Jack came into our lives as a nine-week-old kitten – a fluffy ball of gray fur with tawny eyes. We tried to make him a house cat, but he had a wild streak that refused to be tamed. As a result, Jack did nothing to advance the cause of cats who aspired to be seen as man’s best friend. He was independent, aloof and hard to approach. A fraction of a second with the door slightly ajar was all he needed to dart to freedom and return when it darn well suited him.
Jack was also a one-person cat, and that person was me. Ben is one of the few men I know who likes cats, but he and Jack lived parallel lives. They avoided each other if possible, and eyed each other warily when their paths did cross. Until the last year of Jack’s life. Then a truce and even a friendship were forged between man and cat.
In his final months, Jack lost a lot of weight and started having seizures. He would fall off the couch and hit the floor with a thump louder than an 10-pound body should ever make. We would race to him and one of us would cover his little body with ours to stop it from repeatedly slamming against the floor during convulsions. Often it was Ben who did that. Each time, we hoped the tests the vet was running would offer a solution quickly.
It was during that time that I saw the shift in their “relationship”. One day, Ben was shaving with the washroom door open. From where I stood at the end of the hallway, I was astonished to see Jack venture into the room, sit at Ben’s feet and look up at him expectantly.
In his prime, Jack could gracefully leap from the floor to the countertop. (No, this wasn’t allowed but Jack was never one to follow rules.) But his poor diminished body could no longer make that jump. Unaware that I was watching, Ben picked him up and gently placed him on the counter. Then he turned the faucet on to a light trickle and waited while Jack swiped his paw in the stream and brought it to his mouth several times to quench his thirst. Afterwards, Ben set him back down on the floor, cleaned the counter and the faucet and finished shaving.
It was humbling to see this once proud, independent little beast accept his vulnerability and trust the other human he lived with. It was also a tender moment to watch Ben help the little guy get the drink of water he wanted.
In the following days, we had heart wrenching discussions about what to do about Jack. His quality of life was not good, but we hoped the problem could be found and solved with surgery or medication. Jack always did do things his own way, though, and this was no exception. He took the decision out of our hands when I came home one day to find that he had quietly left this world. RIP my fierce little friend.