Tomorrow is Halloween. Some sort of black cat story seemed appropriate. This post is about 3 times longer than blog posts need to be, but I believe you’ll find it justified in the end. It is a true story. Hope you enjoy it.
My neighbor’s cats had three full-time jobs: eating, napping and hating each other, but when the time came, Puddy, Sambo and Hal knew what mattered.
Our neighbor Bonnie suffered from Crohn’s Disease, an affliction that zapped her physical and mental energies. After their son left for college, she and her husband decided to get a cat to keep her company while he was away at work.
Into their life came Puddy, a solid white, long-haired female cat with celadon eyes and full Prima Dona attitude. Nothing was too good for “the Puds” as Bonnie called her. A fancy collar, painted ceramic feeding dishes, real fur mice toys, pricey tinned food, and plenty of catnip. Puds’ eyes flashed psychedelic green after a “rolling taste” in the weed. Bonnie would spread a small pile of it on the carpet and Puds licked her paws before coating them with the kitty drug and ‘getting crazy,’ as they say. The weed transformed her into Wonder Cat as she pursued her dancing wire dangle toys and furry mice with evil passion. Those wild and crazy moments dulled the edge of daily solitude and delivered welcome fits of laughter for Bonnie.
Puds frequently stretched out close to Bonnie in the TV room, resting companionably in the warm panes of sunshine through the double deck doors. Even more often, though, the cat burrowed in alongside Bonnie on the sofa, the two of them napping long afternoon hours away in front of movies playing on the television. Soap operas, talk shows and news programs cannot compete with a warm, snuggling animal.
Bonnie’s deck was outfitted with numerous bird feeders dangling from bordering bushes and small fruit trees, along with bowls of food conveniently placed out there for visiting strays. This is how Sambo entered the picture. He started showing up on her deck every morning for breakfast. Puds watched him through the deck doors, tail twitching, hissing when he stuck his nose up to the screen. Sambo watched back unfazed by her attempts at intimidation.
One day Bonnie noticed a tear in his ear. Sliding the double doors open she coaxed him inside. The wound was treated, healing soon after, and Sammie–as she called him–and Bonnie sealed a friendship. Puds didn’t approve of this, of course, but they learned to compromise. Puddy moved her cat-nap act into the formal front room of the house whenever Sambo was inside. Bonnie nicknamed it the “Throne Room.” Complete with mahogany furniture and brocade sofa and chairs, it seemed the perfect place for the White Princess. (No boys allowed!) And Sambo never tried. Being with Bonnie was enough for him.
His beautiful moss-green eyes kept watch on the outside world while perched atop an oversized quilt next to Bonnie on the arm of the sofa. Come nightfall, however, he demanded—and received—egress out the patio doors for his favorite nighttime activities, but he always returned at daybreak to spend the day with her.
I don’t remember exactly where Hal came from, or why Bonnie gave the young tiger-striped gray male that name. He just started showing up at the deck door each day, inspecting the feeding dish, and Bonnie couldn’t resist, of course. One morning the deck doors were opened and in he came–to stay.
Sambo had conspicuous eagle talons for claws, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he could’ve whipped Puds or Hal with one paw tied behind his back, but he never did. I’d like to think they created a silent pact between them, possibly out of respect for the one who showered them with appropriate doses of love and vittles.
Hal seemed relegated to “adopted cousin” status. He’d curl and respond under the love of Bonnie’s hand, but there was no pillow throne for him, and he didn’t seem sure where he stood in the household. Resembling a young, fun-loving teenager, he often tried to entice Sambo off his perch. Sambo eyed him with a “don’t you do it” green stare, but Hal kept pushing the envelope and finally the older, bigger cat would spring from his cushion, chasing the young punk out through the galley kitchen, around the sun porch, back through the kitchen, finally returning to Bonnie, who enjoyed bouts of hysterical laughter at such scenes.
Point made, Hal would take up his only real seat in the room–Bonnie’s husband’s leather recliner. Sambo resumed his nap next to Bonnie, the brief entertainment over. But the circus could easily start up again if Hal decided to venture into the Throne Room, only to come flying back out with Prima Dona Puds close behind, hissing and spitting, poised to slap. Hal never really did get it: Throne Room: Puddy’s. Daytime pillow next to Bonnie: Sambo’s. Always.
Bonnie’s body grew tired of its fight with the disease, and eventually a hospital bed was set up for her in the TV room. The cats took turns sniffing and inspecting this new dynamic in the room, but they never jumped up onto it with her. And then the day came when she no longer needed it.
Several weeks later after her death I stopped to visit her husband, and he shared a fascinating story with me.
As Bonnie’s breathing grew shallow the morning she died, all three cats walked into the room, lined up on the floor by the head of her bed and sat quietly looking up at her, and waited. Bonnie’s husband reminded me how those three had hated each other from the time they met and that he’d never seen them sit that close together before. After Bonnie released her last breath they got up and walked out of the room–each going their separate direction.
The Creator gives animals special vision and talents to comfort, even teach, in mysterious ways that we humans lack for all of our ability to verbalize and rationalize what should be obvious. Puddy, Sambo and Hal put their differences on hold while they gave Bonnie one final gift: peaceful air in which to leave.