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In January 2004, as I looked at the classifieds, I kept noticing an ad that had information about a Russian blue cat. I considered telling my husband, as I knew he wanted one, but hesitated, not wanting to mess up the fine-tuned cat dynamic. Finally, though, I told him, and he called the number listed. The cat listed had already been adopted, it turned out, but the lady took down our name and number just in case she came back in.

Two days later, we got a call. She'd come back in. We went to visit her, and despite her extreme shyness, my husband wanted her, so we took her home with us. It was immediately clear that Sharmaine, who we renamed Skadi after the Norse goddess of winter, was a very different cat from Freya and Salem. She was extremely shy and nervous, not really wanting to interact with us, and she hated the other cats with a passion. In addition, she didn't, couldn't, wouldn't poop in the litter box. We tried everything we could think of, that people suggested to us, and that we could find on the internet, to no avail.

Gradually, she warmed up to us, after many months becoming quite affectionate. She and Freya got to the point where they could tolerate each other, and even looked like they were playing once in a while, but the extremely meek Salem definitely got the worst of things. He ended up hiding under the bed for weeks, losing enough weight that most of his cute little potbelly disappeared. We decided to try reintroducing the two of them. About this time, we came upon a website that we hadn't perused before, which suggested that some cats didn't like litter box liners. I tried giving her a litter box without a liner, and voila! She used it. Six months of annoyance over something incredibly stupid.

Until we moved furniture around. That made her nervous and she pooped outside the box again for a few days. That and her feud with Salem led her to become the bathroom kitty when we moved. This lasted for a while until we got properly settled in and moved her into the office. She was less than thrilled by this for the first few days, but soon came to enjoy it and the increased time she got with her people. She quickly chose the top of Eric's very large monitor as her favorite place and would generally settle down there when he was on his computer.

We continued to try to introduce the cats to each other periodically, but our efforts were in vain. Salem, the moment he would see Skadi, would run and hide (usually being chased if one of us wasn't holding her). Freya, initially unafraid, even started to seem a bit intimidated, though she continued to torment Skadi by putting her paws under the office door. At the same time, Skadi become more and more affectionate with us. It took Eric bugging her for a couple of years, but she first became comfortable being on laps, then even started to love it and became a lap cat. She enjoyed my company, to be sure, but she absolutely adored Eric. When he would come home from work, if he didn't go to say hi to her, she would cry from inside the office until he went to see her. She'd even do things like "help" him make clothes (I was always terrified she'd ingest pins, since she certainly seemed to want to).

In January, she suddenly threw up. She threw up fairly frequently, and she had recently cleaned out a bowl that had hamburger soup in it, so I didn't think much of it, figuring the soup just hadn't settled well with her. She continued to dry heave that evening and didn't eat anything for a couple of days. Of course, she chose to do this over a long weekend. When it had been more than 48 hours without her eating, I tried tempting her with some milk, which she drank a bit of. She was willing to eat a bit of tuna the next day, but she was mostly interested in the juice, and seemed more and more lethargic. Of course, it was New Year's Day, so the vets were all closed, but I took her in Tuesday afternoon. The vet said it was most likely gastritis, said I'd fed her too soon (though from everything I read on the internet, that didn't seem to be the case, but I don't think I was very clear as to the timing of when I finally gave her the milk), and to let her go without food for another 24 hours. If she didn't start to improve, then we should bring her back. I was starting to feel uneasy about her behavior, so I pinned him down that if she wasn't doing better by Thursday, to bring her back in.

We let her go for 24 hours. We even gave it a few more hours just to be sure, then offered her some soft food, a rare treat at our house. She didn't eat any of it. Throughout the evening, she seemed worse and worse, and I felt a sense of forboding. She just wasn't acting right, and to confirm it, I tried to clip her nails. This was something I'd never had any luck with before-she always tried to bite me-but this time, she submitted without a fuss. Eric also noticed that her breath smelled funny, not like normal cat breath at all. Both of us were very unhappy and worried and suspected that something was pretty seriously wrong. Eric spent the night with her in the office and we took her to the vet first thing in the morning (we in fact got there before they even opened).

Given her symptoms, the vet wasn't very encouraging. While she had been okay on Tuesday, she was now dehydrated. He wanted to go ahead and put her under so he could draw some blood for some tests, give her some fluids, and give her a very thorough exam. It seemed likely that it was either one of the incurable viral diseases or possibly diabetes, something that's not treatable in cats in such a way that he felt gave them any quality of life. He promised to call us later that day when she woke up.

He called us some hours later, at which point she hadn't woken up. That would have been a bad sign in and of itself, but he said that once he'd put her under, he was able to palpate her abdomen more thoroughly, and one of her kidneys was several times larger than it should have been. Rather than drawing blood, he went ahead and took an x-ray. There were spots of calcification that shouldn't have been there as well as various organs of the wrong sizes. Basically, though it wasn't 100% without exploratory surgery, it was most likely cancer. We went to say goodbye to her and then left her to be put to sleep, or rather, the rest of the way to sleep, as her body was far enough gone that she couldn't wake up from the anaesthetic on her own and it seemed cruel to give her the antidote just to put her down a few minutes later. It was January 4th, 2007, just a little less than three years after we got her.

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