I rescued a cat six years ago after the death of my 17-year-old tabby cat, Windham. For 17 years Windham would sit at my feet while I made the first pot of coffee in the morning and cuddled in my lap in front of the TV.
Most of all he was there for me when I had a sudden, life-threatening illness that changed my physical life completely.
When I came back home after three weeks in the hospital, my body was swollen, my hair shaved and I had skull-length incisions, stapled closed. I smelled differently when I came home and Windham was visibly worried about what had happened to me. I had to learn to walk, read and sleep again– my body was different and my eyesight changed—so life for we two changed overnight as I got use to needing a cane to walk, avoiding my cat but loving him cuddling closer to me than before.
Windham was also there when I brought my ailing mother home for a year. He was there for me when Mother died and he was also there as I rushed to pull my life back together—catching planes and driving long distances to jobs out of state. Life was he and me. We were the team that stuck together in hell or high water…he rubbed my face as I cried. So when he died I lost more than just a cat, I lost my very best friend.
The morning after he died I took his body to the shelter for cremation, wrapped in his favorite sweater of mine. A day later I went to pick up his ashes and glanced at the cats in need of new homes.
Anyone who has lost a pet goes through the aching uncertainty, wondering, ‘Should I get another and then face the pain of losing him or her in the future? Can I go through that heartache again, when the pain is immeasurable?’
My fourth day of making morning coffee without my cat at my feet was the killer. I remember letting out a cry of loneliness so deep that I stayed home from work. I couldn’t take the emptiness of my home or the thought that another cat might be put to death at the shelter because someone, me, didn’t have the guts to try it again.
I went back to the shelter and looked over the kittens. Then the shelter worker mentioned that the adult cats are the first ones they euthanize, as not many people want a 6 or 7-year-old cat. The decision was made; I would take an adult cat. That day was the day I met Lilly.
Lilly was 4 years old, not friendly, and she came from an abusive home. She had been shipped to three different shelters looking for someone to take her, and I was told she was on death row. I asked to have her cage opened and after a minute Lilly stood on her hind legs and kneaded my shoulder to the audible gasps of the workers.
“She has never done that, never paid attention to anyone,” they said. “Are you going to take her?” My reply was, “Well, I guess I’d better!”
Lilly is now 9 years old. She rode in the car with me when I was touring around Idaho and Oregon before eventually settling here in Washington State. Lilly is there every morning when I make coffee, dinner and when I cry when my bodily pain is too great to get out of bed.
I rescued Lilly from certain death; in turn Lilly rescued my heart from certain loneliness.