I only got to know Pierre in the late December of his life. His people had hired me to look after him when they went on a much-needed vacation. From the moment those huge green kaleidoscope eyes looked up at me from his little bed, I was had.
He was 19 years old, and very thin. His long grey fur was thin, disheveled and somewhat matted. Just underneath were bones and very little flesh, which made grooming him difficult because he seemed so frail. But those eyes... you could get lost in them. I wondered what he had been like when he was a young cat in his prime, with those incredible eyes and that long grey fur that had likely been more plentiful and well-groomed in his younger years; he must have been just stunningly grand. His people have told me that he was fun, talkative, and cuddly.
But now, he slept a lot. Most of his time was spent in an upturned igloo-style kitty bed next to the gas fireplace in the living room. Even when the fireplace wasn’t on, the pilot light put off a bit of heat that he liked being near. This is where I would find him every time I visited. Most of the time he’d be sleeping when I arrived, and I would gently wake him so as not to startle him, although he startled anyway sometimes. His people requested that I get him up when I visited and get him walking around. That was never a problem; as soon as those big eyes opened up and I had cooed him hello and gently petted him, I would get up and head into the kitchen and he would get up and follow me. His gait was stiff and slow, but he got around. I’d take care of his feeding, watering, and litter, while he inspected my work and sampled the wet food. He'd talk to me quite a bit, and of course I talked back.
Sometimes he would wander out of the kitchen while I was busy and end up in another room sending out this mournful, lonely yowl that echoed through the house, bouncing off the hardwood floors and then straight to my heart. It was almost like he’d forget I was there and wonder where everyone was. I’d run and reassure him that I was there and he wasn’t all alone, and he’d stop and follow me back to the kitchen.
I had quite a few sitting assignments with him over the next few months, during which time we bonded pretty well. These were followed by a long stretch when I didn’t see him, which happens in my line of work. I worried during that time if he was all right. Then they booked again, and I was thrilled to see him again! This time he’d had a shave and you could see his bones, not just feel them. It was a bit startling, but I was glad that he didn’t have the mats anymore and was likely much more comfortable. It was, I think, a four- or five-day assignment. From the start I had a feeling that this might be the last time I see him. It wasn’t an enjoyable thought; but I felt that I needed to make the most of this time with him. For this stretch of visits, upon my arrival I would gently pick him up in his igloo and let him wake up with me cradling him comfortably and cooing at him. I spent a lot of time with him on my lap those few days, either in the igloo or out. He wanted to be there—he would jump up next to me to climb on whenever I sat down--but most of the time would not sit and relax. He would sit upright and as I’d pet him gently along his bony sides, he’d quietly purr and crouch lower and lower, but not all the way down--until the last day.
On the last day, I was very somber and I knew in my heart that I likely would not see him again. John was there, and being forever the optimist, he said I shouldn’t think like that. I knew it was reality though, and I would rather say goodbye and be wrong than not at all. I spent almost the entire visit with him on my lap (while John did the chores), talking to him softly and telling him how very, very special he was. He finally allowed himself to lie down in my lap! I so badly wanted to make that time last and last. When it was time to go, I had to be urged several times to leave; I didn’t want to put him down and never see him again! It was tough. I kissed him and told him how much I loved him, and slowly left with a heavy heart.
About a month later, he was suddenly on my mind so much that I sent his people an email asking about him. When I got the reply, I knew before even opening it that the news would be bad. I just knew. And it was—he had passed just the day before. I shouldn’t have read the message while on a cat visit, because those poor cats were probably very confused by their happy cat sitter suddenly being in tears. I cried as I scooped their boxes and then pulled it together before going back up to the cats. I got on the floor and exchanged some love with them to assuage my aching heart. Cats are always so good at that.
I know it was his time. I know he was well loved and cared for until the very end. I know he had a long, happy life. His people loved him dearly and took wonderful care of him for his entire life--he'd grown up with their son. I wish I’d known him earlier, but really I just feel blessed to get to be a part of his life, however brief my part was. That is what is so rewarding about what I do. I get to know so many special cats, at all stages in their lives, at their best and at their worst. They touch my heart every single day, and I hope that I touch theirs. I know Pierre will stay in my heart forever.
By Molly Rosen
Molly the Cat Lady & Friends
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