I look at Rocky, as he sits on my feet while I am on the toilet, and I know he is going to leave me.
That’s it. That’s the bottom line.
As a hospice volunteer, I took Rocky home; he lives with me.
He is a beautiful gray tabby, not unlike other gray tabby cats – dark pink nose, green eyes. But his eyes are like those of an owl – wide and wise, as if he could tell me the future if he could speak.
He looks at me as if he knows. He is un-adoptable. Without The Linda Fund and foster homes, cats like Rocky would not be alive today. I think about that every morning when I wake up to find him nuzzled by my side.
As I have written previously, I take care of his daily feeding and medical care. As with Abby and Bianca and stunningly beautiful and ancient Patches, they lived in my home. And the ancient cats I opined over having adopted, too. They were part of my daily routines. Their care became as normal as it was to brush my teeth each night.
For Rocky, it’s endless kitty litter; he goes through about 100 pounds of pine litter a month alone due to the limited function of his kidneys. Tabby’s Place, aided through donations, makes sure his blood work is checked and his medications are ready.
He deserves a good life. He did not ask to be born with malformed, small kidneys. He should not be punished for that. As he approaches two years old, he is starting to become fussy about food. My worry rose, and so we drove the hour to Tabby’s Place.
The recent check-up looked good: his numbers are ‘stable’, which is better than we could have anticipated at this point in his life. He has started an appetite stimulant. I pray that it is not the beginning of The End, because I have, like many silly, stupid humans do, become very attached to Rocky. So I wring my hands and pet him and give him the kisses that will hopefully make up for the potential missed kisses he may not receive.
So many cats do not got the chance that Rocky did.
It is through the grace of donors and the magic of Tabby’s Place that he made his way from – I don’t know where – to my home.
I wake up to him every morning; in the evenings, as I wind down, he is on the chair beside me, or rubbing against my leg. I am incredibly lucky to have this ferret of a cat beside me, chirping his purr, blinking his gigantic green eyes slowly, making biscuits on the pink throw blanket on my bed.
The ‘goodbye’ will come.
I have lived this story before, lived this life many times. The hospice foster arrives, I receive my instructions, I take care of the cat.
And then it is time to say goodbye. And I cry. I ugly cry.
For cats like Rocky and Patches and Abby and Bianca and the other fosters who are out there, living just outside the physical border of Tabby’s Place, this stopped an unnecessarily fast death. This allowed them to enjoy the freedom of life and love, in a home where a human devotedly doted love in pets and skritches and kisses and wet food.
These cats do not deserve to simply die, alone, on a cold metal table with no humans to love them.
When my previous hospice fosters were ready for the Rainbow Bridge – the staff arrived. They uprooted themselves from their spaces and places regardless of the time and came to give the kitties pets and kisses and their secret whispered admissions of love.
Each passed to the Rainbow Bridge surrounded by the humans who loved them, the humans who spent their time and energy and emotion ensuring they had the best life possible despite the odds that clearly stated – “No”.
I cry for each one. Seven days was the shortest hospice foster, four years the longest.
I carry on. I carry my flag, the flag of love. And with the support of donors, that flag will carry on – Abby, Bianca, Patches, Rocky – you have my love, eternally. I can only hope that my love was enough for you, because you each deserved an endless amount.
Your paw prints are on my heart for eternity. I add them to my flag, my flag of love.
And when the time comes, instead of a cold metal table – we will say the correct goodbye – surrounded by people who love him, who appreciate him, who care about him.
And it will be on a soft, warm towel, with loving hands giving the sweet touch of goodbye.
The correct goodbye.