Guest Post: Forever Loved: Josie

Guest Post: Forever Loved: Josie

Sometimes, when you least expect it, life brings you an unexpected gift.  In time, the gift becomes a treasure.

Josie was my unexpected gift.

It was a typical fun-filled Saturday spent volunteering at Tabby’s Place.  I had just finished giving my last visitor tour, and was preparing for my next job, feeding the community cats.

As a volunteer for the past 16 years, I have enjoyed many different roles.  Feeding the cats is one of my favorite things in life.  The cats are so happy to see you, and learning which cats like which foods has become my culinary mission.  As I walked past Intake Room 3 carrying a full tray of dinner dishes, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  By nature, I move at warp speed, but this time I came to a stop. I turned my head to see a beautiful gray and white cat, literally speaking to me from her crate.

Even though we were separated by a glass window, I was mesmerized by her big, far-set, expressive green eyes.  This new resident was named Josie.  She arrived at Tabby’s Place after her human Mom passed.  At 14 years of age, Josie carried a great deal of medical weight on her slender shoulders.  She had severe skin and food allergies, was underweight, and had arthritis.  I did not see pain in Josie’s eyes, only warmth and love.

Each visit to Tabby’s Place now began with a visit to Josie through the glass window.  I promised Josie that, after she was assigned a living area, I would visit and would always be her friend.  I kept my promise!

Josie was the first resident of a suite for cats with allergies.  Josie and her roomie Xena were the original “allergy girls.”  The more time I spent with Josie, the more attached I became, and our friendship grew.

Prior to meeting Josie, I had volunteered as the special needs correspondent for Rose (lobby resident) for over a decade.  Together, we created Rose’s monthly sponsor updates.  After Rose passed, I was heartbroken, and put down my correspondent pen.  I could not envision being able to connect with another cat the way I connected with Rose.

And then came Josie!

I asked to become Josie’s special needs correspondent, and we had the time of our lives collaborating on monthly sponsor updates, which translated to extra hours spent together.

As Josie’s health issues increased, I observed her inner warrior strength.  Josie taught me that adversity does not define you, but it gives you an opportunity to focus on the joys of life.  Josie was both beautiful and wise.  I savored every minute together with Josie, enjoying the quiet times with her cuddled up often napping on my lap. I loved watching her respond to a ballad I played on my cell phone called “Romantic Sunday,” by the group Car, the Garden.

I was proud of Josie as she scaled her way up the cat cubes to the top of the crates as though she was climbing Mt. Everest.  Josie was graceful and as powerful as a big cat as she jumped from crate to crate to find her favorite comfy cat bed.  Josie’s favorite snacks were hypoallergenic treats; she consumed them as fast as I could consume a bag of M&Ms!  The treats were hard to find for a few months, and staff found a substitute “treat,” which Josie gobbled in delight. 

My 2nd promise to Josie was that we would take a stroller walk together in the warm weather.  I am not sure who was more excited on the stroller walk, Josie or me. I filled the front of her stroller with “hypo treats” so she could snack along the way.  For safety purposes, we never lift the hood off a stroller during a walk.  I put my hand against the front of the stroller mesh, and Josie gently brushed her cheek against it, her way of telling me she was happy.

Josie and I did not need words to communicate.  The memories of watching Josie tilt her sweet face upwards to soak in the warm sun are forever etched in my heart and memory.

Josie had many human and feline friends at Tabby’s Place, and particularly enjoyed having kids read to her in the “Paws to Read” program.  In just under a year that Josie was a Tabby’s Place resident, she was loved by all she met.

Friends often ask me if it is difficult volunteering for so many years with Tabby’s Place, when there are cats who pass.  I do not see loss; I see gain.

Each cat that I can love is my gain.  When a Tabby’s Place cat is ready to begin their next life chapter, they are surrounded by staff and volunteers who love them.  When I give tours, I share with visitors that cats are welcomed to Tabby’s Place with love and receive their angel wings with love.

Due to a medical bump in the road, I was unable to say farewell to Josie in person.  My sadness turned to joy, as a staff member arranged a video call with Josie.  More than anything, I wanted Josie to hear my voice and carry my love with her.  Towards the end of our call, Josie’s big green eyes looked straight into the camera and into my heart, and crossed her front paws, which was Josie’s signature pose.  I know that this was Josie’s “so long” to me, for now, until we meet again.

Run free my sweet Josie, I will love you forever…and a day.

Love always, Ilene

1 thought on “Guest Post: Forever Loved: Josie

  1. How sweet – I know and love Josie through your words. Sometimes a loving companion sheds such a light that when they travel on some of light remains forever in your heart as loving memories. That is Josie.

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