Goodbye, Tortuga.

Thursday, April 25, 2024 

On April 21st, 2024, at 20:39, Tortuga was gently put to rest after a three year-long struggle with what was probably cancer and a short-lived victory over a mycoplasma bacterial blood infection.

She first took advantage of our yard-cat support program in 2009 as a juvenile cat and passed at about 15 or 16 years of age. She lived a good life, had 5 kittens on March 27th, 2010 that were all weaned and adopted out successfully, and grew old never wanting for food, shelter, or comfort, and never suffering any meaningful illness or injury until her last year.

Over the years, she was the beneficiary of a very strong community support network that took her in whenever she needed it and gave her loving care. She had housemates, human and feline, and a few canine over the years and was always gracious and pleasant, if not always enthusiastic about the four-legged companions.

I am eternally, deeply grateful to everyone who helped her over the years and who made my work and travel possible and Tortuga’s life pleasant and comfortable in my absence, especially in her later years as she needed more care.

She was the best, sweetest cat I’ve ever known. She was always polite, always pleasant, and never scratched or bit, not even when startled or annoyed by dogs. She never broke things or pushed things over or made a mess.

She wasn’t a big fan of other cats, and only a select few were tolerated as guests in her garden. She wanted to start every morning by marking her territory and she ruled her garden with a fierceness that vastly exceeded her tiny size. She started there, spent her last day in the sun there, and will spend eternity there.

Almost every night I was home, she slept in my bed with me. Almost every day I was working at home, she would hop up and sleep quietly between my keyboard and monitor on her little bed there. She didn’t meow much or fuss but purred easily and happily.

In later years, she’d sometimes wake me just before light by prodding my back or nipping to ask for pets; after 5 or 10 minutes of purring and being petted, she would settle back to sleep. It was a ritual that I came to very much enjoy.

Whenever I came home from my travels, no matter how late, as I opened the door into the living space, I’d hear her stir, jumping down from the attic maybe or from my bed or the window perch upstairs and tap-tap-tap down the stairs and trot up to greet me, rubbing my leg and purring. She’d let me scoop her up and snuggle her, though she wasn’t normally a carry cat, and then walk circles around me for 10 or 15 minutes, welcoming me home in the sweetest way possible. She came to know my departures too and always gave me a look of disappointment, sometimes refusing to come to the door to see me off, but usually relenting for one last scritch on the head.

When Corona hit in 2020, I was in Iraq after leaving her in January of 2020 thinking I’d be back in the spring. I couldn’t make it home for almost two years. The longest I’d been away before then was less than 6 months and even that only once or twice. She’s a cat, and by then an old cat, so I didn’t expect much, but in January of 2022, I opened the door late at night to the sound of her tap-tap-tapping down the stairs to greet me.

She was laid to rest in the garden she ruled for 15 years.

I went through the thousands of pictures I’ve taken of her and others have shared with me and tried to find a few from every year from her first foray in 2009 until her last day. If you knew her at some point during this time, I hope this brings back fond memories of a very special kitty.

2009: Tortuga finds food, takes over a house, and becomes part of the family.

Tortuga's first picture - she came for snacks.

This is the first picture I have of Tortuga. She had been sneaking in for snacks which we kept for gray kitty and the other yard visitors including a few possums and a ginormous raccoon who were taking advantage, as she did, of the doggy entrance I’d installed for Stella. It would be a few months before she got the name Tortuga and she had not yet decided she owned the place, but she was polite and cute and good-natured.

This is her house now, in only 3 months she went from being a yard cat to a house cat.

This is her house now, in only 3 months she went from being a yard cat to a house cat. Her coat became glossy, her eyes are bright, and she knows this is and will be her house. We didn’t know she had a secret yet…

2010 Tortuga has kittens and settles into her role as queen of the garden.

She's already found comfortable sleeping spots.

She hadn’t settled on all her spots yet, but this was her house. No other kitties allowed and she was sleeping peacefully in her home.

One of the first yard pictures of Tortuga.

She owned the yard and the house by now. The possums and raccoons and other kitties vanquished. But she had one special friend that she let come visit her. Her face still had the shape of youth at maybe a year old.

She has a secret in her belly.

She’s sleeping in my bed, enjoying the afternoon sun coming through the window on a cool January day in her new home.

Tortuga's boyfriend is at the door

Who is that handsome kitty at the door calling? It’s Merlin. He’s so polite, waiting just at the threshold.

She didn't let him in the house, but he could stay in the yard.

Oh, you can see why she fell for this bad boy, Merlin the cat. Such a handsome face. He was the only kitty I ever saw her actually be affectionate toward.

Tortuga kissing her boyfriend.

She’d even give him a little nose kiss. He’s the only other kitty buried in the yard. He had a run-in with a car on 2011–07-29, about 18 months after this picture. Now these two two sweethearts are reunited again after almost 13 years apart.

