump on the island and lick off whatever oils remained. I have pictures of us snatching Chan off a fully occupied Thanksgiving table, as she tried to pick her way among the fine china.

This is life with a Devon.

During those short two years in my city apartment, I had two cats who would jump into the bathtub when I’d run the water for my shower. I had cats who sat on my windowsills and looked for me when I went out. I became cat furniture, and the woman who’d turn on the faucets so my babies could drink running water. It wasn’t that I wanted to. Quite the contrary. But when you own a Devon…


About ten days ago, I found blood on the stairs leading to the second floor. On the exact stair that Chan likes to sit on, in fact. It was little drops of bright red blood. I went upstairs to check on her, but she was okay, curled up in the discarded comforter the cats adopted and turned into their cave, burrowing into its many folds. I looked both cats over, wondering if someone had gotten cut somehow, but nothing.

I came back down and cleaned up the stair. I found blood on two more.

I went back upstairs and found Chan hunkered at the far end of the cave, looking scared. And pools of blood in the cave.

We rushed off to the vet. I left the front door unlocked and wrote a note to the kids to come in and start their homework. I came home two hours later and stayed just long enough to load up on snacks and to hug the kids; Chan and I were headed down to the ER.

She stayed there for two nights and came home with a slew of medicines, but even before my sister and Dr. Kellerman told me they were nothing more than band-aids, I knew it. I could see it.

Yet Chan wasn’t ready to leave us yet. Every time I thought she was, she’d rally and eat and roam the house. I moved a litter pan up to the first floor to spare her the trip to the basement. She liked that. She liked being with me or the kids and would crawl in our laps as we sat on the couch, usually under one of my Mexican blankets. She purred like crazy.

But she was slipping away.

Monday night, as the kids and I gave Chan her 8PM medicines, we could tell she’d had enough. The three of us looked at each other and burst into tears. The Girl Band cried for an hour, long past her bedtime. I sat with her and cried, too.

Dr. Kellerman had wanted to see me and Chan this morning. I’d said awhile ago that I wanted her and her tech to be the ones who let Chan leave us, and although the tech had protested, we all knew it was coming. Really, it couldn’t have played out more perfectly in that regard. I think Chan wanted Dr. Kellerman to do it, too.

The Girl Band ran for the bus stop in tears this morning. I drove the Boy Band to school with his cello, Chanterelle in her carrier in the front. Chan cried at every turn, every bump in the road. And so, as my son was getting out of the car, I pulled Chan out and held her the rest of the drive from the school to the vet. Yeah, yeah. Sue me for being dangerous. But Chan was so unsteady by this point — I’d been calling her Wobble for a few days now — and so uncomfortable, being in the carrier hurt. After all she’d been through, I couldn’t do that to her. So I held her. I carried her into the vet’s office that way.

A woman was there with her dog. She saw my tears as I waited for Dr. Kellerman. She’d lost two cats and a dog over a particularly nightmarish twelve days last summer. Her condolences were sincere. As have all of you guys, on Facebook and Twitter.

Knowing it was time, knowing what all this poor cat had gone through… knowing that if it hadn’t been for my sister moreso than me, Chanterelle would have never had a life at all… none of that makes this easier. Cooper and Chan made it possible for me to work here at home and be a writer. They are my constant companions.

I hung Chan’s collar on my Shelf of Stuff just to my right. Taking it off her skinny little chicken neck was the worst part of the whole thing. But she was oh, so ready. I think we all were, as ready as you can ever be when faced with a cat who is sixteen and a half years old, chronically ill, and fading fast.

I’ll miss her terribly — I already do, even though I’m writing this at a time of day during which she’d usually be asleep. I miss my little love bug, my water bug, my venus flytrap. We called her Buggie. We called her Chanterellie. Rellie. Relly-Belly and Bells. She and Cooper predated my husband, they predate my kids. Sixteen and a half years is a long time for a cat, and I hope I was able to make them good years for a kitty who was, I suspect, sick from the start.

The Girl Band is already planning for a set of kittens. I promised. Now I’ve got to find a follow-up act that won’t disappoint. After sharing your life with a couple of Devon Rexes, any old cat simply won’t do, no matter how cute it is.

