HOME ARCHIVE

Published on June 15, 2021

The View from my Seat

I wrote my cat’s obituary, and then this happened

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

We lived in a two-story house with no downstairs bedrooms when I learned I would probably never walk again.

Since I could no longer use the stairs, we rented a hospital bed and converted the living room into my bedroom.

It was there that I would spend long, sleepless nights wondering about the future. What if the doctors were right, and I wouldn’t walk again? Would I be able return to work? Could I afford to retire if I couldn’t?

I was scared and alone with my thoughts.

Or, almost alone.

Every night a calico cat would cozy up to me on that hospital bed. Her presence provided a calming distraction. For a few moments, my anxieties would vanish.

The cat had a difficult start in life. We found her and three litter mates covered with ants under a bush in front of our Clear Lake home.

Friends adopted two of the kittens, but nobody wanted this calico or her brother. We kept them.
Kelly, my wife, is a bit of a cat whisperer. She saw something in the calico that others didn’t. She named the calico Sweetie.

My veterinarian is leery of cats named Sweetie or Precious. With a laugh, he says they seldom live up to their names.

Sweetie has. I have now been a wheelchair-bound paraplegic for nine years, and Sweetie has been at my side every non-step of the way.

She follows me from room to room in our one-story Pearland house. Not even my motorized wheelchair scares her away. It’s as if she thinks I need looking after.

Out of boredom from isolation during the pandemic, I taught her to fetch and retrieve balls. She loves that, and every evening she sits by her toy box. She wants to play.

It didn’t really dawn on me how big a part of my life Sweetie had become until the end of last year.
For reasons that aren’t quite clear, she stopped eating. She lost weight. She became weak. She labored walking. She wouldn’t play ball. We built stairways out of crates so she could climb into her favorite napping spots.

Tests revealed Sweetie’s liver was not functioning properly. Our veterinarian said it was either liver cancer or an infection. He recommended treating Sweetie for the infection. That was curable.

Liver cancer would almost certainly be a death sentence. He called liver cancer treatment “inhumane.”

He gave us pills for the liver and ear ointment designed to stimulate her appetite. He asked us to keep in touch. We left with little hope.

I became obsessed with getting Sweetie to eat. She had been there for me in tough times. It was my turn.

We ordered almost daily deliveries of various kinds of cat food, hoping to find something Sweetie would eat.

Dry food. Canned food. Packaged treats. Baby food. And people food. Except for a sniff or two at, of all things, a Vienna Sausage, nothing worked.

I tried feeding her by hand. She would nibble, but not enough to reverse her decline.

She grew even weaker.

One morning we had trouble finding her. She was curled up in a closet, apparently ready to die.
I prepared for the worst. It was hard to watch her suffer. We took her to the vet again, thinking it might be time to put her down. Don’t give up yet, he advised.

I began mentally writing an obituary column. As silly as it sounds for a journalist with 45 years of hard news coverage behind him to think of writing an obit for his cat, I felt I owed her that.
The beginning of this column is pretty much what I wrote. I just had to change the ending, however. It’s no longer an obit.

Just like we aren’t sure why Sweetie stopped eating, we aren’t sure why she started again. But one day she didn’t nibble at the food in my hand. She gobbled it up.

That night I was awakened by a gentle slap in the face. It was Sweetie’s paw. She was hungry.
Now, six months after her diagnosis and my premature obituary, Sweetie is no longer on pills, has regained most of the lost weight, jumps into her favorite napping places and wants to play ball again.
And each night, when I finish my therapy exercises and turn out the light, the calico cat that nobody wanted jumps onto the bed and curls up next to me.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)