Tortuga staying at Jenn's, her secret is out!

Tortuga staying with a friend and with the special present her kitty boyfriend gave her. Finally her secret plan is visible for all to see. She had a reason for taking over the house.

Tortuga had 5 kittens! None are orange.

Tortuga had 5 kittens! On March 27th, 2010 she birthed 5 tiny little fuzzballs.

Tortuga's kittens at 5 days of cuteness.

Tortuga’s kittens at 5 days of cuteness.

Five little floofs in a row.

Five little floofs in a row.

17 days and her kittens weigh more than she does.

Tortuga was a small kitty, never much bigger than a kitten herself. It is amazing she fit so many kittens inside.

A beautiful batch of blue eyed kittens.

A beautiful batch of blue eyed kittens.

Tortuga's kittens are little chonkers; amazing she could grow 5 kittens each almost as big as she was in just two months.

Tortuga’s kittens are little chonkers; amazing she could grow 5 kittens each almost as big as she was in just two months.

Her kittens grew amazingly fast, and fluffy and at barely two months old are almost as big as she is.

Her kittens grew amazingly fast, and fluffy and at barely two months old are almost as big as she is. One of the gray ones, Mauser, grew to be 18 lbs (8.2kg) of big kitty floof by 2014.

Tortuga's 5 kittens

They were adorable little floofs at 2 months. She managed to feed them well and they were all little potats.

Tortuga needed almost now medical care despite defending her territory regularly, even after she was fixed, she was fierce.

Tortuga needed almost now medical care despite defending her territory regularly, even after she was fixed, she was fierce.

In her youth, she was an agile and enthusiastic climber. She'd go out for most of the day, mostly sleeping in the tree or on the roof of the neighbor's shed in the sun.

In her youth, she was an agile and enthusiastic climber. She’d go out for most of the day, mostly sleeping in the tree or on the roof of the neighbor’s shed in the sun.

2011 Tortuga takes ownership of my desk.

Tortuga relaxing on the couch as I have dinner. She was always polite and easy going about dinner.

Tortuga relaxing on the couch as I have dinner. She was always polite and easy going about dinner.

Tortuga hanging out with her one true furry love, Merlin the kitty.

Tortuga hanging out with her one true furry love, Merlin the kitty.

Tortuga out cold in her spot on my desk making a cute little mlem.

Tortuga out cold in her spot on my desk making a cute little mlem.

Sometime in 2011 she was gifted a custom-made desk pad to sleep more comfortably on my desk and took to it right away: bagels and kitties.

Sometime in 2011 she was gifted a custom-made desk pad to sleep more comfortably on my desk and took to it right away: bagels and kitties.

2012

Tortuga resting her head on an ancient artifact.

Tortuga resting her head on an ancient artifact.

Tortuga in the yard

Her eyes were beautiful, her face still with the glow of youth at 3.

Tortuga enjoying the evening air

A young Tortuga enjoying the evening air in the garden.

The birds that walked on the skylights were a lifeling fascination. Mostly crows, they'd clitter-clack on the glass and call raucously to each other. She'd stare up at their feet and chatter back.

The birds that walked on the skylights were a lifeling fascination. Mostly crows, they’d clitter-clack on the glass and call raucously to each other. She’d stare up at their feet and chatter back.

2013

Resting in her usual place, watching me work.

Resting in her usual place, watching me work. Our favorite game in these years was playing chase around the main room. I’d run after her and she’d zoom around the furniture, then jump scare me around a corner and I’d run while she chased me until I was out of breath from running and laughing.

A little Tortuga mlem.

Even Tortuga, ever a formal kitty, would occasionally make a sweet little mlem.

Tortuga and I shared coffee in the yard almost every pleasant morning. I had print magazines and printed papers to read and we'd sit outside together and enjoy the weather.

Tortuga and I shared coffee in the yard almost every pleasant morning. I had print magazines and printed papers to read and we’d sit outside together and enjoy the weather.

She was a perfect morning companion; attentive but always polite.

She was a perfect morning companion; attentive but always polite, a sweet little 4 year old kitty.

2014

Tortuga, enjoying my company while I work and she naps.

Tortuga, enjoying my company while I work and she naps.

A younger Tortuga, at about 6, in the prime of her garden patrols.

A younger Tortuga, at about 6, in the prime of her garden patrols.

This isn't Tortuga's favorite kind of mouse and she doesn't understand why I'm so fascinated by it.

This isn’t Tortuga’s favorite kind of mouse and she doesn’t understand why I’m so fascinated by it.

2015

Tortuga also loved a good box, like all cats.

Tortuga also loved a good box, like all cats. She fits, she sits.

