Tuesday, May 15, 2018

And Now It's Time to Rest

"We don't need another cat. So don't feed those cats anything." Those were the words uttered by my husband on a beautiful late Spring day on Cape Hatteras in 2007 when I pointed out a mama cat and her litter of four orange tiger kittens in our back yard. I promptly ignored him, fed the cats so they would stick around and I could get to know them and decide which one (or two) would be mine.

The next afternoon, another island stray, a big male, a bully, came through our yard and started picking on the kittens. I can't stand a bully, be it man or beast. I ran outside and without thinking, picked up this completely wild, orange kitten that was around 4 months old. The kitten had probably never been that close to a person before, let alone been held. He immediately relaxed, looked me in the face and chirped at me. I scared off the bully cat, carried the kitten to my porch and fed him until he couldn't walk. I noticed he was a polydactyl. I noticed he was very handsome. I also noticed that he was friendly and verbal. My husband was doomed.

I tried to get the other kittens as well but they weren't interested. A few days later, they did come back and another kitten went home with my friend Lynnette, but that is another story.

This kitten still had to audition for my husband and man, did he out on a show! Flopping at his feet, chirping and burbling. Winding around his legs. Making a general scene. There was no resistance. We picked him up and brought him in the house in less than two minutes. He looked around the house, jumped up on the couch and fell asleep for 13 straight hours- he knew he was home. He didn't even sniff around. While he was sleeping we decided to name him Billy Bones and he was a descendant of the shipwrecked pirate cats on the island and he should have a good pirate name.

I knew almost instantly that he was going to be a "cat among cats". He had personality plus! He was into everything, all of the time. He was right in the middle of everything that was happening, he did not want to be left out of anything. At the same time, he was patient and good natured, he let little Evelyn do anything she wanted to him, I can not tell you how many times, she was his "patient" as she played Doctor or Vet. 

And so began many, many years of life with Billy Bones. One adventure after the next. He became my cat really. I was his person, though he loved us all and had a special kind of relationship with everyone in the family. For instance, he only would nose boop with Papa, he only tolerates head kisses from Ev, he likes to be lounging on me or touching me at all times. If we are playing board games, he has to be on the table with us. He is a hunter and a killer, in one day he killed and  ate 3 rabbits (that is a record). He has hunted and eaten: rabbits, squirrels, birds, lizards, snakes, moles, voles and skinks. having a party? he will right out in the middle of things. Trying to sleep? He wants to be right on your face. He would talk to you, using this cross between a meow and a chirp.  He once cleared an entire neighborhood of the vole/mole problem! No kidding- our neighbors were delivering us plates of cookies in thanks because Billy was such a big help to them. He knew when you were sick and he would lay by you and offer you comfort. He once walked though wet paint and tracked that all though the house! Nothing on any mantle was ever safe from him. 

He loved to be outside but HATED for his 23 toes to get snow or water in them. He loved to be on the hunt or to have some poor live creature to be stalking. He loved to snuggle on the fuzzy brown blanket at night on your lap while you watched tv. He loved to try and eat your yarn while you crocheted. He had the softest, silkiest fur that he was completely vain about. His tail had a mind of its own- he could be sound asleep and you could call his name and that tail would nearly swish off of his body. 

Then one day, I noticed a lump on his left back leg. It turned out to be a very rare thing. A Vaccine Induced Fibrocarcoma. A nasty, aggressive cancer that has a poor prognosis. We decided to keep him as happy and as comfortable as we could, for as long as we could. That's what we did. We loved our little cat, beyond comprehension. He filled our lives to the absolute brim with fun, joy, love and life. I am not sure I will ever meet another cat like Billy Bones. Today we realized that he had fought long enough. That it was time to let him rest. He had given all he could, he had chased his last rabbit. 
He left this world purring, wrapped in his fuzzy brown blanket and surrounded by the people that loved him most. We are shattered and heartbroken but, in time we will come to realize that beyond this loss we have been given a most precious gift- the friendship and love of a most extraodinary cat. 

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