As we wandered up and down the aisles at the Humane Society I kept fawning over the kittens. The big fluffy cats who looked like they belonged in magazines. And the ones who were playfully meowing and bouncing around. At each new cage I would gush and swear I’d found the perfect fit for our family. Ewan didn’t say anything. He walked back and forth looking quietly into each cage. He stood for a long time at the one marked “Salty”. The cat inside was older. 7+ the little sign said, maybe older. Laying in his litter box, his fur was yellowish and he looked sad. I hadn’t even noticed as I was so certain I wanted a kitten. But Ewan couldn’t stop looking at this old man cat who just kept staring back at him. Wanting to look around some more before making a decision, he slowly started to walk away. But Salty got out of his litter box and came up to the edge of his cage. He stuck his paw out of one of the holes and patted Ewan’s leg, trying to grab at his hand. Over and over again. And right then and there we both knew that he was coming home with us to join our other furry friend, Pooh Bear. We had found the perfect fit. Salty had chosen us.
I have met dozens of cats over the years, but never one quite like Salty. Even our vet and people who didn’t like cats would gravitate to him. I swear he thought he was a dog. He would wait at the door for us. Look straight at us when we were talking to him. And when we asked him to ‘speak’ he’d meow right back and swish his tail back and forth in excitement. In the mornings we would wake up to find him curled up at our feet or wrapped around my head on my pillow. And he was always chattering at the birds outside the window. When I was pregnant he would curl up next to my belly and put his paw on top. He would lick my eyelids to wake me up. And if someone in the house was upset, he would crawl right up on our chest and give us a nudge. He knew when our hearts were hurting and wanted to bring us comfort.
Our Salty quickly earned the nickname Buddy. Because that’s what he was, our buddy. There was never a day we didn’t love him. He was family the minute we brought him home. And just like family he did things that drove us absolutely insane. He would walk around the house meowing at the top of his lungs until someone sat down to play with him. No matter what bowl we gave him for water, he preferred to knock it over and drink the water straight off the floor instead. If we brought a white rug, shirt or blanket into the house he would inevitably throw up on it. And he had an uncanny way of always being under our feet. But not once did we not love him. Just like family we groaned and grumbled at him, but as soon as he looked up at us with those big eyes our hearts melted. And we stopped what we were doing for a cuddle.
2 weeks ago our happy go lucky old man wasn’t acting right. He had stopped meowing. Didn’t want to be cuddled. And his belly seemed to be rock hard. I took him to the vet and was told he was full of cancer. We were given 48 hours and told to enjoy our last hours with him. We didn’t have much time. Ewan was in Vancouver for work and had to say goodbye over the phone. My heart ached that he wouldn’t be able to say it in person. But as 48 hours turned into another day and then another, Salty was still hanging on. He laid by the front door and on top of Ewan’s shoes. I knew he was waiting for his friend. And the minute Ewan walked in the door Salty got up for the first time in days. Crawled into his lap. And started purring. The ache grew even bigger as I was certain he would now go that his friend was home.
Somehow our handsome 16+ year old man lasted 2 full weeks and we are so thankful for this extra time. Such a fighter and sweet until the very last breath, he let us have every cuddle we wanted. And was so patient with our girls as they cried and hugged him. On his last day with us we turned off the world and just laid together. I pushed our bed up against the window and let the warm Spring air pour in as he laid in the sun. He curled up in the crook of my arm, with Pooh bear right next to him. She groomed him and nudged him all day. I think it was their way of saying goodbye. For the first time in weeks he rolled around like a kitten. Chattered at the birds. And gave kisses. He knew it was time too.
That night Ewan and I took him to the vet and stayed with him the whole time. I held him in my arms as he went to sleep. And Ewan and I gave him hugs and cuddles. Petting him, while telling him we loved him and it was okay to go. It was quiet and peaceful. One of the hardest things we’ve ever done.
Now my heart is hurting. It feels broken and like a piece is missing. I wish Salty was here to crawl up on my chest and make me feel better. Licking my forehead and eyelids like he always did. For almost 1/3 of my life he was there. I miss my friend. I miss my buddy. But I know he is no longer in pain and happy wherever he is. We loved every single minute with him. And even though we are going to miss him so much, I’m so thankful for that day he reached out his paw and chose us. I wouldn’t change a single thing. He will forever be in our hearts.
- Brianna (photos by Ewan)