A Feline Farewell

She wasn’t there to say goodbye to her sweet kitten, but he said goodbye to her.

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A Feline Farewell

My husband, Weems, and I were with family in Georgia for Thanksgiving, but my thoughts were back home in Texas with our kitten, Maynard. Weems and I are cat rescuers. We’d found Maynard as a newborn eight months earlier.

He’d been born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), but we held out hope that it wouldn’t be terminal. Before we left for our trip, I arranged for a pet sitter to watch our two dogs and four cats.

Then I dropped Maynard off with my best friend, Debbie. I knew she’d be able to give him the extra care he needed. “See you soon,” I whispered to Maynard.

Just before we all gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, Debbie called. “Dusty, I’m at the vet,” she said. My stomach knotted. “Maynard’s in bad shape. The pressure on his brain increased and there’s nothing more they can do. They need your permission to put him to sleep.”

“No!” I cried. “Not now! I have to be there.” How could I let Maynard go without saying goodbye?

From the first time I laid eyes on him, he stood out from his littermates. He had an unusually large head and perfect tuxedo markings: a black coat and pants along with white gloves, spats and a pattern on his neck that looked like a bowtie.

He even had a little goatee that reminded me of the beatnik Maynard G. Krebs from the 1960s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Hence the name.

Maynard was listless compared with his brothers and sisters. And when they darted away from the vacuum cleaner, he lurched at it heedlessly. The vet diagnosed him with deafness as well as hydrocephalus. The prognosis was poor.

“The kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep,” she said. But since Maynard seemed content and wasn’t in obvious pain, we refused.

I prayed for something to help him and found a natural remedy that used yellow lady’s slipper orchid. What do we have to lose? I thought. A few days after his first dose, Maynard was alert and playful. He claimed a special place in my heart...and at my feet.

Well, on my ankles, to be exact. That was his favorite sleeping spot. In our 25 years of feline rescue I’d never had a cat sleep there. He’d gently drape himself across my ankles and drift off. It was so sweet. Comforting, actually.

Now I couldn’t imagine our home without Maynard. “Can’t they do something for him till we get back?” I begged Debbie.

The vet took the phone. “Dusty, I’m sorry,” she said. “He’s suffering terribly. It’s time.”

I listened to our kitten crying pitifully in the background and I knew. We had to let him go.

On our flight home after Thanksgiving, the guilt hit me hard. “I should’ve been with him,” I said to Weems.

“Oh, Dusty, there’s no way you could have known,” he said. “The important thing is, Maynard knew he was loved. We gave him a good life, short as it was.”

All that winter my heart ached for Maynard. One night I lay in bed, eyes closed but wide awake. Weems was asleep beside me; Basil, one of our adult cats, was curled up with him.

Suddenly, I felt another cat jump onto the bed. Its little paws padded toward my feet. It paused there for a moment, then lay down right on top of my ankles. Maynard’s spot! That’s strange, I thought. I wonder which cat it is...

I opened my eyes. The moonlight seeped through the blinds, casting a soft glow. I recognized the shapes of Weems and Basil, but despite the gentle weight on top of my ankles, there was nothing there. Nothing at all.

I didn’t move a muscle. I just lay there quietly, enjoying the feeling of the cat’s weight on my legs. “Goodbye, sweet Maynard,” I whispered just as I drifted off to sleep. The next morning, the pressure on my ankles was gone. And the ache in my heart was too.

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