37: Parting Gifts

37: Parting Gifts

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

Parting Gifts

Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.

~Emily Dickinson

I married Jake when I married my husband, Doug. Jake, the big orange tabby, had been Doug’s cohort through many stages of their lives. During Doug’s divorce and single parent years, Jake was his companion and confidant. Jake had broad shoulders and a big heart. His dedication to Doug was obvious, his reluctance to share Doug with me apparent.

It didn’t help that I brought to the family a dog of my own — Jimmy, a barkless Boston Terrier whose nubby little tail was slightly off-center, making him appear to move with an alignment problem.

We also inherited a lovely red mixed-breed dog, Holly, when our son-in-law passed away. Then our youngest son brought home Rudy, a domestic, longhaired, tortoiseshell kitten with eyes the color of kiwi fruit. The son left; Rudy stayed.

We had become a four-pet family. Jake, however, was boss and we all knew it.

At twenty-three years of age, Jake began to show signs of decline. He lost weight, seldom strayed far from the house, brought home fewer birds and mice, and had to be carried on our evening walks. We spelled the word “o-l-d” as if keeping Jake from hearing the word would keep it from happening.

Most of his teeth had to be pulled, or were so worn down he could no longer chew. Doug began taking pieces of chicken and fish and giving them to Jake pre-chewed. Their bond of love required selfless sacrifice. Jake would keep going for Doug. Doug would keep cherishing and caring for Jake like a loving son would care for his aging parents.

The day finally came when we knew Jake had no more days left. Doug carried him to the living room where they sat together on the sofa saying their goodbyes. Jake, it seemed, had one final gift to leave for Doug. With all the strength Jake could muster, he called his three siblings to his bedside. From different parts of the house, in response to Jake’s feeble meow, came Rudy, Holly and Jimmy. They each positioned themselves on the floor, looking up at Jake.

Jake, turning his head from one furred face to the next, meowed instructions that only his brother and sisters understood. As Jake finished with each, that pet moved on to the place in the house where they had come from when Jake beckoned.

Then Jake said goodbye to Doug.

It was not long before we could see Jake’s final instructions being carried out. Holly became Doug’s closest buddy, never moving far from his feet and always standing guard outside whatever room he was in. She was a loyal listener when Doug needed a sounding board. Holly’s devotion to Doug mirrored Jake’s in many ways.

While Holly became the alpha animal, Rudy became top cat. He began sleeping on Doug’s head as Jake had done so often. He playfully slid his paws under the bathroom door, enticing Doug to play from the inside, as he had witnessed brother Jake doing. He slept on top of the printer while Doug used the computer. Occasionally, Rudy would walk the cul-de-sac with me when I delivered mail on our own street, as Jake and I had walked together on those few special days.

Jimmy, well he never did walk a straight line, but he began forming a special bond with Doug, even allowing Doug to get close enough emotionally to teach him to bark.

Jake had moved on, but not before ensuring the important parts of his character were endowed to his siblings. In his absolute dedication to Doug, Jake left reminders of their life and love to soothe Doug’s grieving soul.

~Karen R. Hessen

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