I am happy to live in an old home from the late 1800s. Downstairs is my landlord, an all around wonderful person and animal lover. I live upstairs. My landlord who I will refer to as “N”, will save most any creature he comes across. This includes bats, birds and feral cats. When I first moved in, N had four feral cats who lived in the backyard that he took care of. Three of the ferals eventually became domesticated and turned into indoor/outdoor cats, but not the fourth feral, Lil’ Spotty. Lil’ Spotty was truly wild and would not allow anyone too close to her. So, what did my landlord do? He made her a house that had a heated pad, multiple blankets and flaps (although half the flaps were cut off or else she would not go into her house). In the fall and wintertime, she could often be found in her house as pictured. She slept there at night, too. Another one of her favorite hiding places was way under the bushes, past plantings of wildflowers, under a large window.
Eventually, Spotty got used to me, where I could go in the backyard, sit back and observe her in a sun patch, stretching out on a lounge chair, or walking around. She would not run. But, I never got too close. I loved being able to see her outside from my windows which face the backyard or peek to see if she was “home” in her shelter. I would talk to her and I swear, she would wink and blink at me. She was a little calico girl, who began to grow quickly, thanks to my landlord’s care.
My landlord, N made sure she had moist and dry kibble meals, plenty of snacks and fresh water. She had it pretty good. You could tell he enjoyed his rituals of taking care of her. She tended to come out when he was around and when he called for her. She knew it was safe. I would give him gift bags of goodies to give to her.
Spotty survived two brutal Buffalo winters which included actual blizzards. Try as he might, N could not get Spotty to come inside. However, she stayed as warm as possible in her heated house. This past November 2015 (which was very mild), N noticed she had blood on her. It appeared to be coming from a gash on her body. Concerned, N contacted a local feral group who had members come over to problem solve with what to do for Spotty. She would not allow anyone near her. Trap and release did not work for her. The group did not want to traumatize her further. They gave her a couple of months to live. Maybe there will be a miracle?
The call eventually came. Spotty was not coming for her food or water or snacks. N had not seen her in two days. He asked my friend, also a Spotty lover to please help look for her. My friend is petite and athletic so she was able to handle all the crawling and climbing around nooks and crannies in tight spaces to investigate. She found Spotty way under the bushes, beyond the wildflowers in a sleeping position with her paws over her eyes. She had died.
Make no mistake that the death of an animal cared for can cause grief and mourning in the caregivers and the lovers of that animal. Just because Spotty was a feral cat, it did not make her death any easier. My landlord no longer had a ritual of caregiving to her. She brought daily joy and smiles to him and to me. There was bonding, responsibility and commitment via my landlord and his relationship with Spotty. Although no one will ever take the place of Spotty, he is hoping another feral cat will live in her heated house.
I still look out my backyard windows hoping to see Lil’ Spotty. Her death triggered thoughts of other losses and concern for my rescued cats who are all in their double digits. I think about her when I go in the backyard and feel some melancholy as I write this blog entry. This spring that garden of flowers will memorialize Spotty’s life. So long, Lil ‘Spotty, til we meet again.
If you or someone you love is affected by the death of a beloved pet, please feel free to look at my pet bereavement page on my website at www.pawkettwholementalhealthcounseling.com