Whatever we expect from them, cats excel at scrambling our expectations.
Perhaps this is one of their great gifts.
We human types are very good at expecting and assuming and imposing ideas. We think we know how things will or could or should go. When they wiggle out of our pigeonholes, we get angry or scared or soul-strange in painful ways.
Cats do nothing of the sort.
I’d say that cats delight in defying our expectations, except I don’t think they’re even that concerned. They simply are as they are, in the time they’re given, one holy day at a time. They do not fear the worst or demand their definition of the best, and they take what comes as it comes, no hard feelings. We’re the only ones scratching our half-empty heads when the angry ones break character to cuddle us, or the sickly ones drop-kick diagnoses to thrive, or the young ones hurtle towards the end too soon.
This week we’re featuring guest posts from two spectacular humans, about two very different, equally beloved cats who shattered expectations in opposite ways. As we’re reminded today, sometimes we’re left longing for the longer life we expected.
But even if it doesn’t come, we still find ourselves grateful at the story’s end.
Pumpkin found his forever family in 2007, when he was two, and I was a rookie Tabby’s Place employee, and the world felt new. The immediate, exuberant bond Pumpkin (then known regrettably as Lumpy) shared with Pam and Frank was a delight to behold. Theirs was one of the first adoptions I witnessed, and forever one of my favorites.
Nearly a decade later, that irresistible bond had grown sequoia-strong roots — just the kind they’d need to endure the worst together.
Thanks to Pam, Pumpkin’s beloved mom, for penning the following:
“If love could have saved Pumpkin, he would have lived forever, and that’s a guarantee.
“We adopted Pumpkin from Tabby’s Place on November 17, 2007. As I recall, Tabby’s Place rescued him from a high-volume shelter in the Wilkes Barre, PA area. It’s kind of ironic, because my husband and I both grew up right around that area. Pumpkin was only at Tabby’s Place for approximately one month before we adopted him. If you were fortunate enough to meet him, you would never forget him, that’s for sure!
“Pumpkin was not a cat person. We often joked that he may have even thought he was a dog. We have this round table in our living room, by the window. Pumpkin would sit on that table every day and guard his house. If another cat came too close to his house, he would lose it. But if a dog came in his yard, he was completely fine with that.
“I always felt as if Pumpkin could understand me. I really felt this amazing connection with him. He could always sense when I was upset or hurting, and he was always there to comfort me. He was my little angel. As it’s been said, ‘Animals do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.’
“When his final illness reared its horrible head, it was completely unexpected. We raced Pumpkin to the emergency vet. They said that he might have a week or two left to live, but somehow I knew Pumpkin was going to die that very day. I knew, at 4am on November 21st, that he was leaving us. He told me. I could see the sadness in his eyes. I could see how badly he felt that he had to leave. I told him it was OK, to please let go and stop fighting it, to please stop suffering for us. Those were the most difficult words I have ever spoken.
“Pumpkin’s death was a shock. We’ll never know exactly what happened. The only thing we know is that he went from what seemed to be completely fine to suffering greatly in a very short amount of time. He left us too soon, and our family will never be the same without him.
“We tried explaining this horrible loss to our daughters, ages 1.5 and 4.5. Our younger daughter kept pointing to Pumpkin’s picture and crying. She repeatedly took out his treats for him, shaking the bags and trying to bribe him to come back to us with his favorite goodies. It was heartbreaking to watch. I thought to myself, ‘oh sweetie, if only it were that easy.’
“Our four-year-old kept saying, ‘Pumpkin will be back as soon as Dr. C makes him feel better. It might take awhile, but he’ll be back.’ All of this made my heart ache even more. Our house feels so different without Pumpkin here, so empty.
“We had Pumpkin cremated, because we wanted him to be with us always. When I got the phone call that Pumpkin’s ashes were ready to be picked up, my heart sank. I couldn’t even talk; all I could do was cry. I think I had been in denial, and hearing those words made this a reality. It confirmed that my Pumpkin was indeed gone.
“I thought to myself, ‘how in the world am I going to pull myself together, walk into the vet’s office, and ask for the ashes of my beloved Pumpkin?’ I prayed for the strength, and I also prayed that the vet’s office would not be crowded. I told myself I had to do it for Pumpkin. You see, Pumpkin was always in a hurry to get out of the vet’s office, so I couldn’t disrespect him by leaving him there. He was always perfectly behaved at his appointments, a sweetheart, but he was always in a rush to get back to his cozy home.
“As difficult as it was for me to do, I went. The waiting room was empty — completely empty. That’s the first time I have ever seen an empty waiting room there. I thanked God, and I brought our Pumpkin home for good.
“I have written and rewritten this story so many times, through an endless amount of tears. I’ve been just trying to get it right, trying so hard to find the right words to describe exactly how much Pumpkin meant to us, exactly how much we loved him. It’s so hard. I just feel like nothing I could write could ever be enough to describe a love as strong as the love we had for Pumpkin, the love that we will always have for Pumpkin.
“Although saying goodbye to Pumpkin was the hardest thing I ever had to do, I am forever grateful for the time we had with him, the love he gave to us, all of the wonderful memories, and of course to Tabby’s Place for rescuing Pumpkin and allowing us to love him. Pumpkin was truly a blessing, and will live on in our hearts forever.
“I can’t say it any better than this little poem, which we have displayed on our black table, in Pumpkin’s spot, with his photo beside it:
Pawprints Left By You
You no longer greet me,
As I walk through the door.
You’re not there to make me smile,
To make me laugh anymore.
Life seems quiet without you,
You were far more than a pet.
You were a family member, a friend
. . . a loving soul I’ll never forget.
It will take time to heal –
For the silence to go away.
I still listen for you,
And miss you every day.
You were such a great companion,
Constant, loyal and true.
My heart will always wear
the pawprints left by you.
“And yes, it’s true; our hearts will always wear the pawprints left by you, Pumpkin.
“Rest in peace sweet baby.”
What Pumpkin’s life lacked in years, it more than made up in miracles. Pam and family, you loved him beyond any cat’s wildest expectations. I am confident that you will hold him again in the life without end. In the meantime, our prayers, love and deepest gratitude are with you.