I don’t remember when I first started seeing him hanging around our home. I do remember that he was beautiful and sleek, a confident tuxedo cat, one of several feral cats in our neighborhood taken care of by our retired neighbor down the street. We named him Romeo, as he and Shiva would stare wistfully at each other through our sunporch windows.
At first it was irritating, as our previous dogs became agitated at the sight of him stealthily walking on our property. As time passed, Romeo aged and our protective dogs passed on, Marley came to join our family- possibly the most patient dog in the history of the world. She put up with Shiva’s bullying adoration and came to accept the tuxedo cat that had seemed to adopt our home. We realized that Romeo was ill, probably nearing the end of his life; he is very thin and his eyes have a glassy glow to them, and it’s obvious that he no longer hears well. We decided to adopt him, encouraging him to feel safe sleeping by our fountain or finding warmth lounging on our patio in the sun, talking to him and telling him not to be afraid- he was welcome at Chez Gainey.
I recognized the look in his eyes, very similar to our sweet Kasey, a feral cat that became my spirit animal and lived with us for many years. Kasey got cancer and began to quickly fade, growing frail and blind. It broke my heart, but I was so glad that we were able to give her a wonderful life and a gentle and loving ending.
Now another feral cat has come to Chez Gainey for solace. At first he was skittish and ran from us. Now he seems to have realized that we mean him no harm. While he won’t let us near enough to touch him, we have reached an understanding of sorts. Marley walks past him and ignores him- other than the other day when Romeo was lounging in the front yard and I unknowingly let Marley out to do her business. I saw Romeo laying on the lawn and called to Marley to stand down. Totally unnecessary, as there’s not an aggressive bone in our eighty-pounds-of-love dog. Marley went into her play bow, wanting to engage Romeo in some fun without going near him, but quickly came into the house when called. Such a good girl.
There is something about Romeo that touches my heart. Maybe it is echoes of missing Kasey, but maybe it’s just compassion for a sweet old soul struggling to survive the last period of his life. We are all struggling right now and a little kindness can go a long way. Stay a while, Romeo- you are safe here.