Oddibe came first. He watched me from across the road, as he sat beneath the old cedar trees. Our eyes met; we bonded. It didn’t matter that I already had two indoor cats and two dogs. I became Oddibe’s human.
He was already an old tomcat, and obviously not neutered. He was King of the Road. I called him “Oddibe”, because he “ought to be” somewhere else. He would come to my window at night. Sitting on the porch rail, he would tap on my window screen. He knew I would then get up and go outside to feed him. Our midnight rendezvous began right after we bought our rural lake house. Neighbors swore they had never seen him before.
Soon, Oddibe brought his Queen with him. She was a petite little thing, and very young. Quite feral, she trusted only Oddibe, following him everywhere. She quickly learned that food was found at our house. She became “Echo”, because she kept coming back.
By Spring, Oddibe and Echo had a little grey kitten. She would blend into the shadows of the cedar trees, so she was called “Shade”. Echo would bring her shrews and chipmunks. She tried to teach Shade to hunt. They were entertaining to watch. By now Echo trusted me. She taught Shade to come to our porch and eat from the bowls, too.
During the day, Oddibe would go off to do his tomcat business. At night, he would still come to my window. He also watched over his family. Elusive, existing in the shadows, for the most part, they lived this way for a couple of years. Survival was their mindset; I was their safe haven.
Then, there came a time when Oddibe was missing. The girls came alone for several weeks. When Oddibe finally appeared on my porch, he was emaciated and very weak. I quickly put him in a crate, which was never a possibility before. I knew it was serious when I took him to the vet that Saturday night.
The vet grimly told me that Oddibe was probably close to twenty years old. He then gave me the diagnosis that I feared. Oddibe had cancer. At his advanced age, surgery was not a realistic option. He would not survive even the anesthesia, but the cancer was obviously too advanced. Late that night, in the vet’s treatment room, I lost a very special friend.
I cried all the way home, and throughout the funeral we held for him. I missed him. Echo and Shade surely did, too. They would sit under the cedar trees as if waiting for Oddibe to join them. They looked somehow lost and lonely, their little faces questioning me.
For years, they came together, alone, and sometimes with kittens. We rescued many of those kittens, finding forever homes, and keeping some. But, others would just disappear. After a few years, Shade disappeared, too. It broke my heart.
Echo would stay away when in heat or when she had kittens hidden. We were never able to trap her. Her sense of survival and dedication to her family was acute. Tomcats came and went, though none were like Oddibe. Most were haggard, mean, very wild, and entirely feral.
When Echo was about 12, she went missing for about a week. I knew she did not have kittens and became very worried. Then, one morning quite early, she appeared. She was as happy to see me as I was her! I quickly filled her bowls with food and water. Watching her eat, I assessed her health. I noticed her rear left leg hanging at an odd angle. It seemed to be very loose. I knew something was very wrong.
I scooped her into a crate. Though her first time, she did not fuss. We went right to the vet, where Echo was overwhelmed by the entire experience. However, she was the regal Queen. An exam and x-rays showed that there was nothing but bone chips between Echo’s hip and foot. Her foot was intact, and her hip was fractured. But, the entire leg had been shattered by a hollow point bullet.
Hollow Point bullet:
Note the mushrooming effect
Hollow point bullets are used by law enforcement and military personnel. Their purpose is to kill in a drastic, surefire manner. A hollow point bullet increases its size once it enters its target, and it remains there. It expands inside and does not pass through, creating extensive damage. This usually results in blood loss and/or shock, and thus death. Echo was a six-pound cat. She was also a miracle.
I had a choice to make. Echo had to be put to sleep or have her leg amputated. She had lived outside her entire life, free, doing whatever she wanted to do, wherever she wanted to do it. I saw her living the life of a wild thing, and happy to be that way.
If Echo’s leg was removed, she would become our indoor cat. She hated other cats. We would have to make her a home in the secure basement. She would be safe under our supervision. Could she be happy this way? Could we put her down, let her go because of someone else’s cruelty? We had loved her and been trusted by her for over 12 years!
There was no choice, really. She had the surgery and came home to live out her last five golden years inside our warm house. Echo had her favourite pillow and blanket. She took over the sofa in the basement. She flew up and down the basement stairs. She maintained immaculate litter manners. She appreciated it all.
We promised her she would be safe and secure for the rest of her life. She was special. We were amazed that she made the transitions so easily. From outdoor to indoor cat, and four legs to three legs, she never changed. She was the same little, petite, sweet, gentle Echo that she had always been.
When Echo passed over the Rainbow Bridge, she was well over 17 years old. She developed cancer but went quickly and without pain. We were left with the pain of her absence. Her loss was felt deeply.
Echo’s life had been full. We had kept our promise to Oddibe, by keeping watch over Echo. Her golden years were also safe and secure; we kept our promise to her. And, The Queen’s memory still echoes in our hearts.
~McGuffy Ann Morris
“My Writeful Heart”:
D= The Drought
F= Final Departure
G= The Guardian
H= The Horologist
L= The Loan
P= Mr. Peabody