She came to me, along with her brother, in September of 1996. I had left my cat back in the States when I’d moved to England in 1995, and, having decided to remain in London for the foreseeable future, I was no longer going to live without a cat. I grew up with tabbies and wanted another one, and the rescue organization brought my roommate and me two 12-week-old kittens. The boy cat, we decided, would belong to my roommate; the girl would be mine. And this Rangers fan, loving London but missing New York, named her after the Garden.
At first a terrified rescue kitten, Madison didn’t emerge very often from her safe place under the couch, but she soon developed into an inquisitive, playful, affectionate cat. She chased sheets ruffled by breezes; she took off after glimmers of light and shadow playing on the walls or the floor; she sat in the window each morning watching the birds gather on the fire escape; she demanded neck scratches and lap time. She refused to sleep anywhere except with me.
When I repatriated, she and her brother expatriated with me. For the last 11 and ½ years, we’ve all been happy New Yorkers, and like me, she loved spending her summers in Saratoga. At the home of Mama and Papa Backstretch, who adored her as I did, she’d sit for hours near the sliding glass doors, captivated by wildlife unseen from a third floor Brooklyn window, most notably chipmunks.
Though frequently on the move, an inveterate explorer, when my nephews were toddlers she tolerated their fumbling attempts to pet her, and when they were tired, she accommodated, patiently, willingly their desire to lie down on the floor with their heads on her stomach.
Maddie was brave and intrepid; she greeted strangers; she approached and approved newcomers. The only thing that made her miserable was car travel—perhaps that transatlantic voyage early in her life was more difficult than she let on—and as she got older, I had to find innovative ways to get her ready—tranquilizer and all—for the journey, because no matter what I did, she anticipated and avoided it. When we went to Saratoga for Thanksgiving, I gave her a pill at 6:45 am. When we arrived in Saratoga at 11, the first thing she did was spit it out on my parents’ living room floor.
I woke up Saturday morning to discover that she couldn’t move her back legs; the vet quickly diagnosed a blood clot, the first symptom of previously undetected heart disease, a common occurrence in cats. Despite medication throughout the day, her condition worsened, and shortly before midnight, she died. The felines and the humans in the local and extended Backstretch household are devastated. Her personality made her the feline center of our home.
She was a star of this website, as much as part of it as I am, and I haven’t quite decided what will happen with her picks and those of the other felines. Her absence from the left column, and from my life, is a little too unbearable to contemplate just now. A quick check shows us that Madison leaves us with a profit; literally and figuratively, we should all be so lucky, but no matter what she gained, it’s nothing compared to how she enriched our lives.