I woke up Monday and went about my morning routine. That is, of course, until I went downstairs to feed Libby. But there was no meow saying “Good morning, I’m hungry”. There were no bowls to fill with water or dry food. There were no pee pads to pick up and throw away. There was no furry little face looking at me through the bars of the gate. Only the darkness and silence of the family room at 5:30 AM. You see, Friday, after I got home from work, my wife and I took Libby to the Vet for the last time. I had no intention of putting her down when we left the house. But, I had no idea how far she had deteriorated in the last three months.
Libby was the last of my three “children”. For the past twenty-two years, there has been at least one and for a long time three feline members of my family. My middle child, past away from kidney disease at the age of seventeen. My eldest child succumbed to fluid on the lungs at age 22. And my youngest, Libby, left us Friday night due to complications from thyroid disease.
Libby came to us on a spring morning. I found her hiding under the house. We call her our unwed mother because at the ripe old age of nine months, she was VERY pregnant. She looked like she had swallowed a softball. She was half-starved and was the most pitiful creature you ever saw. We fed her for a day or two and then had to make a decision. She was ready to deliver and we were on our way out-of-town for the Memorial Day weekend. I did not want to leave her and come back to a litter of kittens or worse. Based on her obvious malnutrition, I doubted the kittens would be healthy. The alternative was to take her to the animal shelter and place a finder’s hold on her. She would be examined, fed, and cared for until we could get back from vacation. We could then make a final decision on whether to bring a third cat into our home. The down side was, if she had the litter while we were gone, we would not be told the fate of the kittens unless we placed a hold on them as well. This I’m told is standard procedure for animal shelters. This decision was almost as difficult as having Libby put to sleep 18 years later. We finally chose to only hold Libby and prayed the Shelter would do what was best for the kittens.
When we returned from our trip, we prepared the house of the new arrival. Our existing children were locked in one area of the house with their food, water and litter boxes and the rest of the house would be free for Libby to explore for a few days until she was adjusted to her new surroundings.
When we picked Libby up from the shelter, she was a different cat. She had indeed delivered while we were gone. (That is how I wish to think it happened. I do not know what happened,nor do I want to know.) She was five pounds lighter than when we dropped her off. Half of her body weight had been kittens! But, she was healthy. We paid for vaccinations and care. Then, we took her home.
Over the next few days, there was a lot of sniffing under doors and paws being stretched under doors trying to reach each other. Libby roamed the house at will and chose to mostly, ignore the bedroom. There were obviously two very interested felines wanting to find out who had invaded their territory. Finally, on Friday night we let the three of them see each other for the first time. There was a few minutes of hissing and posturing with me standing by to separate them if necessary. Fortunately, a pecking order was soon arrived at and peace returned to the household.
I treated the cats like family. Each had their own food and water bowls. Each had their own litter box. My wife and I made sure we spent quality time with each one every day. It may have been wrestling with the big male, or having them chase a light around the room, or maybe just giving them a special massage of their own. Whatever it was they each returned to attention they received many times over.
I treated the cats like family and they reciprocated. After a serious car accident that left me on my back in a recliner for thirteen weeks, my children would take turns getting up on the recliner and laying, spread eagle, over my shattered knee. The warmth of their little bodies and their energy covered my knee. The added weight also helped during rehab exercises. 🙂 I believe to this day, that they were a big part of my knee healing. They knew I was hurt and made sure that at least one of them was with me 24/7 for entire recovery.
Sometime in the future, we will again add a couple of furry members to our family. Once the pain of loss has subsided and we are ready, we will find two felines who need us as much as we need them. Until then, I will remember, “Little Mr.”, “The Lover”, and the “Unwed Mother” and know they are waiting for my wife and I at the rainbow bridge.