There are cat people and dog people and chicken keepers and wildlife lovers and birdwatchers and then you have those who are all of the above. Hello from All of the Above. I don’t know if animal lovers are born or created, but being a lover of the furry and feathered is a significant part of my earliest memories. I don’t know if it’s genetic because my mother was not an animal lover, or so she claimed. But, she either wasn’t very self-aware, or in the case of most mothers who end up doing things they swore they would never, ever allow, we wore her down. As a result, we had quite a few pets over the years. As it is with pets, some lived longer than others, and some made a bigger impact on our lives than others.
Many dogs have tromped their way into our hearts since we were married, and we still have little, old, blind Dill, the rat terrier. But, today I want tell about the cats who have been a part of our lives for so very long. They were part of a litter of three-week-old kittens from the Paulding County Fairgrounds horse barn. They were thought to be abandoned, so we agreed to bring them home. Mama was just busy hunting during the day, but as it turned out, it was a good thing her kittens were separated from her because she had Feline Leukemia. By the time it was discovered, we were head over heels with the kittens – despite the fact they were determined to destroy our home. That’s the other thing animal lovers put up with – the destruction of furnishings and the loss and breakage of household goods and valuables.
The cats from that litter who have remained with us for almost 15 years are Zeta, who lives in the big city with Betsy, and “the boys,” Corky and Murphy. We also had Moody for a long time, but he died quite a while ago. Murphy has always been a Renaissance guy, with much interest in household goings on. Always at the ready, tool belt in place, and when there’s a job to be done, whether it be plumbing, construction, painting, he does it all. He has even been known to flush the toilet on occasion. And we have Clawdette, the indoor feral cat who moved in with the boys without really obtaining permission from us. She truly is feral in that she will not let us touch her, pick her up and, other than feeding, interact with her. It was a formidable task on the few occasions we needed to to transport her, for the purpose of having her spayed and relocation with the rest of the family (whether she wanted to claim us or not) We suffered bodily harm – hence the spelling of her name. When we moved here, for three days she sat unmoving at the top of stairs, glaring down at us . It was unnerving. She arrived with a healthy distrust of humans and she has continuously cultivated it, except to tell us the food dishes are empty.
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Corky in December. At the age of 14-plus years he developed diabetes and the accompanying urinary problems. We made the decision that we didn’t want to chase him around twice a day to give him injections. He was such an affectionate guy that we just didn’t want to hurt him like that, because he wouldn’t have understood it was to help make him better. Corky was a cuddly cat, a brown, black and gray “stripey,” as we call them. His nickname was “the Pillbug” because of his way of curling into a perfect ball to snooze. He was sweet and funny and he slept faithfully by my side every night. Falling asleep to the deep rumble of his contented purr had been a part of my day for so many years, that when it stopped, my heart was truly broken. Although I know we did what was best for him, it is still difficult to navigate the grief and emptiness when a beloved pet leaves this plane.
Animals contain so much more than we usually give them credit. The night after Corky died, I turned out the light and felt the emptiness. Suddenly, here came Murphy, who never slept with us. He walked up awkwardly beside me, almost as if he were saying “I’m not sure exactly how Corky did this, but I’ll do my best.” He settled down beside me and commenced to purr. He did the same every night after that.
Murphy has also had some health issues in the past year, however, he seems to be holding his own as long as he remains on a regimen of low-dose prednisone. We appreciate each day we share with this character. However, since Clawdette’s social group is definitely feline and not human, we worried that she would really suffer if Murphy should leave us, too. So, after conferring with our long-time vet and friend, Jim Raimonde about the risks to Murphy’s health and talking with our local patron saint of cats – Jacci Moss of the Friends of Felines Rescue Center, decided that we would adopt a healthy kitten.
Jacci and I have known each for longer than I can remember – I’m guessing more than 20 years. She has helped us out, and we have helped her out, you know, how friends do. But, I can’t begin to come close to describing the dedication she has for rescuing animals, especially cats. Unfortunately, cats are still very much viewed by a large portion of the U.S. population as expendable and simply a nuisance. Because so many people do not take responsibility, rampant overpopulation leading to an ever expanding number of feral and stray cats, and the host of issues that result, is a national epidemic.
It would be very easy to be overwhelmed and simply give up in the face of such a gigantic problem. But Jacci has helped so, so many cats and kittens that have arrived at the rescue center from deplorable conditions and suffering from unimaginable injuries and neglect. The reason is because Jacci is one of those people who doesn’t look at what she can’t accomplish, she just focuses her energy on what she can do, right here, right now. The Moss family and the many dedicated and loyal volunteers at FFRC are saints here on earth. Day in and day out, they recognize each cat and kitten as an individual deserving of the love and respect due God’s creatures. They celebrate the wins and mourn the losses, but never lose faith, never tire. (If they do, you will never see it!) In the meantime, they constantly educate about spaying and neutering pets, because as Jacci says, “It is impossible to adopt our way out of this problem.”
I could go on and on, but it would take a book to tell their entire story. However, I happily included Jacci and FFRC in the “Meowy Christmas” chapter of my book Heart and Hearth – Christmas on the Farm.
As of Sunday, we have a new little pal. He was known as Snowball at the rescue center, but we have named him “Smudge” for the three little gray patches on the top of his head. Except for those little patches, and his little pink nose and matching ears, he is white as a snowdrift. And like a snowdrift, he is constantly on the move! It is so much fun having a little kitten frisking about the house for the first time in years. He walked in and immediately owned the place. No fear, no hiding, he just arrived. It took Murphy 24 hours to decide Smudge was tolerable. Clawdette is going to be a harder sell. But, I think it won’t be long before it will hard to remember when Smudge wasn’t here.
In the meantime, check out the Friends of Felines Rescue Center website to learn more about the tiny miracles they accomplish on a daily basis at: http://www.fofrescue.org/. And take a few minutes to tune into the Kitty Cam for some live action! And I mean lively! I can’t forget our patient, longtime friends Dr. Jim, Dr. Christy and indispensable Julie, at Defiance Area Animal Hospital – our veterinarians since 1970: http://defianceareaanimalhospital.vetstreet.com/