My Life with McKee

It was another cat that convinced me that I was a "cat person".   In late August of 1983, Chris and his friend Eric Taylor brought home the last kitten from a litter that the Deaton's cat had produced.  We had a 13-year-old peek-a-poo and had never owned a cat, but Chris wore me down.  We had our first cat!  KC (short for "kitty cat") didn't last long - the following Spring Break, we returned home from the beach to find he had moved on!  The day before Mother's Day 1984, Don took me to a pet store that Robin Shelnutt had recommended.  The minute we walked into the store, there was one bright-eyed gray tabby that set his sights on me and wouldn't give up - he was all over the place trying to impress me.  He was saying, "I am going home with you!"  That was the beginning of our life with McKee.

McKee became the best kitty, the "big kitty" and, so far, the only kitty I have ever loved!  We named him for our favorite "morning guy", Gary McKee on the old WQXI - that would be "Quixie in Dixie"!  McKee was the king of the neighborhood from the beginning.  He even walked like the king of the jungle - actually he didn't walk, he sauntered.  Dartmouth Avenue was a different place in 1984.  There were rabbits and other wildlife running around behind our house on Mary Freeman's property, but to McKee's great joy, there were no other cats living nearby.  McKee was in charge!  He made himself at home in everybody's house - just walked right into any open door.  One weekend when our next door neighbors Tom and Jeanne Cheney were out of town, McKee was nowhere to be found.  While out on the driveway calling him, I noticed the curtains moving in the Cheney's house.  We called their son David, who lived nearby, to unlock the house.  We found McKee locked in and not too happy about!
  it! He continued to make himself at home in the Cheney's house, often napping on their bed, until they moved away a few years ago.

McKee didn't like just anybody - he was a cat, after all.  If you visited us, you knew you were special if McKee climbed into your lap - he was very picky!  During the time that we had to move out of the house after our fire, McKee continued to live at home with our then-new dog, Murphy the Beagle.  They both learned to make their way across the traffic on North Avondale Road to the Avondale Pizza Café - to beg for food (we were feeding them well, but they liked to socialize, I think!)  One night as we sat on the patio of the Pizza Café, McKee walked up to our table and was shocked to see us sitting there!  Years later, a girl who worked there thought he was a stray and "adopted" McKee and took him home!  We were frantic for several days until we tracked him down!  There were many times when we "lost" him - it seems that he adopted many families around town and often spent the night with some of them!  We learned that he had different names on different streets - Mrs. Flower!
 s (Conrad's mother) loved him (even took him to the vet for shots!) and called him "Kitty Cat". Susan Woodall called one night from her home on Clarendon to let me know that he was sitting on Bob's lap, purring!  Several families on Coventry (the "new" street behind us where the Freeman's property used to be) fed him and named him "Sam".  Another neighbor just called him "Big-headed Cat"!  McKee was the leader of the pack until the end!  Other cats who moved into the neighborhood gave him a wide berth. 

All his friends are sharing the grief we feel this week.  McKee, who would've been 18 in March, suffered an embolism last Thursday morning.  The wonderful staff at Dearborn worked with him on Thursday and Friday, hoping that he would recover and regain the use of his back legs.  But, on Saturday afternoon we realized that McKee was suffering and rushed him to the Emergency Veterinary clinic.  There we learned he had developed an infection he couldn't survive.  He was purring loudly as we spent time with him attempting to say all the things we needed to say - putting off the inevitable good-bye. 

As Don and I get older we are losing friends and family, as well as the pets that have been part of our family for such a long time.  It's amazing how much love McKee has given to us - and what a big part of our daily routine he had become.  Whoever wrote "all I know I learned from my cat" surely knew McKee.  I continue to look for him in all the places he liked to nap - and call him when I get out of the car. I will expect him to be under my feet as I go about my morning routine, impatiently waiting for his breakfast!  I will search for him under the hydrangeas and the azaleas which were his "camouflage" while I did my gardening. And I am sure I will talk to him everyday.  I asked him to send me another kitty if he felt like I needed one - and I think  he will.  He comforted us when Murphy died - now we need to find another pet to love us for the next part of our lives.   We miss you, McKee - thanks, "big kitty", for loving us!

Kay Judy Connelly