My cat, Haley, does not like other cats. She especially doesn’t care for the feral that we’ve semi-adopted, Patticat.
Remember the Saturday Night Live skit character, Pat, that androgynous, asexual “person” whom no one could ever tell was male or female? Well, before we captured Patticat and had her spayed through the Trap, Neuter, Release program, we couldn’t tell which sex she was, so we named her Pat. After we knew she was a girl, it just morphed into Patticat.
Well, Haley will have none of her. And Patticat has become semi-domesticated, she comes inside and eats, gets affection (though she won’t be held for more than a second) and will even jump up on the bed and sleep on an old blanket we have up there for her. And she is dying to be friends with Haley. Nope. Haley will give her a quick sniff – then a sharp smack! And Patticat will flop down in submission and try to squirm close to Haley, at which point Haley will give her another pop and storm away. It’s been two years since Patticat has been trying to buddy up to Haley, she just won’t have it.
But an unusual thing happened a couple of months ago. I noticed one morning that Patticat’s belly was very, very distended. And when she moved you could just feel her pain and discomfort. I watched her slowly and very laboriously come up the steps when I put her food down. And she wouldn’t let you touch her at all, when morning feeding was normally a time for her to rub against you and get some lovin’.
I worried she’d been poisoned, or eaten a poisoned mouse. I called four mobile vets and one rearranged her schedule and came right over. But when the vet, my wife and I tried to get close to Patticat she moved away and went under a low deck. The vet said there obviously wasn’t much she could do at that point, and that Patticat would get better on her own, or sick enough for us to be able to capture her and take to the hospital.
The next couple of days we held our breath and kept a sharp eye out for Patticat. We’d see her in the yard and we put her food and water down on the sidewalk so she wouldn’t have to climb the stairs. Then, on a Saturday I was doing some chores in the back yard, and saw Patticat curled up under a holly tree. Not more the four feet away was Haley. And for the next four hours Haley kept her vigil over Patticat. Haley had the entire yard – birds to chase, lizards to catch, naps to take – but she stood right there all that time.
Of course, the irrational (is it?) side of my wife and I believed Haley’s presence like that was foreshadowing Patticat’s death. Why else would Haley, who normally couldn’t be happier if Patticat was nowhere in sight, suddenly choose to remain close to Patticat, as if to share strength and a sense of companionship in her last hours.
I thought of Oscar who, while comforting families in many instances, has come to prove fait accompli that one’s time has arrived. This similarity did not, however, give me any comfort.
After this extended time Haley just left and went about her normal routines, completely ignoring Patticat again. Then I looked and saw that Patticat wasn’t under the tree. I supposed she’d gone off to find her a secluded place to pass on as most wild animals will do.
But translate this story to us humans. There is pain, hunger, homelessness and more all around us. You may not like a person, or even people in general, but it is very easy to pause for just a moment and give immeasurable comfort to another human being. Whether that comfort is a dollar bill, a hot bowl of soup or just a smile and reassuring handshake, you can help lift up another person with the simplest and easiest of gestures. Then, if you want, you can go back to your own routines. But, help someone once, you’ll want to again.
Contact us here at United Way of the Greater Triangle and we can help you help others, simple and easy.
(And btw, Patticat recovered fully and has lived to be smacked down by Haley another day!)