Tortuga prowling about the garden, alert for any intruders.

Tortuga prowling about the garden, alert for any intruders.

Oh, big yawn.

Oh, big yawn.

A younger Tortuga in her garden.

A younger Tortuga in her garden.

I'm so cute, you should stop typing and give me pets.

I’m so cute, you should stop typing and give me pets.

You're welcome to come to bed, but don't move me.

You’re welcome to come to bed, but don’t move me.

2016

Tortuga is pretty sure she can get that control key.

Tortuga is pretty sure she can get that control key.

Tortuga often watched TV with me, sleeping and sometimes watching with me. She never tried to snatch my food and was always polite.

Tortuga often watched TV with me, sleeping and sometimes watching with me. She never tried to snatch my food and was always polite.

As the morning light comes in, Tortuga isn't quite ready to get out of bed.

As the morning light comes in, Tortuga isn’t quite ready to get out of bed.

Tortuga was never really that much bigger than a big kitten and she often acted like it.

Tortuga was never really that much bigger than a big kitten and she often acted like it.

Tortuga's favorite place to sleep while I worked.

Tortuga’s favorite place to sleep while I worked.

Tortuga being just too cute

Tortuga being just too cute, how can you not take a moment to give her a little scritch?

Tortuga hears a noise late one night.

Tortuga hears a noise late one night.

2017

Tortuga the queen.

Tortuga the queen.

Looking out the window

Tortuga, lit by a winter’s afternoon sun.

Just a snugly little kittty.

Just a snugly little kittty.

Ohhh big stretch

Big stretch and give me a hug! She was a little stressed by sharing her house with another kitty and went through a brief phase of licking her belly.

2017-05-03 A pretty kitty looking out at nature.

A pretty kitty in her garden looking out for the slightest noise.

Tortuga keeping an eye on my work.

Tortuga keeping an eye on my work.

A little furry cinnamon roll

I love kitty circle sleeping and Tortuga would curl up and rest on her head on the tip of her tail.

She was just a pretty little kitty.

She was just a pretty little kitty.

She slept by it often.

Tortuga sleeping in her bed on lazy afternoon.

Tortuga eyeing breakfast.

There are some foods that I miss when I’m overseas. Tortuga loved the lox, the mozzarella and, surprisingly, most of all a few bits of avocado.

2018

Tortuga, surveying the garden.

Tortuga, surveying the garden.

My little furry supervisor monitoring my keystrokes.

My little furry supervisor monitoring my keystrokes.

Tortuga helping

On rainy days, having breakfast inside was definitely not her favorite. She’s embargoing the press for better weather.

At my desk, ready to help.

At my desk, ready to help.

Tortuga in the shade on a hot day.

Summer days she’d find some shade by my feet under the garden table and enjoy the air and company.

Tortuga on a summer's evening.

Tortuga enjoying the garden as it cools down on a summer’s evening.

Just keeping the laptop warm.

Just keeping the laptop warm.

Tortuga in her natural element.

Tortuga fully integrated into indoor life, but always loved the garden sun best of all on a warm evening.

Tortuga surveys her garden.

Tortuga surveys her garden.

Tortuga by the window looking out

Tortuga liked to sit by the windows, the winter morning sun warming her little fuzzy face with a gentle glow.

Tortuga watching TV

Tortuga often watched TV with me as I ate my dinner. She never begged for food, she just enjoyed the company.

Tortuga with some toys on my bed

Tortuga with some of her toys. Even 9 years after having those 5 kittens, she was still adorably round in the middle.

A winter evening's setting sun warms her at the window.

A winter evening’s setting sun warms Tortuga at the window.

2019

Tortuga enjoying the laptop's heat, her eyes bright and clear.

Tortuga enjoying the laptop’s heat, her eyes bright and clear.

The beautiful queen of the garden.

The beautiful queen of the garden.

Morning human, put the breakfast out, I'll be up soon.

Morning human, put the breakfast out, I’ll be up soon.

What a pretty kitty

What a pretty kitty

A kitty on pawtroll in the tall grass.

A kitty on pawtroll in the tall grass.

The body of the laptop got warm and sometimes she'd sit on it, so a keyboard cover helped reduce kitty typing.

The body of the laptop got warm and sometimes she’d sit on it, so a keyboard cover helped reduce kitty typing.

When she wasn't in the garden, she'd look out over it.

When she wasn’t in her garden, she’d look out over it.

Tortuga enjoying a lazy afternoon on my bed.

Tortuga enjoying a lazy afternoon on my bed.

2020 Corona time.

The last day in the garden before Corona hit.

Tortuga and I spent the morning in the yard before I left. Corona was in the æther, but not the air yet. I thought I’d be back soon.

Tortuga in an alternate sleeping spot.

