Monday, 11 February 2013
By Joanne Zimmermann
One would not think that a mere cat could be so special. I first met Abby in the back room of cages at the Humane Society. I had suffered a bad experience and could not seem to right myself. I was 66 years old.
I had volunteered there and not finding a cat in the adoption room, I ventured in the back to see who was coming up for adoption. My son was with me and a graceful, multi-hued, slender paw with a white glove reached out to touch us.
We noticed how unusual she was, her coat looking like a short orange mackerel with black and grey tabby bulls-eyes on her sides. All four paws had white gloves, as well as her underside. We were smitten and adopted her that day. She was a young adult.
We named her Abby after Abigail Van Buren, as I got her for therapy. And indeed, she seemed to listen and jumped on my lap when she knew I needed her.
Over the years she demonstrated a great skill for opening doors, grabbing the handle which released the latch, then reaching under the door to open it. She also learned to open the sliding door screen by pushing it sideways. She only made it wide enough for herself and Dusty, a fat Maine Coon cat, could not get through.
She did not learn to close it but I guess that is expecting a bit much.
She modeled for a cat sculpture I did as a fund raiser for a new building at the Humane Society, her long graceful limbs and question mark tail being reproduced 41 times. Artists from all over painted the sculptures and we raised $80,000.
She preferred to drink outside from a watering can, standing up and dipping her paw into the water, then licking it. She loved melon and could smell it from outside the moment I cut into one. She ate dry food all her life but when she had enough, she would open the screen door and go out for lunch catching an unsuspecting chameleon.
I could hardly tell she was aging, the vet said going on 14. He checked her blood and said it was like a teenager. He was amazed she loved melon, and “cha-melon,” so take that you cat food experts!
But she was upset by the addition of my associate’s two cats to our household. Even Dusty began to pick on her. I got some Feliway, a pheromone product that calms cats and it worked somewhat.
They all settled down but played a game called, “Ha ha, I’ve got your favorite spot.” Dusty stole Abby's green velvet chair overlooking our garden and lake. I stopped him many times but Abby gave up and found another location.
Two days ago she returned to the chair. I stopped to pet her and tell her that was her velvet throne and she would always have it. For some reason, I spent a lot of time with her. I am so glad, for later that day I saw her slip through a hole in the fence as she has done many times. But she did not return.
Darkness fell and she always came in, but she did not. In the morning I looked everywhere, even putting a sign up in the neighborhood.
I walked to the other side of the fence to see where she might have gone. Down the hill, I found a large hole under a huge oak tree root where the ground sloped away. I did not know it was there and called her.
I looked into it but could not see back far enough. I did see signs of small paws in the sand. It was like a basement veranda overlooking the lake.
I like to think that is where Abby went to die. She was so independent, never really needing much. But what an impression she made on my life. She saved me from myself with her gentle ways.
Do you know, the problem I was upset about did not go away but my feelings about it have changed. I am at peace now but only recently. I feel Abby stayed until she knew I could handle it.
My 80th birthday was last week and because of finding, Abby I know my remaining years will be more serene. And today I noticed Dusty dipping his paw in the watering can. Even he benefited from meeting her.
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