Madison, the Puss-Puss by Richie Black / Daddy

I named Madison in honor of the President, and she certainly went on to set a precedent for me where cats are concerned. As a tiny eight-week-old, black-and-white, Tuxedo kitten, she was the one who began my love affair with those of the feline persuasion. You see, she picked me first, rather brave considering I’d never been owned by a cat, and she stepped forward and announced her independence from the crowded Maine Coon litter she rode in with — all of them in line to gas up with a new lease on life itself, the promise of luxury, and even retirement at this makeshift halfway house packed with hundreds of other abandoned kittens and cats that a certain fate-twisting Bonnie Baker painstakingly rescued from the pound, the streets, and broken homes.

It was like an underground railroad for feline freedom. Bonnie the cat rescuer was an acquaintance of my friend Laura the astrologer, and it was Laura pushing me closer and closer to these kitties in transition. So we convened at Bonnie’s place where my allergies went into high gear — but more importantly also where my little Madison was expecting me. Surely it was fate, and it definitely was in Laura’s stars. Madison and I bonded immediately and went on to become one-bead-of-glue short of inseparable. Although I knew we were right for each other, I couldn’t fully comprehend yet that this tiny fur ball and fellow Libra would one day become my closest friend.

Life was great, and packed with adventure. Through the years with Madison, other pets and roommates came and went, the scenery and apartment dwellings changed more frequently than we would have liked, and she (the Puss-Puss, one of many future nicknames) was changing from a spry kitten who once slept on my forehead into a plus-sized pussy-cat facing middle age who still believed at her weight there was room to sleep on my forehead. I was aging, too, grudgingly so — but at a much slower pace than my fine whiskered friend.

Looking back, as with all best friends, we certainly had our scary break-up moments. There was just one unfortunate summer during which we were ocean’s apart while I was gallivanting in Hawaii on a selfish whim, and I assigned my precious Maddy to the foster care of a friend and what turned out to be quite the inhospitable feline crew. Madison, operating under the alias “Jamaica,” prevailed over her first full-scale catfight, promptly getting herself segregated into cramped quarters of her own. That was the Summer when Jackson was lost while crossing the street; he was the handsome stray we adopted and Maddy’s platonic boyfriend. Those months were a disaster, and what a relief to be reunited after that long, lonely Summer apart! It was a scary time because we were dangerously close to being separated for good so early in our relationship. I can’t imagine that all the terrific years that were ahead of us might never have been.

In all twelve of Madison’s sparkling years, it was only once and while living together in Biloxi, Mississippi (quite a leap for a desert cat) did we fight the flea battle and win. Years later, back in Phoenix where we both belonged, several visits to the dentist left the Puss-Puss without much in the chewing department. Ever since, she would make a funny smile – especially when she purred with her mouth open. But at a whopping 14 pounds, she didn’t mind.

Our adventures were exciting but far from over. In the face of soul-searching separation, one uncomfortable flea bath, tiny living quarters, and that troubling feeling that somebody was stealing her choppers while she was asleep, I know in my heart of hearts that Madison understood that whatever it was, if I had anything to do with it, it was right and it would all be okay in the end. And in return, she never judged me or questioned my taste.

Good thing, too, because soon love came for both Madison and me, welcoming to our kitty cat club a whiskered cowboy from the west. He spoke of farm cats and this was curious to us both. How could they survive without the constant love and care to which we’d both become accustomed? Well, they didn’t always, we were alarmed to learn. Just the same, this was truly an amazing time, especially now as my senior Puss-Puss was nearing her much meowed-about retirement. Suddenly, the house into which we were swept was remarkably more comfortable than all the pads that came before it. Spacious – with sun spots for celestial tanning. Certainly more suitable for a regal puss like Miss Madison, Princess Big Fat Pussy. (It really was coming to this. And that, I might add, was wonderful.)

Then disruption and superstition moved in with us when, considering the importance of bringing in a young cat for the Great Puss to mentor and mold into her likeness, we were out at the Arizona Humane Society and crossed paths with a saucy black adolescent runaway whose street name had been “Sweetie.” Risking complete chaos and disorder in our house, we brought her home anyway and crossed our fingers. The two cats spent several weeks growling and hissing and stomping their tails, but that was all for show. Although they wouldn’t admit it, Madison and her young apprentice, the Boo-Boo Kitty, actually faired well together. Boo-Boo was infatuated with Madison’s great beauty and patience, and Madison expected that. There was a definite chain of command in our household with Miss Madison as our CEO, me and the other hairless cat as the great hunters of the delicious canned food, and that other young cat who slept on the job and didn’t exactly contribute anything important – at least, from Madison’s perspective.

Just when things seemed to calm down, an opportunity in Palm Springs temporarily relocated our family of four for one year. The road trip to California and the subsequent move went remarkably well, both Madison and her black shadow adjusted to the new apartment without missing a beat by charting their new common territory and rushing to plant imaginary flags of ownership on the areas that promised sunspots.

During this year, while Boo-Boo was wild with endless energy, Madison showed the first real signs that she was slowing down. The two still had their evening showdown during which Madison matched Boo-Boo’s half-baked assault with maturity and sturdy patience, requiring her to back off or else! But the signs were there, and those years of adventure were finally taking their toll on my cherished friend. When it was time to make our final trek back home to Phoenix, for the first time Madison didn’t weather the trip very well. And so began our ongoing battles with respiratory infections, runny eyes, and plugged-up noses. She began to drop weight and lost her whiskers. There were other embarrassing problems as well, but I have too much respect for my friend to go into further detail.

When it was time for a thorough check-up with the vet, grave news faced us. An X-ray of Madison’s chest revealed a great and mysterious mass close to her heart. I’d like to believe it was from a heart so full of love that it could not be contained. But I knew the end of our journey together was in sight. Madison’s stop was coming up faster than I cared to admit, and she would need to get off.

There were options on the table to fight aggressively whatever was growing inside Madison, but those options came without a guarantee and were riddled with varying degrees of discomfort and risk. Not for us. I prayed that she would pass away quietly in her sleep, but even her sleep was becoming more restless and uncomfortable with every passing day; walking across the house was an increasingly difficult chore; and getting up onto the bed now required strenuous effort and a step stool. This was not shaping into the quality of life and retirement we had planned for.

Then the morning came when Madison, my Puss-Puss of 12 years and four months, awoke crying and yowling. She was telling me in no uncertain terms that she now had advanced into pain. She crawled under the bed. It was awful. She hadn’t been eating or drinking the last several days, and in the weeks before was not able to control other functions reliably. So that day, two tearful hairless cats and one distraught Boo-Boo Kitty decided to give Madison her dignity and rest. We brought her to the Animal Emergency Clinic, with one final precautionary check-up – to be certain it was time.

Then at approximately noon, February 29th, Leap Year, Madison my angel sprung into Heaven. I held her in my arms so she wouldn’t be afraid or alone. Just as she had expected of me,
I made it right and okay in the end.


All my love,
Madison, the Puss-Puss
Richie Black