SQUEAKY LEE FRIEDMAN CLISH
1997 to September 24, 2008
So you think cats can’t talk?
Bob Clish was never a cat person. He always had dogs. So when Rhonda Friedman Clish suggested they adopt a cat, her husband was cool to the idea. That was over 10 years ago, before Squeaky Lee entered the couple’s lives and radically changed Bob’s feeling for felines. Forever. So you think cats can’t talk, giggle, sing, perform, laugh at your jokes, play hide-and-seek, contemplate the universe? You never met Squeaky.
Now that she’s gone, the anguish of her absence affects both Clishes to an extent once unimaginable to them. Rhonda, especially, has trouble talking about her remarkable companion, who passed away last September, a subject that almost always sparks tears. “I probably sound like a crazy cat lady,” Rhonda said from her home in Pittsburgh, PA. “But she was really special to both of us.”
Will there ever be another Squeaky Lee? Probably not. Despite the absolute joy she brought the couple, they are not sure they could endure another loss. “Everyone says we should get another cat,” Rhonda said, “but as happy as she made us, we can’t go through the pain again.”
Squeaky had a special language
You have to understand, Squeaky – AKA: Squeaky Lee Friedman (Rhonda’s middle and maiden names) – was Rhonda’s first pet. Her very first. But there’s more to it. Squeaky had a special language, a squeaky sound she used to communicate with certain humans. When she first gazed out at the Clishes from a cage at PetSmart, for example, she made her intentions perfectly clear: “Take me home, and I will be the best little girl.” She kept saying it until the Clishes signed the adoption papers, Bob quickly won over.
The adorable creature was just a year-and-a-half at the time, a sleek, gray feline with a white chest and belly and gorgeous eyes that melted Rhonda and Bob’s hearts. Abandoned by her original owners at a shelter for reasons unknown, she had been sent to the pet shop, a vivacious girl of obvious worth called “Orchid.” Immediately smitten, Rhonda sensed the name was wrong. “It didn’t suit her.”
Her strangely human qualities
Ensconced in her new home, the happy cat (as yet to be named) immediately disappeared under the furnace in the laundry room, where a new litter box awaited. “A few minutes later she emerged with dust balls hanging from her chin,” the result of exploring under the furnace. Rhonda and Bob will never forget the sight of her silly little face.
It didn’t take long before Squeaky’s personality became a constant source of amusement – her strangely human qualities of utter fascination to the Clishes. Not just her conversations (the squeaky sounds that brought automatic grins to their faces), but also the gurgling noises she made when Rhonda called her name. Even when roused from a sound sleep, Squeaky Lee responded instantly to her mistress’ voice – a meowing intonation that seemed to say, “I’m coming!” Then she would stroll over to the couch, or wherever Rhonda happened to be, and jump into her lap. “I would hold her like a baby, and she would purr like crazy.”
Squeaky Lee also liked to oversee certain labors. Whenever Bob, a retired field-service engineer who specialized in medical equipment, checked email on the PC, Squeaky monitored it all from her spot on the computer desk. Same with Rhonda, who works part time as a bookkeeper for a tool distributor.
Hide and Squeak
The gray-and-white kitty traipsed everywhere after Rhonda, often walking just ahead and brushing her tail against her legs. At night, she would sleep at Rhonda’s feet or by her side, snuggling as close as she could get. If Squeaky sat on either of the Clishes’ laps, she would gaze up at them with adoring eyes, lift her paw and stroke their cheeks.
She loved her toys, especially a fur mouse dubbed “Mousy Girl” and the soft little balls she batted around on the floor, often losing them under the sofa. An indoor cat, Squeaky would spend ages sitting on the windowsill, contemplating the wonders of the universe. She adored playing “Hide and Squeak” and “Squeak-a-Boo” with Rhonda. If the blinds were closed, she would hide behind them, poke her nose out, and then quickly retreat again. “Everything she did delighted us,” Rhonda said.
She remained in seclusion, like a diva
Hilarious was seeing her gallop up and down the hallway like a thundering “herd,” and then grind to a halt to groom herself. And when Bob brushed her every morning, she practically swooned with bliss. But Squeaky Lee’s world revolved around the Clishes, her affectionate responses and talkative nature reserved almost exclusively for them. With guests, she preferred to remain in seclusion, like a diva awaiting the perfect entrance. Then “she would come out and visit,” Rhonda said, knowing, no doubt, every attention would be lavished upon her.
Squeaky’s nine lives were not without problems. Bad colds routinely followed annual visits to the veterinarian. “I thought she might have picked up a germ in the vet’s office,” Rhonda said. “So I found a vet who made house calls.” As it happened, Squeaky was due for her annual exam when she got sick in September – this time seriously so. She stopped eating, used the litter box less often, and was found to have enlarged kidneys. Hoping it was an infection, the vet gave her antibiotics and discouraged painful medical tests. A week later, the doctor discovered a very aggressive tumor and advised putting Squeaky down to prevent needless suffering.
“I talk to her every day”
It happened at home. The vet sedated Squeaky and then handed her to Rhonda. “I held her, and Bob and I stroked her until she fell asleep.” After saying their final farewells, the Clishes took their beloved pet to be cremated.
Squeaky’s ashes reside in a small, decorative box embossed with a Star of David. The box sits on Rhonda’s dresser, next to a framed photo of her darling cat. “I talk to her every day,” Rhonda said, her heartbreak not likely to heal soon. “I miss the way she followed me everywhere and talked to me.” Fond memories haunt both Clishes. “We miss the cute way she used to drink her water, taking a sip and twitching her paws one at a time. We miss hearing her crunch her food. We miss the little gurgling noise she made when she entered the room and jumped on the bed, settling in next to me for the night. We miss seeing her little face in the window when we pulled into the garage.”
Shopping for handbags
Every time Rhonda gets up from her computer, she expects to see Squeaky sitting on the bed, patiently waiting for her to finish work so they can cuddle up and discuss important things, like shopping for handbags. “She loved my handbags more than I did!” Great thing is, they still talk.
Squeaky Lee Friedman is survived by Bob and Rhonda Clish, every other family member who adored her, and so many friends. Spayed when adopted, she left no off-spring. Memorial contributions may be made in Squeaky Lee’s name to the ASPCA or any no-kill shelter.