~by Louis Templeman
February 10, 2016: Goodbye Bob
When I walked out the front door with your breakfast in hand I wasn’t surprised when you did not greet me as you usually do. My neighbor’s hunting dogs were running loose and had awakened me around 3:00 a.m. It was so quick. Their low, hollow barks circled around my home and were gone. When I could not find you in your usual places I felt a pang in the pit of my stomach, “They got you. Oh Bob, I’m so sorry.” Although I felt sure I had lost you I kept looking for a week or so.
I was so angry at those dogs I wanted to catch them and hurt them. In just two months I’d lost two of my three cats. I assume Jet went the same way. I could employ wishful thinking in my grieving over Jet. He was so friendly and charming he could have adopted a new owner and moved on to better digs. But you Bob were so traumatized as a kitten you were a bit feral. With your lame right front paw you were at a disadvantage if ever you needed to run.
I remember when you introduced yourself to me. I was in another house. You were under a tropical plant that was slowly creeping its way around the back yard. As soon as I looked at you, you hissed. After I fed the other cats I walked out to you with some dry food in a bowl. You posed as if to flee, so I stopped while continuing to make little clucking sounds through my teeth. I set the bowl down about fifteen feet away from you. Then I gathered the other pets, all overfed and nosey, and put them in the house so you could have a chance to inspect my offering.
You and I repeated that scenario for several weeks before you came close enough for me to pet you. It took some courage for me to trust you, and vice versa I suppose. A couple more weeks and you became comfortable with me. You stayed pretty cranky so I thought you must be in pain. Once you became calm enough with me that you’d let me pick you up and put you in a carrier I got you to the vet who found an abscessed tooth which she removed. She guessed that your lame leg came from rough treatment when you were an unwanted kitten.
You never warmed up to the other cats, always the grouch, but you slowly became an affectionate little buddy to me. It was almost a year before you crawled up into my lap. It was then I first heard you purr. Once the bank took my house and made me move I had no place to care for you and your fellows. It took me almost four months to find a place that would fit us and my temporary housing could not accommodate any of you, so I was happy to visit all of you first thing every morning and again every day after work and make sure you had food and water; and your monthly flea treatment.
Once I got our new place in good enough shape for me to put a bed in it I picked you up and your two step-brothers and brought you home. I was able to keep you three in a bedroom for a week to acclimate you to the new surroundings before I let you outside. But, once I did it was beautiful. The front porch became your domain. Nearly every morning you would wait for me perched on the 2 x 6 railing. It was wide enough for you to nap on. You always found a way to be comfortable.
By then you had become people friendly and easily stole the hearts of nearly every visitor. If ever a visitor’s hand got near the table or the railing you would jump up and rub against them, inviting them to scratch your head. I don’t know that any refused. It was a slow process but you became born-again from feral scaredy cat to Mr. Personality. But still, you had nothing but hisses and disrespect for my two black twins, Jet and Flo. And, when you made it too difficult for them to ignore you, they would snarl, attack and run you off.
My mother was at our visit to the veterinarian’s office with me and insisted on paying for your care. When they asked me for your name I realized I had not settled on one. Since you looked like a little bobcat, Bob became your name and since your benefactor’s name was Shelton, I completed the name as Bob Shelton. Everyone chuckled and thought that was an unusual name for a cat, but to me it was a close fit.
It is hard for me to think how I admitted you to such a violent world. You were a victim of violence before we met and in the end, again a victim. Out here in this semi-rural neighborhood I have witnessed moments of violence. Twice I rescued a bird from Jet’s claws. And, a week after you were gone I witnessed a red hawk pouncing on a finch through my kitchen window. The other birds, scared but lucky, flurried off to safety as in a choreographed leap of fright. The hawk had to pause a moment to recover from his sudden stop where it appeared he crashed into the yard as he landed on his trembling prey. He then flew off with the little finch in his fisted talons.
I thought I was being strong regarding your sudden departure until I spoke of it to my mother. I said, “I’ve got bad news, Mom. Bob’s gone.” She wanted to know, Bob who? It was then a flood of tears gushed out with my short little requiem, “Bob Shelton, my cat.” That’s when I really knew my heart was broken. It grieves me that violence is such a mainstay of today’s world, both yours and mine. When I consider how we both came from the same creative fatherhood I feel we must share a common hope. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8: 22 ASV).
In this strange, often violent world that we live in there has to be a hope to get us through such grief. And, I think God has provided just that. I see it particularly in St. Paul’s words, “For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8: 20 – 21).
My black cat Flo is alone now. He was traumatized at Jet’s departure. It took him a week or so to get back to normal. Flo does not seem to miss you. However, I do. I will cherish your photos and memories. We were good for each other. You are up there with God waiting on me, keep the light on. I’ll get there eventually.
Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.
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