Tragedy brought me Bonnie, a 13-year-old cat who was as tiny as a kitten, first. Her owner was my almost-brother. Steve was my little brother’s best friend. They’d lived with my husband and me briefly, and when they moved out, they rented a house just a few blocks away and continued to eat supper at our house every night. Once my brother married and moved out of town, Steve kept coming to our house for holidays or any time he needed family support. Steve was a shy geek with a warm heart. One day, someone tied a litter of five kittens in a plastic bag and dumped them in the middle of the street to be run over. Steve found them, took them to the vet, and spayed and neutered them. Thirteen years later early on a Sunday morning, Steve was killed by a hit-and-run driver, leaving five old cats in his house waiting for him to come home.
His friends gathered and parceled out the cats among us. I already had two elderly cats and a young one, all rescues, at home, but when no one would step forward for Bonnie, the runt of the litter, I took her. Within a week, several of the littermates turned out to have liver cancer and had to be put to sleep. Over the course of the next year, this happened to all of them, except tiny Bonnie.
From the first, Bonnie hid. One of her favorite places was behind the refrigerator. She had a bell on her collar, and once the lights were out and we were in bed, we would hear her venturing forth. It took me so long to get her to venture forth voluntarily and sit on my lap to be petted, but once there, she decided that was where she always wanted to be. If I were doing some chore around the house and not paying attention to her, she would wind around my legs, scolding me.
Shortly after we took Bonnie into our home, we ended up rescuing a beautiful seven-year-old Shar Pei/Husky mix. We took Mina on what would have been the last day of her life otherwise. When we brought her into our house, all the cats fled, except Bonnie. I was set to try to gradually introduce them to each other when Bonnie walked straight up to Mina, who was giant in comparison, and touched noses. From that second, they were the best of friends, never apart.
Bonnie was the dominant member of the pair, though. She would go nibble a few pieces of Mina’s dog kibble, and Mina was then allowed to eat some of Bonnie’s food. They made a point to drink out of each other’s water bowls also. At night, Mina would curl into a circle, and Bonnie would curl up within its center. Mina showed affection by licking Bonnie as if she were a puppy, and Bonnie tolerated it. Mina would bark at suspicious noises at night, and Bonnie would stand behind her, mimicking her stiff-legged posture and give the best imitations of a bark you ever heard from a cat.
Then, Bonnie started eating less and having bouts of loud crying that could only be assuaged by my holding her and petting or by Mina licking her. When I took her to the vet, the word was that the deadly liver cancer had finally hit this last living member of that five-cat litter. We think she held the cancer at bay for those almost four years by sheer strength of personality. She was finally somewhere where she wasn’t the bullied runt—and we’d even found her a giant pet! She wasn’t about to die when things were finally going so well for her.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be done. As she got sicker, she cried more. Until Mina would wash Bonnie with her big tongue, leaving her looking like a little drowned rat. But she was always at peace and purring when Mina licked her or I held her. The vet said we’d know when to bring her in one last time, and that point became clear one day. We packed her carry-crate with lots of blankets and soft fabric because she was so bony by then. Mina was licking her one last time. At the vet’s, Bonnie lay in my lap, purring, as she slipped away peacefully.
Mina was disconsolate for months and then rallied to remain our wonderful friend for five more years before she left us the same way. We laugh when we think of the surprise and joy those two friends must have felt when their spirits encountered each other again. It’s a comfort to think of them curled around each other at night as they were for so many nights in our house—a true bonded pair.