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Ode to an oddball: Posey the cat

In early August 2006, shortly following my mother’s death, I stopped by a kitten fair hosted by the Burbank Animal Shelter. I thought a new kitten would help brighten my spirits, and be a good companion for my other cat, Kubrick, who always seemed so lonely whenever I was away.

The shelter’s main conference room looked like a school cafeteria, stuffed to capacity with kittens in cages. It’s hard to believe that a single kitten could possibly stand out from such a crowd, but one little Maine Coon did. She had sparkling green eyes, and climbed the wall of her cage as I passed her by. Even then, she seemed desperately eager for my attention.

I asked to hold her, and picked her up with my right hand. She wiggled and wiggled, but once I lightly pet her forehead, she immediately stopped and purred. When my petting stopped, her limbs wiggled all over again. She was like an overwound toy -- all fur, and attitude, and joy and love.

I was sold. Her name, I learned, was Sadie. It seemed appropriate for such a little creature with a big personality, but something in me just didn’t connect with it. I opted instead to christen her Posey, after the great actress Parker Posey -- whose oddball, funny charisma seemed perfectly embodied within this six week old ball of fur and deathly piercing needle claws.

I quickly paid the adoption fees and signed the paperwork. Because Posey was so young, the shelter would have to hold onto her for another two weeks before I could take her home. As I left, one of the employees then admitted to having bet on Posey being the first kitten adopted that morning. Call me a sucker, but I’m glad to have proven such instincts right.

Over the years, Posey was a loveable goofball. Little went through her brain, I suspect. She’d often get lost underneath a single bedsheet. She was always desperate for attention, but rarely could stay still long enough to cuddle. She’d spin around and around whenever she was petted. She proved too anxious and squirmish to be brushed.

Posey was also a little demon. She’d torment my older cat, Kubrick, albeit playfully, to the point of trauma. She’d knock over and break my first expensive tiffany lamp – a sin so dire I was tempted for a millisecond to return her to the shelter. She’d push everything off my tables and shelves. She’d scratch furniture, tear through boxes and bags, hog all the catfood at feeding time, and dive into every pile of catnip – leaving nothing for Kubrick behind, who would always sulk and walk away in resignation, even when he was nearly twice her size. Posey would hiss or make strange sounds, as if speaking in tongues, at others’ attempts to pet or hold her. Once she even bit and drew blood from someone I was dating; her act seemed to foreshadow the end of that romantic relationship.

My friends and I often joked about her simple mind, though the humor was always tempered by the suspicion that Posey suffered from some neuroses or developmental disorder. She’d compulsively lick her tail and stomach bare, but then playfully show them off, spreading out like a proud centerfold. She always seemed scatterbrained and easily confused…but then again, she always seemed happy, carefree, and playful. The latter traits gave me a great deal of comfort.

Whatever went through her little mind, this much was clear (and it was clear from day one): Posey absolutely adored me. However much I’d yell at her, or teased or scolded her, or had to lock her out of the bedroom to get a decent night’s sleep, she’d always gaze upon me with those stunningly green eyes, and I knew, beyond all doubt, that I was loved.

When I woke up Thanksgiving morning, Posey stared at me as she often did, eager for affection and food. My other cat, Brisby, was by her side. The two began their morning ritual of purrs and headbonks and kisses and snippy tangled fights for cuddlespace.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” I told them softly. “I love you both, and I’m so thankful for my little family.”

The next morning, Posey was gone.

I think she suffered a massive heart attack. I was watching TV when she suddenly raced down the stairs, panicked. She lost control of her bowels, jumped on the couch, collapsed, and went into convulsions. I picked her up, held her, and she suddenly went limp. In her final moments of terror and pain, I think she was desperately trying to come to me for help. I was so shocked I was speechless. By the time I was finally able to cry out, Posey was dead in my arms. I burst into tears, and could only keep repeating her name, over and over, as my fiancée came down the stairs to see what happened.

That moment is going to haunt me forever, but I’m glad I was at least there with her. No soul capable of so much love ever deserves to die alone.

I’ve been blessed to have a number of extraordinary pets in my life. They are our friends, our family, and give us joy, and love, and comfort. They also have more humanity than most people I know.

The best of pets never betray us, and they only break our hearts once.

They deserve so much more than us, and they can never live long enough.

Posey Sadie McDaniel

July 1, 2006 – Nov. 29, 2019

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