We turn our faces forward, pink collar in our hands to help us remember.

Another note from Susan: In the week since all this happened and I wrote this, I’ve applied to a local shelter to be a foster home. I figure we’ll see how Cooper will do with another cat bugging HIS mom, and we’ll let the kids see what a normal cat is like.

Of us all, Cooper is having the hardest time adjusting. He’s been in my bed with me almost every night now. If he was Velcro before, he’s moreso now. He’s been bewildered, lost, and lonely. I feel terrible for him; he’s still in great health. I hope he can hang in there until I can find him some company; the stuffed grizzly bear the kids gave him just isn’t doing it for him.

One last note: If you click on the link in the cats’ breed above, you’ll be taken to a website devoted to the Devon Rex breed. The page I linked to has a picture that’s purportedly of Kirlee, the first Devon. Two things are interesting here: one is that every other picture I’ve ever seen of Kirlee has shown a white cat. Second: that cat in that picture could be my Chanterelle.



  1. Robin from Israel

    November 23, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’m so sorry.
    .-= Robin from Israel´s last blog ..Not your average mailbox =-.

  2. bobkat

    November 23, 2010 6:52 pm

    Oh Susan! What a beautiful tribute. This took me right back to when my dear old Bob left me last year. In fact, it was almost exactly the same. he went downhill so fast too and I knew when it was time but still did not want to believe it. When I took him to the vest I refused to use the cat carrier too. They become such a part of our lives that they take a piece of us with them when they go. I still miss my Bob despite having my two new terrors.I think I always will.

    Hugs to you and good luck with the fostering.

  3. Ann (bunnygirl)

    November 23, 2010 8:19 pm

    I’m so sorry. I haven’t been on FB in awhile, so I didn’t know. Be assured your sweet girl left this earth with all her heart’s desires fulfilled – she had a wonderful life with you, your family and her brother.

    Good luck in your foster venture. Helping other kitties in Chan’s memory is a beautiful thing.
    .-= Ann (bunnygirl)´s last blog ..Retreat Review =-.

  4. BeadedTail

    November 23, 2010 9:13 pm

    Oh Susan, I’m so sorry to hear about Chan. Your tribute to her is so beautiful and tears are running down my face as I type this. I don’t even know what to say other than I’m thinking of you and your family. It’s wonderful you are going to be a foster home. Any other kitties will never replace Chan but they will bring a smile to your home once again. Hugs to you!
    .-= BeadedTail´s last blog ..Tortie Tuesday =-.

  5. Florinda

    November 23, 2010 10:27 pm

    I’m so sorry you’ve lost your friend. It’s been nearly a year since I went through this with my dog Gypsy, and I still miss her every day. Thanks for sharing your Chanterelle with us.
    .-= Florinda´s last blog ..Encino Says- Save Our Bookstore! Updated =-.

  6. avisannschild

    November 24, 2010 2:26 am

    Oh Susan, I’m so sorry. What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful Chanterelle. My heart goes out to you.
    .-= avisannschild´s last blog ..Similar Covers- Paper Chain People =-.

  7. Darlene

    November 24, 2010 3:53 pm

    I’m so sorry Susan – this is a beautiful tribute to Chan. You know without a doubt that I know exactly how you feel. Love & hugs to you.
    .-= Darlene´s last blog ..Book Review- Halo by Alexandra Adornetto =-.

  8. Thomma Lyn

    November 24, 2010 5:27 pm

    Oh, Susan — I’m so sorry that I didn’t find this until now. Tears here. My heart goes out to you. Chan was so very loved and cared for, and what a blessing that you had sixteen and a half years with her. Our precious feline companions are some of the dearest, most uncomplicated and unconditional loves in our lives, and I know you will always cherish your memories of sweet Chan.

    Much love and many hugs.
    .-= Thomma Lyn´s last blog ..Dona Nobis Pacem =-.

  9. L-Squared

    November 26, 2010 3:07 pm

    .-= L-Squared´s last blog ..One Month Home =-.

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