The Olympiad

The Olympiad

The Summer Olympics will be held in Paris, they tell me.

But I say, both Summer and Paris are here, for Olympia has taken gold.

Being a sovereign nation, Tabby’s Place awards its own medals.

Being nobler than other nations, we use the most precious metals, by which I mean beef nuggets. Yet this is not how we have attracted the world’s elite athletes.

We admire buoyant pole-vaulters and majestic shot putters. We applaud all who flip-turn like otters or dead-lift weights exceeding Baby.

But Team Tabby’s Place excels in the most challenging sport of all: holding one’s heart wide open.

Olympia trained in the usual way, which is the only way. She suffered.

We cannot piece together the forgotten years, any more than we can put the tabby stripes back on her uniform. But somewhere between innocent youth and innocent old age, Olympia was lost.

Note that I did not say “Olympia lost,” because she did not. Someone lost, but it was not the discarded cat. Anyone who snips the cord of love and lets it clang to the floor is guaranteed to lose.

Olympia would never do such a thing.

The years crowded in, and her espresso eyes clouded. Olympia grew tired inside her tiramisu stripes. Her fur grew knots stronger than the bond her previous person felt for her. Decathlons of disease rampaged her tiny body.

By the time Animal Control glimpsed a flash of gold, Olympia was nearly out of time.

But the medal around her chest was nearly blinding in the sunlight.

Olympia’s heart, though broken, remained wide open.

A cat, ancient and abandoned, still expected the best. It came. She came to Tabby’s Place. Big eyes brimming, she gave her victory speech: “I knew it!”

How did she know she would win? There is no accounting for the confidence of old cats and children. There was no reason for Olympia to trust us. Trust had hocked its reasons, like a lumpy prizefighter pawning his belt.

But a champion can change the rules of the game.

Olympia rewrote many rules on arrival. Her intake paperwork states that she is a “cat,” but (quoth Jae), her voice is clearly that of a “very confused elderly duck.”

She may be nearly blind, but the more accurate diagnosis is (here I quote persons far more intelligent than I), “bewildered-looking.”

Her Olympic suite included a “hidey bed,” used since ancient Greece for the purpose of “hiding.” But Olympia waived the right to hide on the same day she asserted the right to trust.

She sits atop her cocoon as though it were a pedestal. She hears her anthem. She sings along, in an otherworldly meow that none can describe.

(“Duck” comes close, but no water fowl ever exuded such splendor.)

She is not naïve, not at this age and with this many medals. Olympia knows her body will not make it to the 2028 Games. Her temperature once dropped to 91.5. She sometimes needs heat support. A cyst sits like a shot put in her liver, and her kidneys and pancreas wobble on the uneven bars. She was so matted, she had to be shaved down to her velvety skin.

Olympia in the arms of her adoring foster mama Drew

A red sweater keeps her warm. But we are not naïve. It is Olympia who keeps us warm.

We do not know the schedule of events. We train our cats to defy diagnoses. We nestle Olympia in the home of Drew, a foster mom so selfless, she makes the angels raise their hands to their hearts. We win.

We win, because Olympia came to Tabby’s Place.

Her open heart outran the places in us that are still scared and shut.

We win, because Olympia expected that she would be loved, even when the odds were a thousand to zero, and we got to prove her right.

We win, because Tabby’s Place is a kind of cloud-Paris.

Tabby’s Place is everything you would expect from a City of Light, if you were still young enough to insist that love be kind.

We win, because a cat made of years insists that we can be made new, too.

We win, because love reminded us to remember this senior.

Whatever comes next, we win.

Oh, what was that? You want to hear the dulcet tones of “The Duck”? Your wish is our command. Photos and video courtesy of the majestic Drew.

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