How My Rescue Cat Rescued My Marriage
My husband is that seemingly rare breed of man: true a cat person. When we merged households in 2003, he brought sisters Penny and Patty (at that time 14). I brought Gremlin and Storm (at that time 5).
Penny and Patty were the only remaining siblings from a litter Hubby saved from a woodpile when they are only days old. He loves all animals, including my two kitties. But there's no doubt his girls hold the place of honor in his heart (right next to me and his mom, of course).
And of the two, there's no question that Penny is Daddy's #1 Angel.
Daddy's Lucky Penny
The Story of Pen Pen
From the first night I spent at Hubby's house, Penny welcomed me with open paws. She jumped right up on the bed to rub her pink little nose against mine. She seemed to say, "Hey, there nice lady. I've got more love to share than one human can take. Here, let me give you some."
Although in her upper teens, Penny lalways ooked like a kitten. She showed none of the telltale signs of aging ...until this past year. Suddenly, she became lethargic and started losing weight (which on a 7 lb. frame she could ill afford). Where previously Penny had always smelled like flowers (we dubbed her 'Peony') her breath became rank.
We knew something was seriously wrong. The official diagnosis: renal failure.
Her decline happened to coincide with several traumatic events in our family. But Penny understood her responsibility to comfort her dad -- and her mom -- through these circumstances. That was Penny's gig. If she were a person she would be a nurse. She just had a way of calming us by her mere presence. Wordlessly, she'd climb up on your chest and perch there, radiating unconditional love.
We (but especially Hubby) reacted to Penny's illness with 99% raw emotion and 1% common sense. Maybe we were selfish, but we needed her here with us.We couldn't let her go just yet. And so we did everything we could to keep her alive.
Providence guided us to a vet schooled in both western and eastern medicine. In our state of mind we were willing to try whatever she suggested.
And so we became weekly visitors to the vet clinic. Penny endured acupuncture, Chinese herbs and even a blood transfusion. (Gremlin and Storm were tested as possible donors but were not a match.) Each night we stuck a hollow needle in the scruff of ner neck to inject subcutaneous fluids. We put her in diapers. When we had to travel for a weekend, we boarded her with the vet. Penny became as beloved to the staff as she was to us. No surprise there: to meet Penny was to fall in love with her sweet feline goodness.
The Stage Is Set by the Vet
Because we spent so much time (not to mention a truly obscene amount of money) at the vet clinic, they came to see us as responsible, if obessive-compulsive pet owners.
Sometime in early June they introduced us to a new patient: a tiny tabby kitten. He had been brought in by animal control after being rescued from a grass fire. They were treating him for smoke inhalation and severe burns. The pads on the bottom of his paws were charred to a crisp. His face and ears were scarred. And his little whiskers had been singed clear off.
Physically, he was as down and out as Penny. The difference, of course, was that he was just beginning his 2nd of 9 lives whereas she was on life #8.999.
During one of Penny's weekend visits, the vet staff put her in the cage with the kitten. As sick and miserable as I know she felt, I witnessed her licking him like the good little caretaker she always was.
The staff asked if we would be willling to adopt little Weber (named for the grill -- get it?), who also went by French Fry or Kingsford. I jumped immediately. Hubby was too fixated on keeping Penny alive to commit.
Hubby admits he is not a multi-tasker. He does best concentrating on one task at a time. He felt we should wait until Penny was gone to bring in a replacement. Actually, let me amend that. He was adament that there could never ever be a cat to replace Penny -- not Weber/French Fry/Kingsford, or any other cat. Ever.
I felt otherwise. I knew we were going to adopt "Weber" sooner or later. I saw no reason whatsoever not to bring him home while Penny was still with us. So I made an executive household decision. One day when I took Penny for her weekly acupuncture I returned hom with our little bundle of tiger-striped (and spotted) joy.
I somehow knew I wouldn't get much resistance from Hubby. And I was right. It's pretty impossible to say, "I said to wait. Now take that adorable kitten who's orphaned and burned back to the vet and make him stay in a cage for at least another week till we're ready for him."
We agreed he needed a better name than Weber, Kingsford or French Fry. He deserved a name that wouldn't be a constant reminder of his fiery beginnings. With his scarred face and ears, he looks like a scrappy prizefighter after 10 brutal rounds. The first name that came to mind was "Jimmy." (Think Jimmy Cagney). And it stuck.
Less than a week later, the fateful day we'd been dreading finally arrived. We just knew it was time. And so we took Penny in at 1 a.m. Coincidentally, "our" vet was on duty that night to usher her over the Rainbow Bridge to Kitty Heaven.
In hindsight, I believe Penny masterminded Jimmy's adoption. First, she brought us to the special vet where we were meant to meet her little legacy. She made sure she hung on long enough to see we would be taken care of by a kindred spirit. I also believe Penny had a serious talk with Jimmy when they were in that cage together. Seriously. None of our other cats sits on our chests the way Penny used to. But Jimmy does. None of our other cats plops into visitors' laps. None of our other cats have the pure angelic spirit that Penny used to have. But Jimmy has it.
Getting Jimmy was a godsend. My husband was still devestated by Penny's death, of course. But the antics of our frisky kitten brought laughter through the tears. Jimmy changed our focus from loss to anticipation; lightened our mood from grief to giddiness. We watched for his "firsts" like any proud new parents.
I'm so grateful to have this diversion for my husband. I just can't stand to see him down ....and neither can Jimmy.