Remembering Sisu

Sisu in her \'bratty days\'

It’s been a few weeks, and I can now manage to talk and type about her without my eyes leaking. I promised folks I’d share some memories of Sisu.

Sisu came to us from a farm in East Dover, Vermont. She was delivered to my workplace at Mount Snow, Vermont, in the middle of ski season, late December of 1990, to be a birthday present for my then almost 4 yr old son, Ian.

We brought this little runt of a Siamese applehead kitten home to meet the reigning cat of the household, then, 8 year old black and white Domovaya, who was known for her skills as a major ‘guard cat’ (Domavaya disliked most people except for us). I expected some trouble, but when I let the new kitten out of her carrier, and she met the scowling hissing Domovaya, she stood her ground and growled at her. Put Domovaya right in her place.

In grad school, my ex and I had the opportunity to take a year’s worth of Finnish, as a semester of a non Indo-European language was required in the Slavic Linguistics program. (Note that the Domovaya’s name came from the Russian word ‘Domovoi‘, or ‘house spirit’). Seeing the new tiny kitten’s brave and gutsy behavior to the dominant cat of the household, we decided to name her “Sisu“, a Finnish word of epic proportion and pride.

We loved her sweet, gentle personality and for a while thought we’d not fix her and perhaps breed her, but 1 year of her going into heat and howling every 3 weeks with her butt up in the air was enough to convince us not to. As a 4 yr old, my son once said to a vendor at a show, upon seeing a brochure they had with an image very similar to Sisu and pointing at it, “Dat cat’s in Heeeeeat”. That’s how much he heard us complaining about it!

Sisu in mid ageSisu continued to live up to her name most of her life. She was bold and spirited and in her younger years, quite the little “Brat Cat“. She loved stealing yarn, and one time when I was warping my new floor loom with a weaving friend, we turned our backs for a moment and she was off running down the hall, dragging an 8 foot warp with 2 women running after her!

Sisu had a lot of other alternative nicknames, as have most of our cats, usually based on personality, behavior and oddities. For a good part of her life, we dubbed her “Barfette” thanks to her delicate tummy and habit of chowing down too fast.

She was also known as: Parrot Cat (she loved perching on the shoulders of her people), Sisu Sweet, Little Lady (she was a very delicate, feminine kitty) and for a good part of her life, Sisu Meat (she was known to practically scream if she smelled any kind of meat, beef, chicken, etc in the room until she got her way). If we were having sausage in the morning.. you might even hear us say to her “Polly want a sausage?”

Sisu and Stretch, 2000Sisu’s left us with some wonderful memories and her younger ‘brother’, Stretch (who incidentally has the first English name in our household for a cat) is just beginning to realize he has no one to pick on.

I know I’m leaving out some good stories, so if you have a Sisu story to share, please do..

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