Barbara and our daughter-in-law , Dory, went cat shopping in June of 2003. They found “Sir Galahad” at the Sun Cities Animal Rescue. They were looking for an orange Tabby, having learned from my hiking buddy and vet, Dr. Bob Hatch, that orange Tabbies have the best temperament.
Sir Galahad had been left on the doorstep of the Animal Rescue on January 20, 2003. He had lived there among a large population of cats for 5 months. He spied Barbara and Dory as they entered the facility. He immediately sidled over to Barbara and “loved her up” by rubbing against her leg. It was, as they say (to change a word), “cat at first sight."
The informational paper about Sir Galahad claimed that he was loving and loves to purr. “We don’t know how he is with other dogs or small children. Won’t you give this handsome boy a forever home?”
The answer to this paper is as follows. When we brought him home he never purred much. When small children came around, he fled under the bed. When the occasional dog came to our house he hissed menacingly. And when we adopted a second cat some years later, he vacillated between hating her and tolerating her.
We changed his name to “Kitty Bob.” Our first cat was named “Kitty” and my best friend and hiking buddy/vet was Bob. Thus the name.
I told Bob it was probably the highest honor of his life.
When we got a second cat a few years later, she was a female and we named her “Kitty Beth” after Bob’s wife.
At dinner each night Kitty Bob would sit beside Barbara’s chair and beg. When I would toss him some table scraps Barb would chide me and say “Don’t feed him from the table.” And a second later guess who threw scraps on the floor?
He from the beginning was clearly Barbara’s cat. When she would work in her office he would sit beside her in her chair. When she watched t.v. he would sit in her lap and chew on her pen as she tried to write.
The only time he would have ANYTHING to do with me was when I would get up in the middle of the night for milk and a cookie and he would come running from where he was sleeping and beg for a kitty treat. He devoured those kitty treats. And when we would toss out kitty treats in the morning for both of our cats, he would leave his treats, go eat all of Kitty Beth’s treats and then return to his. I surmised that he was thinking, “OK you brought her home but this is still my territory.”
We moved to Mequon, Wisconsin and Northbrook, Illinois from 2008-2010 as I did two interim pastorates. When we drove from here to Mequon, I’ll swear he yelped all the way up I 17 until Flagstaff.
He never adjusted to being an inside cat and would sneak out of the house whenever possible. One night in Mequon he snuck out the front door which I had unknowingly left cracked. When I woke up in the morning he was gone. It had snowed a foot the night before and was a bitterly cold morning. I looked everywhere in the neighborhood. I wondered if he had survived a night where the thermometer had dropped into single digits. I spied a workman in our apartment complex who asked me, Is this your cat? He pointed to Kitty Bob who was huddled under a bush. I figured, “The first of nine lives.”
When we would leave our home in Litchfield Park he would faithfully wait for us by our living room window, and upon seeing our car turn into the driveway he would make his way to the back door and be waiting to greet us.
And when we would go away for a couple of weeks, upon our return he would howl furiously for a few days, indicating to us, “I’m not happy with your being away.”
Some time ago we noticed that he was slowly losing weight, becoming as my grandmother used to say, skin and bones. Each day it was harder for him to jump up onto the bed. He walked like an old man with a bad case of arthritis.
Last week he hardly left his favorite chair. Three days ago he stopped eating, even his beloved treats. He would still drink water, his favorite method being to stand alongside the faucet in the bathroom and lap up water.
Yesterday he was so weak and frail that Barbara and I agreed that it was time. I texted our vet that we would like to bring him in this morning.
Before we took that fateful drive to the vet’s office, Barbara picked him up and placed him on the back porch. It was his favorite thing, sniffing around our back yard. I guess for him it must have been like getting out of jail. This morning he did something he has never done before. When we let him out onto the back porch he walked over to our pool and began to drink water. I picked him up, fearing he would fall in. He walked back to the pool. I picked him up. A third time he walked over to the pool. At this point Barb picked him up and took him inside.
We wrapped him in a warm, clean towel and he sat unmovingly in Barb’s lap as we drove to the animal clinic. We both were with him, with huge lumps in our throats, as the vet administered the merciful sedative.
Once upon a time a little boy in my congregation whose dog had died asked me, “Do you think Buster will go to heaven?”
And though there is no Biblical answer to that question, I responded “I sure do.”
That’s how I answered then. That’s how I would answer today.
In Genesis chapter one, after God had finished the work of creation–the seas and the skies, the mountains and the plains, the plants and the animals– he looked out upon it all and declared, “It is very good.”
When my daughter was little we would always sing a song before bedtime prayers. Our favorite was “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”by Cecil Francis Alexander:
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all.