While I was away, Tortuga wasn’t alone. She had loving companionship. A check-in photo of her, still in her prime.

2021 Corona time.

I didn’t get to see Tortuga at all from January of 2020 until January of 2022.

2022 Reunited.

I came back after two years away.

Tortuga greets me the night night I arrived after two years away. We missed each other during those long years apart.

Tortuga's warm place restored

Tortuga blissed out that her warm resting place was reactivated after two years of corona.

Tortuga, checking it is me after two years apart.

Tortuga, checking to be sure I’m real after two years apart. Or maybe giving me a smack for being away so long.

After two years, back to her desktop roost.

After two long years away, she finally had her favorite place between the warm laptop and the warm monitor.

Tortuga on my bed after two years apart

Tortuga on my bed after two years apart. I think she was happy to see me and not quite sure I was real.

Tortuga sleeping peacefully on my bed.

Just a perfect little portrait of a sleeping kitty.

Tortuga on my lap after two years apart

We were kept apart for two years by Corona and she had developed some medical issues. I was so happy to be with her again.

When it was particularly cold, she'd like to sit in front of a small leg-warmer radiant heater at my feet.

When it was particularly cold, she’d like to sit in front of a small leg-warmer radiant heater at my feet.

Tortuga survey's her garden.

Tortuga survey’s her garden.

Tortuga resting in nature

Tortuga loved to nap in the garden during the warm parts of the days.

I was leaving and Tortuga was not happy I was going. I would see her twice more.

I was leaving and Tortuga was not happy I was going. I would see her only twice more.

2023

A typical welcome home when I’d been away too long.

Tortuga on patrol in the garden.

Tortuga, on an important paw patrol of the garden, annoyed at being interrupted for photos.

Tortuga sleeping on my computer

In February, it can be a little cold. The exhaust from my laptop was a nice little belly warmer.

Tortuga looking regal

Just a very pretty kitty sitting on the deck.

Tortuga checking the perimeter

Tortuga, looking up at the tree where a very happy chittering birdy of the same type nests year after year.

Tortuga in the yard

When I went home in 2023, Tortuga had recently started having some serious health problems and had lost a lot of weight and she seemed tiny to me, but she was still healthy and bright and active and just as sweet and fun as she ever had been.

2024 The queen of the garden forever.

Tortuga greets me for the last time

I know this picture doesn’t mean much to anyone else and isn’t very cute, but I came home about midnight in February 2024 after being away for a full year, opened the door, and 15 year old Tortuga came tap-tap-tap to greet me, as sweet as she has ever been.

Tortuga sleeping on the deck in her last days.

At 15, she didn’t have the energy she once did, but her love for the warm sun and fresh air, the smell of her garden was undimmed and we had a lovely morning together.

Tortuga helps me work, like she always did

Tortuga’s place at my desk was a constant. For almost 15 years my desk was organized around her owning the space between the keyboard and the monitor. She’d spend a good part of each working day keeping me company.

Tortuga sees a birdy

Even at her age and with her energy waning, she still had the huntress instinct and her eyes locked on, attention focused. She was fierce and protective from the day she walked in until the day she left. The birds and her had a detente, entertaining each other.

Tortuga matriarch of the garden.

Tortuga came out with me to have breakfast in the yard. She was a little old for jumping up and escaping to inspect the neighboring yards as she used to, but she did make an effort and did the rounds of her favorite hiding places in the lovely early spring weather.

Tortuga and I spending a last morning in the garden.

Tortuga sits, bright eyed, still the queen of all she sees. Her beautiful eyes were clear and sharp and her senses undimmed. This was our last moment together in the yard. I had to get ready to leave even though it was only mid-morning. We had a lovely breakfast together, though she wasn’t up for stealing my lox, she did take some avocado. She spent most of the rest of the day sleeping on her keyboard bed next to me.

Tortuga getting a last head scritch.

This picture means a lot to me. Tortuga knew I was leaving in a few moments, bags packed, departure routine started. It was 5am and still dark out. This picture breaks my heart. I knew, too, there was a good chance it was my last minutes with her.

The orchids have brightened her life for more than a decade.

I will miss her forever.

Tortuga bright-eyed and aware and just as sweet as ever.

Even on her last morning she was bright-eyed and aware and just as sweet as ever.

Tortuga got to spend almost the whole day sitting in the garden in the sun. She was fading by the end of the day and could barely keep her head up.

Tortuga spent her last day in her garden enjoying the sun.

This rose tree, now standing more than 3m high, was less than a meter when Tortuga came into the garden. It has flowered every year of her life.

Tortuga passed peacefully in the presence of her loving caretakers on April 21, 2024, at 20:39 and was laid to rest in her garden, at the base of this rose tree on April 22, 2024.

Posted at 08:35:14 GMT-0700

Category : Cats

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