Friends For Life

“It was twenty years ago today…” Angel was born a tiny blue-eyed siamese kitten. And his human mom adored him. She raised him and looked into his big blue eyes year after year. She retired from her job and saw her human kids off to make their own families. Still, Angel was with her. These two were inseparable and when the kids were too busy to come visit or their kids had the flu so no one was traveling for the holidays, Angel and his mom celebrated together.

For twenty years a stocking that said “Angel” in glitter hung on the mantle. Sometimes it held a can of especially smelly wet food or a specially chosen sock toy filled with cat nip.

Angel loved it all—but mostly, he loved sitting in the floor with his mom and getting presented with whatever the treasure was that year. As the years went by, Angel got lanky and his eyes got a little cloudy. Though his vision faded to nearly nothing this last couple of years, he was still Mom’s “kitten.” 

The years took a different toll on his Mom, though. Little by little, she got confused about things like whether the front door was closed or the stove was on. Angel understood when sometimes she just went to bed without dinner for either of them. He’d just hop into bed with her and purr them both to sleep. Tomorrow was always another day.

One day someone came to put him in a carrier. 

He didn’t like it but he’d been to the vet before. But this time seemed different. Mom wasn’t taking him like she had every time before. When he got there, he didn’t just go onto a table to have his patience tested by techs and doctors, he went into a cage in the back. Strange.

So he waited. And waited.

Though Angel didn’t know it as he sat in that vet cage, a rescuer reached out to Friends For Life. She said there was this cat…he’s 20 and his owner got dementia and was put in a nursing home. The vet had identified some small masses in the cat’s liver but he seemed in pretty good spirits, not in pain and apart from being old as Methuselah, otherwise healthy. She knew Friends For Life was this guy’s ticket to safety. Our program is not just based on the principle that every animal matters - our model allowed Angel to come directly into our care.

Of course, Angel has become part of the FFL family. Our vets have examined him and he has gotten additional films of his abdomen. He is on good meds (which he takes like a pro) and and has a wonderful staff focused on his care. We know he doesn’t have long but still he is purring, eating, stretching out and loves pets. It was unlikely that he’d be adopted, so he was a perfect candidate for fospice.

And I just couldn’t resist. We are getting the honor of being fospice family for Angel. 

He met ferrets for what we assume was the first time. He thinks they are just fine—short cats who smell funny. No big thing. He started out segregated from the rest of the cat family as he settled in and put up with that for exactly one day. (Not protocol, we know.) But no one can lodge a protest like a Siamese cat. 

He now sleeps nestled in the middle of the bed stretched out and purring. He can’t really see at all anymore so he carefully “maps” the perimeter of the room and navigates slowly. There is no way to precisely predict how much time Angel has. But we watch for joy, not time. Our job is all about the joy. Purring, poofy comforters, yummy snacks and gentle pets. These make up his life these days. The joy determines the time.

We don’t know where his mom is now or if she remembers her Angel. We so hope her Christmas finds her feeling well and safe. We hope she dreams of those blue eyes and that deep purr. We hope she knows love survives.

In our family tradition, after dinner on Christmas Eve, by the twinkling lights of the tree (and candles placed well out of whisker range,) we’ll open stockings together while we listen to Christmas music. Everyone in the family has a stocking--cats, ferrets, dogs and even a certain elder pig named Annabelle. This year, hanging in the row of many is a stocking that says “Angel.”

Whatever your tradition this season, don’t take a moment with those you love for granted. Light the candles, lift the glass and open your home. 

Bring in the wayward and the lonely. You’ll see that Joy is their companion.

Angel is content to take all of this one day at a time. So are we. 

by Salise Shuttlesworth, one of Angel's foster moms