I was lying in bed last night, just on the edge of sleep when I felt and heard a delicate “pffft” at the foot of the bed. If you have a cat, you know what I mean. It’s that distinct sound and feel of cat paws landing on a blanket. There’s often a hesitation before that first step, then a weight four times that of your cat as each paw bores into every tender point on your body as she makes her way up for attention. I miss those heavy paws.
Until mid-June of last year, our pack included a calico cat named Kallie. As with many cats, she wasn’t the cuddliest of creatures but when she was ready for affection, she would honor me with her presence on my lap or at my side on the couch. At 19, she’d lived longer than any of us thought she would, considering her health issues: hyperthyroid, kidney failure, arthritis.
We knew we wanted her to die at home in a place she was comfortable, surrounded by her entire pack, humans and dogs. I was confident that she was ready, but we spoke with Mary Ketaily, our neighbor and animal communicator, just to be sure. She confirmed that Kallie was mentally and physically tired but that she couldn’t go on her own. Kallie wanted our help. Mary also mentioned that the dogs probably would be conscious of her spirit leaving her body and that it would be best if they could be present when she passed. Of course they’d be there. They are family.
We asked Dr. Ireland to make an exception and come to the house to help her to the Rainbow Bridge. He and Tina, his wife and practice manager, were terrific. We couldn’t have asked for a better final farewell. Harley, in true therapy dog form, sat close to us but was reserved and polite during the process, going so far as to turn his head away from the group as Dr. Ireland made the injection. Travis, who’d been through something like this before, sat well away from us. I think he could sense what was about to happen and he didn’t want to witness it.
We said our goodbyes, cried and sat with her after she’d gone. Harley, sensing the change, moved in to provide kisses and tail wags to lift our spirits. Travis stayed on his bed, unconvinced that there was anything to wag about. After about an hour, we took her to the pet cemetery for the cremation.
When we returned, we’d regained most of our composure. Kathy and I were standing with the dogs in the living room talking, when I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. This flash went across the top of the couch, down to the arm, jumped down and trotted out the cat door to the Arizona room. I knew it was Kallie. Harley, who had been standing beside me with a similar view, bolted to the sliding glass door and stared intently through the glass. Travis, still sighted at the time, cocked his head and stared at the couch. They’d seen her, too.
Harley has always had a funny habit of reverse tracking, following the scent of his prey or focus of his attention backward—away from the animal itself. Very un-hound-like and pretty amusing. But this time, it was eerily fascinating. Mary was right. He sensed her spirit and was sniffing to find the trail of his feline pack mate. We watched as he returned, confused, to the Arizona room door. He couldn’t find her. He stayed at the door for nearly four minutes.
Harley and I have seen Kallie a few more times and each time I smile, tell her hello and ask her how she’s doing. I’m not sad when I think about Kallie, rather I’m content that she’s happy and ornery enough to stop by and mess with the boys one more time. She did it to Harley for five years. Why let a minor detail like a physical body get in the way? It’s more fun when he can see you, but can’t smell you, right Kal?
I fell asleep last night thinking about her warm, soft, furry body snuggled up at my hip, keeping me warm on a cold winter’s night. Except this time she didn’t get up and leave the first time I shifted positions. I guess her just being a spirit is good for both of us now.