A friend of mine has end-stage cancer. And she has a cat. An adored, lovable, beautiful cat that cuddles under her arm, comforting her through afternoon naps and long nights. My friend worries about what will happen to her beloved Cat-Man when she is no longer here. She wants to secure a good home for him. Before she dies.
“I have to find the right person. Someone who will love him to pieces,” she tells me. We both know it will not be me. Totally taken with my dog, I no longer have room left in my heart to love a cat. But I know how she feels. Even without cancer or other known threats to my life, I keep a certain other friend (who loves my dog) informed of where I stash the special sweet-potato-and-fish-formula dog-food, the rabbit-flavored dog candies, and handmade doggie blankets. “Just in case,” I say, with a lump in my throat, whenever I have to leave town.
Years ago my daughter, who also had cancer, willed me her dog. The dog was supposed to be Marika’s lifesaver. “Her life depends on getting this puppy,” family members had said, in the same tones as the doctors who insisted her life depended on getting a bone marrow transplant. The dog couldn’t save Marika in the end. But maybe this inherited dog is my lifesaver. When my world plummeted into darkness, she still had to be fed and walked. She slept with me at night and followed me as I paced the house for days, searching for whatever was left of our girl. She kept me going. And for a while, because of her feistiness, I thought the dog’s soul had been taken over by Marika’s. It was kinda like having my daughter back. Some innate need to love and nurture was fulfilled in taking care of this dog. She soon became a veritable connection to life. And to my daughter. And even though the relationship with my daughter was rocky, I am ever grateful that Marika knew I would love and spoil her dog like I loved and spoiled her.
So I understand my friend’s fierce wish to rehome her cat. Neither of us can bear to think of any creature suffering, especially the ones that fill the part of us our human babies used to fill. Cat-Man is her baby. He will need care and compassion when my friend is no longer here. And in return, he will offer some great comfort and cuddling.
Was there an animal in your life that helped you get through a tough time? Have you ever helped an animal in need?