The first time I met her, I hated her. I was waiting at the veterinarian’s office with my very sick cat, Sam, who was about to be euthanized. Rosie and her sister were tiny kittens playing in a cage in the corner, up for adoption. They’d been abandoned outside of a KMart. Only a few days old, some kind soul rescued them and nurtured them up to adoption age. They were tiny. And cute. And so abundantly alive. I resented it their liveliness on the day Sam’s life would end. Especially since Rosie was a brown tabby, just like Sam.
That was on a Friday. By Monday I was calling the vet to see if the kittens were still available. That’s how Maxie and Rosie came to live with me.
Rosie was destined to be a perpetual second banana. With Maxie, there was no doubt who the alpha cat was. Maxie was sweet and loving but in a curmudgeonly sort of way. She had the mouth of a sailor and little patience. Rosie just stayed back and let everything roll off of her. Several years later when I rescued a stray kitten who’d wandered into my yard, Maxie was all bluster. Rosie let the kitten play around her and play at her until her long-suffering soul had enough and she gave the kitten one swipe of the paw. That was all and that was enough.
In her old age she had to suffer the indignity of dogs, particularly Oakley who liked to check on her by sticking her entire long nose up under Rosie’s body. Rosie gave an irritated meow, but otherwise took it in stride. When Maxie developed a fast growing malignant tumor, I took Rosie with me to the vet. Her carrier on the table, she watched carefully and solemnly as her sister slipped away. She seemed to take it in and never looked for Max or asked about her again.
For over three years Rosie was a diabetic. She quickly adapted to this new routine of twice daily insulin injections, only complaining when I got sloppy and careless with her shot. One day I came home from a trip and found her in a coma. The emergency vets performed a miracle in getting her back from the threshold of death’s door but she lost a good portion of her eyesight. She never complained and it never seemed to bother her. She just kept on keeping on.
The one place in which she took a backseat to no one was her hunting. One summer in our old house I kept count of how many voles she’d killed (voles look like moles but are about the size of mice.) At least sixteen voles bit the dust that summer. Each time she’d proudly leave her gift at the front door. Occasionally I’d catch Max picking up the dead vole and proudly bringing it around again, as if she’d killed it.
I came home last night and prepared for bed. When I was ready to give Rosie her nightly shot, she wasn’t in her bed. I finally found her in another room, peaceful and still. She lived to be seventeen.
My pastor tells me that the one question he gets asked more than any other is if our pets will be with us in heaven. I do not have the definitive answer, but I cannot imagine anywhere being all that heavenly if our four-legged (and two-winged!) family members are not allowed to join us.
If we are open, we may learn many lessons from our pets. Oakley teaches me that you can be fierce and protective and loving at the same time. Ralphie teaches me about all out joy. Maxie taught me about asking for what you need (okay, demanding.) And Rosie taught me that it is indeed possible to have a Buddha cat – not holding on to anything, being in the moment, finding contentment.
So long, Rosie.