The first time I opened the door and an orange streak bolted between my legs, I almost fell down trying to shuffle out of its way.
“What the hell?” I shouted.
I looked to see what had flashed past me. A big ball of orange fur was rubbing itself against my wife Carol’s leg. The orange Tabby purred as if it had known us forever.
The cat had found a loyal friend who would coddle and spoil her like no one else.
Gracie, as we learned to call her, was not a one-person cat. She was a neighborhood cat and made her rounds. First the neighbor on the left, then the one on the right. Then the house across the street. We never knew if Gracie would show up at our house for meals, but it didn’t matter. No matter when she showed up, Carol would find some cat treats for her. She would choose her sleeping quarters and as time went on, she seemed to favor the house where Carol and I lived.
Gracie taught me to be prepared when I opened the door. If she was out there, she would bolt between my legs every time.
Carol had a habit of spoiling animals. Some say that she also spoils this particular animal of the humankind. Gracie eventually decided that a spot on our bed, at Carol’s feet suited her fine. Often by time we went to bed Gracie was already curled up snoozing away and didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
Gracie had medical problems. She would have seizures which would cause her to convulse and throw up. It was not pleasant to watch, but it was touching to see Carol tend to Gracie, petting and soothing Gracie until the seizure diminished. Gracie seemed to know when the seizures were coming on and would find Carol, and Carol always seemed ready with a pillow and a towel to comfort her while the feline demons swilled around inside Gracie’s body. Carol petted and sweet-talked until the seizures subsided.
Even though Gracie was a neighborhood cat, Carol took on the responsibility of taking Gracie for a visit with the local cat doctor. Carol came home with a bottle of Phenobarbital pills that she administered daily to control the seizures. It worked most of the time, however, from time to time, Gracie would have a mild seizure but nothing as bad as she had in the past.
At the time, Gracie came into our life we were living in a rambler on the outskirts of Puyallup, Washington, while we prepared for a move to our tree farm in the woods near Mossyrock.
When it came time for us to move, a neighborhood meeting decided that although Gracie would be missed in the neighborhood, it would be best if Gracie moved away with Carol. Since we were moving to the country, it might be more suitable for her and we wouldn’t have to worry about her being run over.
As we packed up for the move, Gracie seemed to sense that we might be moving on and stayed very close to our house. She hadn’t totally abandoned the neighbors but the nights that she stayed away were less frequent.
When we had the final load packed, Gracie was there waiting. The only thing missing was her holding a suitcase. It was as if she knew that this was the final ride out of town. She gladly climbed up into the cab of the old GMC dually pick-up and even though Carol was driving, she made her way onto Carol’s lap. I tried to bring her over to my lap, but she put up a fuss and ended that.
When we arrived at the farm, I took Gracie from Carol’s lap and put her down in the yard. Moments later, she was in the field in front of the house and appeared to be on the hunt.
Stalking in a crouched slow crawl position, she seemed intent on checking out the molehills that dotted the field.
Feeling confident that she wouldn’t run away, we went about our business of moving into the house.
A short time later, Carol stepped out on the porch to find Gracie there with a live garden snake in her mouth. As Carol stepped onto the porch, Gracie dropped the snake at her feet and the snake slithered away. Gracie rubbed against Carol’s leg and started purring as if to say, “Aren’t you glad you rescued me? I brought you this nice gift.”
Carol reached down and picked up Gracie and cuddled her in her arms, “You are such a good kitty. You knew we could never leave you.”
As time moved on, and we settled more firmly into farm life, Gracie loved the outdoors on sunny days, but wouldn’t leave the house during the rain. She could often be seen staked out near a molehill, waiting patiently for the mole’s head to pop up. She didn’t catch too many moles, but it was frequent that she would deposit a dead field mouse on the front porch. It appeared as if she thought that she was rewarding us for taking good care of her. And we did. She shared the house with Raggs, our Terrier/Poodle mix, but maintained her place at the foot of the bed at Carol’s feet.
Although her seizures were somewhat in check, it seemed the longer she was on the Phenobarbital the more frequent the mild seizures returned. There was never a question of when they were coming on because, no matter where Carol was, or what she was doing, if she was home Gracie was at her feet. I occasionally had to fill in for Carol but I knew I wasn’t the chosen one.
The problem with all pets is that we become too attached. When it is time to say goodbye it rips our hearts out. So it was with Gracie.
One day Gracie came into the living room and settled in at Carol’s feet, while Carol sat on the couch. We could tell that Gracie wasn’t steady when she approached. Carol picked her up and cradled her against her chest. It seemed like she was about to have another minor seizure, but instead Gracie stiffened up with a final gasp and expired in those loving arms that had nurtured her through her final days. The tears rolled down Carol’s cheeks.
I was sitting in the recliner with Raggs tucked in beside me. Raggs seemed to sense what was going on, jumped down from the recliner, hopped on the couch and settled in against Carol’s side as she rocked Gracie in eternal sleep.
The spiritual connection between humans and animals sometimes defies logic. With Gracie, it was one of those times.
With me? I sadly miss jiggering out of the way for an orange flash of fur whenever I open the door.