Many many years ago, Uncle Bob told me, “Don’t be surprised if you find it harder to lose a pet than a person.” I thought he was joking, “Well, we don’t have the same complications and conditions on animals as we do on our human relationships,” he explained.
A relationship with a pet is straightforward and rather predictable especially if that relationship lasts two decades. It is unconditional, dependable and extremely intimate. For instance, my cat, Lucy saw me at my most vulnerable and at my best and she never judged one from the other. It seemed as long as she was by my side all days were the same to her. I was relieved for her company whether we were on a road trip or in bed at the end of a long day.
Lucy Kitty was a Norwegian Forest cat. I adopted her in St Paul, Minnesota in February of 2001. When I walked into the shelter she made herself known by getting on her hind legs and using her front paws to bang on the cage. It was an expression I was amazed a cat could do and I asked for her to be taken out of the cage so I could hold her. She was a complete charmer and showed me the affection of the most loyal of pet friends. I asked if I could take her on the condition that I could return her if she did not get along with my cat, Koh Tao, who was already at home and not expecting a roommate. The shelter reluctantly agreed and Lucy, called Taffy then, followed me as if she had won a lottery.
Koh Tao was not happy with Lucy showing up unexpectedly and he hissed and complained a great deal. I remember kneeling down to him and explaining that I thought Lucy would be a good companion for him, that he seemed lonely, that he needed a friend. Then I felt little paws race up my back and suddenly, Lucy was on my shoulder looking down at him. I laughed and said, “C’mon, Koh Tao. How can we say ‘no’ to her.”
So, she stayed and he tolerated her and eventually they became close but never too close. Frenemies would be the best word to describe their relationship of twelve years. Lucy was the cat everyone seemed to gravitate to. She never let anyone hold her but she would make her affection known by being close to people…until one night.
Years ago, the first time Matt visited, I was stunned how Lucy flirted with him. She allowed him rub her belly and he casually held her in a vulnerable cradling position throughout his visit. I was jealously annoyed with her because she had never let me do the same despite years of trying. So, I took notice. As pet people do, I talked to her about it after Matt left.
“Luce, what was that all about? You made quite the display of yourself. What do you see in Matt that you’ve never seen in anyone else?”
Obviously, I took notice of Matt in a different way and now here we are 12 years later. She had a keen sense of what I needed or what we needed. She was very astute at observing people’s moods, emotions and illnesses. She lay next to me through three pregnancies, and with my friend, Tullio as he passed from cancer. She lay with Matt through all his days in bed and snoozed next to Uncle Bob playing endless games of chess. She was soft and kind like a little cartoon kitty. She joined in on late night fire pits, enjoyed watching ducks and fish from our Muskoka dock, and went for long walks through farm fields.
On Friday night, Lucy developed complications that were beyond treating. We made the quick decision to have her put down gently rather than submit her to a slew of tests and treatments. She was likely a grand 19 years old. A mighty age for a cat. Our hearts are heavy but we continue to smile when we think of her and all the ways she actually changed the course of our lives for the better. She rests with her pal, Koh Tao and we will miss them both dearly. Bob was right, there is nothing but sweet memories. For 17 years, I did not regret for a moment that our relationship existed or that I was responsible for her well being.
Lucy, I would do it for 17 more and 17 more beyond that… We wish you a peaceful rest next to Koh Tao. May you always fill our hearts with your precious spirit. Xx