Speedie by Kate Nielsen / Kate

I first met Speedie Tomato in 1985. I was a freshman in high school and she belonged to my friend Anna. Speedie lived on a farm with approximately 20 other cats with Anna, her brother Aaron, and their mom Pam. They had named her after a movie character, Speedie Tomato, partly because of her beautiful coat I think. She was a domesticate short hair tortoise shell and was the most beautiful torti I’ve ever seen. Her coat had flecks of orange, peach, apricot, and, yes, tomato color.

My parents first met Speedie when they would drive me to Anna’s house. She was always in competition for food on the farm and so she would jump up into my parents’ car window begging for popcorn. She loved popcorn back then.

The summer of 1988, Anna and Aaron had to move out-of-state so the cats needed homes. I adopted Speedie and she instantly became a family member in our home. My mother is allergic to cats yet somehow Speedie found her way not only into the house but into their bed often. My dad loved her as well and they enjoyed thousands of nights on the couch where she made herself very comfortable on his belly. We all loved her dearly. She had a stellar personality, always giving more than she took. She loved to lay outside in the sun on the patio or in the shade of the Four O’Clock flower bed. I can’t even come close to describing what a wonderful little creature she was…just the perfect cat.

In 1991 I left to attend college out of town and Speedie stayed with my parents. I missed her terribly trying to make do with fish and hamsters in the dorms. I was studying to become a veterinarian and graduated from vet school in 1999. I took a job about 2 hours away but my on-call schedule made it difficult to visit home very often. When I did make it home to see Speedie, she always remembered me. Always.

The summer of 2004, my dad called and said he needed some “objective” veterinary advice concerning Speedie. My dad had rushed her to the hospital that morning after he fought off a large dog that had Speedie in his jaws. The dog’s jaws broke her ancient pelvis and punctured her arthritic hind limbs deeply. I knew a young cat could easily recover from the injuries he described but I wasn’t so sure about a 20 year old cat. I rushed home to see her. That old girl was standing by day 2…a true miracle. My mom, a former nurse, put her nursing skills to work and Speedie’s recovery continued uneventfully.

On January 1, 2005, my mom called and told me Speedie hadn’t seemed herself since they picked her up from boarding for the holidays. As I listened to my mom describe the symptoms I knew Speedie was very ill and my mom was scared. Of course, I was on-call and our veterinary hospital was full of boarders due to the holiday. I gave my mom some advice and told her I’d try to think of something and to start giving Speedie the emergency bottle of Amoxicillin I had given my mom for just such situtations. After I hung up the phone, I knew I had to find someway to get home. I pulled a bazillion strings, gathered an arsenal of medical supplies, yummy kitty foods, and hit the road.

I arrived to find Speedie very weak, wrapped in a towel, on my mom’s lap. She could barely walk and preferred not to. She wouldn’t eat and had lost a lot of weight. She still remembered me though, of course. I immediately began administering subcutaneous fluids, a vitamin cocktail, and a powerful antibiotic…trying to fight what I feared was kidney failure. We tried to feed her shrimp (her favorite) but she would just politely turn her head away. I held her on my belly all night on the couch. She was content but wouldn’t move. Overnight, we bedded her down with a heating pad on a fluffy chair in the laundry area where she liked to hang out. I slept on the floor beside her with a flashlight. I didn’t sleep much at all but instead would periodically shine the flash light in her direction making sure she was still breathing and fearing she would be gone by morning. She was still there the next morning but only barely. I tried to stand her up but she would just fall over. Without the benefit of my blood machines and x-rays I couldn’t be sure but I felt that her kidneys had shut down. The 2 hour trip back to my clinic would have certainly stressed her because she hated car rides. There was no emergency/critical care facilities in our small town and she was 20 years old. I felt completely helpless.

As a veterinarian you are suppose to be able to maintain objectivity. What a horrible position to be in. I knew the reasonable choice was euthanasia and I knew I couldn’t do it. She was now my parents cat though and here I was having to advise them to euthanize my childhood cat. It was so painful and awful.

My dad called the vet hospital where Speedie had gone for 20 years and found a vet on call. My mom placed Speedie in a little wash tub and we went to the hospital while my dad stayed behind and dug a hole in the Four O’Clock flower bed that Speedie loved so much. We returned with Speedie’s limp little body and placed her in the hole in her favorite towel. We all cried. It was awful. Just awful.

I had to head back to my home almost immediately because I was still technically on-call and my boss was covering while I was away. I was exhausted and the grief was unbelievable and the weather was cold and gray and nasty. I needed some cheering up so I stopped at a small convenience store along the highway and bought a small box of popcorn. I wasn’t at all hungry but it just felt right to honor Speedie’s memory with popcorn because that was my first memory of her…begging for popcorn.

I love you Speedie Sue. You were the best little cat.


Kate Nielsen