For a few days now, I have found myself on the edge of tears. Nothing to do with last week’s drama.
More than likely it started with the news that one of our old, and very dear foster cats had died.
Joey was one of the very first cats Grant brought to my foster-suite. He had been roaming around Grant’s condo complex and he had a badly infected wound.
Our wonderful vet got him cleaned up and we had to administer anti-biotics.
Joey had taken refuge in on of the carpet-covered boxes I had. Supposed to be litter box covers, but they made great cat-caves.
When we had to give Joey his pill, we opened the lid expecting him to resist. Instead he looked up like this and simply accepted the medicine.
How do you not fall in love with a cat that looks at you with such big sad eyes?
Joey was the nicest, gentlest cat. He got on well with all the others. We hated that we couldn’t keep him, but he deserved a proper loving home where he wouldn’t be part of a crowd.
We always did our best to find the right person for the right cat, but it wasn’t ever easy. We did home visits to ensure people were who they claimed to be.
When Joey’s turn came, it was a nice young couple that came looking for a new friend for their other cat, an older cat having just passed on.
Joey seemed to bond immediately with his new pal and we came away feeling for once that we had made a really good match. Sometimes we had uneasy doubts, but not with Joey.
For him, we’d found the perfect match.
A year or so later, the cat suite was full to bursting as we’d taken in 6 cats that had been shipped from Eastern Washington where homes were harder to find.
The last thing I needed was another cat. Then my phone rang and it was Joey’s people to say they must bring him back.
We always stipulated that we would take back any of our cats if there was a problem, no questions asked.
Something had gone awry that caused Joey to start peeing in a lot of bad places. There was a story, I know, but I could only make guesses.
Joey returned suffering from a skin disorder.
He didn’t look well at all, so we rushed him off to the vet who told us that in addition to the skin irritation, he was fairly certain Joey had been kicked.
We were glad to have him safely back, but heart-broken to have been so wrong in placing him.
Once he had recovered, we reluctantly sought a new home.
And the nicest couple turned up. They had a corgi and other cats, but they had just lost an elder cat. Joey fit right in with the cats and especially the dog.
Not long after Joey went to his new home, there was another addition to the family, a human one. Often this can change the dynamic in an adverse way for the pets, but not in Joey’s new family.
It was all good. Then they moved back east to Massachusetts. In time the corgi passed on, another child arrived followed by a new dog. It was still a really happy family.
A year or so after I moved back east myself, I got a message one day asking if I still had a copy of Joey’s chip number.
Somehow Joey had sneaked out one day.
It’s something that can easily happen, especially with children running in and out. Cats like to go out and they are escape artists. Joey was missing.
It seems the whole neighborhood mobilized looking for the missing boy. I found the chip number but he was never turned in to a shelter or vet.
In the conventional way, I don’t pray, but Joey occupied my thoughts for days as I pleaded for him to be alright and to find his way home.
Which, eventually to everyone’s joy, he did.
The other day, I got a sad message to say Joey had died. The owner said he had not ever been really well after his adventure two years ago. They had spent much money trying to find a cause, to no avail.
For a few days, Joey had seemed to withdraw into himself, hiding. It’s what cats do when things are amiss.
And also when they know their time is close.
The morning before he died, he came out to sit with the little girl as she took an online class.
Then he went to the lady who had cared for him so well, curled up, purring in her arms and drifted off.
For a cat like Joey, it’s as good an ending as one could hope. No trip to the vet, no needles or stress. He just went to sleep, happy in the arms of someone he loved.
The owner messaged me right away. She knew how much we had cared. She was very sad herself, so it was a kind thing to do. Mostly, we’ve been left guessing and worrying and not knowing about the cats we found homes for.
So here I sit weeping over an elderly cat that I haven’t seen for nearly a decade.
It must sound pathetic. But people have only ever caused me heartache and problems. The animals I’ve been blessed to know were always my friends. Hearing about Joey made me remember so many that I’ve said goodbye to. I’ve always grieved more deeply for animals.
If this makes me an imperfect human, so be it. The tears come, the stabbing pain in my heart, the awful feeling of being wrenched away from what I love. Separation anxiety? Chronic melancholia?
I have another theory, or an instinct, but I’m not sure I can divulge it for fear I’ll sound really weird.