I Will Remember You
This past Saturday, I walked into the animal rescue, a place where I’ve spent every Saturday morning for the past 19 months and something was different. Zelda’s name card wasn’t in it’s usual spot outside the room she had been staying. Zelda, a 16 year old, long haired tabby with bright emerald eyes and more spunk than any cat I’ve known, was nowhere to be found. She had been at the Lange Foundation for almost 2 years, ending up at the animal rescue with her mate Fred, when their owner had passed away suddenly. Their owner had been a dedicated volunteer for years and, of course, the rescue took in his cats.
Lange is a great no-kill shelter that rescues dogs and cats from death row at L.A. County shelters. They do phenomenal work and the caring staff obviously loves each and every one of their charges, taking great care of the animals. Zelda was in good hands.
Zelda’s left leg was withered, a condition she was born with, and didn’t hold any weight. It looked like a feline version of Cerebral Palsy on that one limb. But that weak leg didn’t hold her back at all. She would use it like a nunchuck when protecting her afternoon canned food snack from other cats in her room. Zelda weighed almost 5 lbs and she was always hungry. Last year, my husband and I visited her every day over the course of several months, giving her a can of food and protecting her from any younger or spry-er cats who tried to nose their way into the treat.
Zelda had been looking skinnier and sicker the last few weeks. It was hard visiting her. She reminded me so much of my own cat Munchy, our 18 year old tabby, who we had to put down in December of 2009. We still miss Munchy so. But no matter Zelda’s condition, I still petted her bony head and back. She deserved to be loved, even if it was tough.
This Saturday, I asked Emylia, who works at the rescue, if they had finally made the decision to put Zelda down. Emylia told me that Zelda had passed on her own the previous Thursday night. They found her in room 1 on Friday morning, relieved she was finally at peace. She was with her owner on the other side of the “Rainbow Bridge” as animal grief advocates call it.
I’m not telling you this to bum you out. I wanted to write a post about Zelda, because she doesn’t have an owner to grieve for her. Everyone at the shelter was saddened. I know many of the volunteers will be teary-eyed at the loss of Zelda dear. Volunteering to socialize these cats or walk the dogs expands your heart with all the love these homeless animals offer. Knowing they were abandoned, either intentionally or due to circumstance, just amplifies affection. That love overshadows the heartbreak of the times when one of them doesn’t make it through to adoption.
Most animals, that are eulogized online, have had guardians (pet parents) who talk at length about how much they will miss their companions. I just thought that Zelda deserved a moment as well.
There have been several other cats at the rescue who passed this year while waiting to be adopted into a forever home. By spending time with these cats every week, I got to know each of them. Every single animal had a unique personality. Just because they didn’t have a forever home, doesn’t mean they weren’t loved. They weren’t just anonymous cats at a shelter. Animals pass every day, these are the souls I knew. They were individuals. I won’t forget them. I do miss them.