I’ve never been what you’d call ‘healthy’. I was a sickly child and a weakling of a teenager. No sports for me, I just couldn’t do them. I have something wrong with my spine, it’s twisted and curved. That leads to all sorts of complications because my legs don’t ‘hang’ level from my hips and that means I ‘throw’ one leg out to the side as I walk.
Because my spine is curved, it also compresses my internal organs, mainly affecting my lungs, but also, to a lesser degree, my liver, kidney and spleen. My heart is doing brilliantly – considering everything else – allegedly. Yeah, thanks for that…
Perhaps because I couldn’t keep up with the kids my age – hell, I couldn’t even keep up with toddlers on some days – perhaps that’s why I take to animals quicker and with deeper affection?
They do seem to want to be with me, even the more wary ones.
I have never been harmed or hurt by any of the animals I’ve encountered. None have tried to bite me or claw me, even when I tend to their wounds or check their frail body for injuries. They all seem to know that I’ll never hurt them.
There was one cat, a mangy, battered old thing – she wouldn’t allow anyone else to come near her – only me. She chirruped when I called her, like a little kitten or a well-cared-for housecat. But then, in the next moment, if anyone came within range, she’d hiss and snarl like a wildcat.
She did seem to love me though.
When she was close to dying (and my mum warned me she wouldn’t be with me for long) ‘Kitty-cat’ came to me rather than run off to hide like her species does usually.
I wanted to take her to the vet but my mum couldn’t afford the fees and she said there wasn’t much point anyway. The poor mangy thing was almost gone.
“Kitty-cat,” I whispered to her, tears dropping onto her fur. She looked up at me and gave that one last chirrup and then she was gone.
After that, I used to see her frequently and I’d hear that light, cheerful chirrup even more often.
The night that I was ill with a fever, my lungs burning, the squashed kidney of the two aching like I’d been kicked and blood in my pee, I really thought I was dying.
“Kitty-cat,” I said. “I’ll see you very soon, I think.” And I felt a weight hop onto my bedcover. I heard the cheerful greeting chirrup and heard her loud purr. I truly believed she’d come to fetch me across to the other side and I would have gladly gone with her.
But no, she wasn’t there to fetch me, she’d come to make sure I put up a good fight.
I stroked her mangy coat, threadbare in places, and I whined that it hurt so much.
“Please just take me with you, Kitty-cat,” I said and she swiped my hand with one paw, her claws tucked away so as not to hurt me.
I had antibiotics and a warm drink and a cold drink by my bedside and my mum came in frequently to check on me, but I was convinced that I was dying.
I had given up. I didn’t want to fight any more. I was so ready to go to my maker that I became petulant. I pushed at the shape of Kitty-cat and told her that if she wasn’t going to help me, she could just go and leave me alone!
Kitty-cat stood up. I felt her stretch, languidly and then she came right up to my face, nose to nose and she tap-tapped my face as though to reassure me. Then she swiped my face with her claws and I shouted out in pain.
That ghost-cat clawed me – unlike any other animal I’d ever encountered, she actually hurt me – on purpose!
The next morning, still rambling with the fever, I asked mum if she’d put out some food for Kitty-cat. I don’t remember much from that terrible fever-ridden time, but I do remember her expression.
She became worried. She put down the tray she was taking downstairs and came over to me. She felt my forehead and checked my neck. She realized I was too hot – way too hot – and she immediately opened a window and brought a cool, damp cloth.
“What have you done to your face?” she asked. “It looks like you’ve scratched yourself.
“Kitty-cat did it. I pushed her off the bed and she swiped at me,” I mumbled in reply.
Mum came to see me more often for the rest of that day and the fever broke. I slowly started getting better and Kitty-cat came to lay with me every night. She purrs so loud, but it’s comforting.
I recovered from that fever even though my mum says I shouldn’t have made it through that night.
If it hadn’t been for Kitty-cat, I’m sure I would have given up, but she kicked my ass and told me to stop being so defeatist and I listened to her.
I also listened to her when it came to my chosen career. No, I’m not a vet, I was never strong enough to qualify for that, but I did something almost as good.
I opened an animal shelter and I take in animals like Kitty-cat who are beyond hope and on their last legs. I take in animals that are about to die, or those that should have died already and if it really is their time to go, I sit with them and I help them pass. If they are not yet ready to go and there’s still some fight left in them, I help them to fight, too.
I know which is which because I have an assistant who is never wrong.
Kitty-cat will tap my hand if they are ready to go and if they have some hope, she pats the animal’s face and tells them to buck-up their ideas. Sometimes I see a shadow of her tapping their face and other times, I see their reaction to her claws.
You see, I really do believe that Kitty-cat fought so desperately hard for her own survival that she will not allow any other to go down without giving it their all.
We make a great team, Kitty-cat and I.