I just said goodbye to my neighbor cat of 15 years, Madison, a feisty, scrawny brown tabby. I made a heart-wrenching decision to help this poor baby to a better place.
Her ‘daddy’, my neighbor, Bill, and I had faithfully swapped feeding each others’ pets, watering plants, and gathering mail. Over the years, I would venture yonder to take care of things while he was on vacation, and playfully tease Madison as she hid on the roof or in a tree, stealthily spying on my comings and goings, only to burst into view with joyful meows at the sound of the can opener.
Her Bill was a loving, trusting fellow that left his back door opened ever so slightly so she could have in and out access.
Bill died unexpectedly in November, and Madison’s carefree life took a turn for the worse. Relatives shut the ever-open door and locked her inside the house for days on end without food or water. Only when I insistently begged them to check, did they open the door to kick her out….permanently.
I couldn’t take her….she hates our dogs and won’t even come into our yard.
The college girls across the street, I thought, were feeding her. Turns out they were throwing a handful of dry food in the dirt beside their front door, no water, and then they all scattered for the summer. For several months now Madison stays by their front door waiting for them to come home. They never do.
Madison became my responsibility.
I have inwardly wrestled, watching her turn from a happy kitty to a miserably lonely, scared and grouchy one, especially in the dry Texas summer heat. When I fed her, she would purr and gulp food, then growl and try to bite me.
Poor Madison’s world had turned upside down. Abandonment and grief took a huge toll on her, changing her demeanor and her quality of life. No one wants to adopt a 16-year-old cat that bites. I made the phone call, set the trap, said goodbye.
As I process this situation, I can’t help but hurt over pain and injustice I see, even in little things. The damage that neglect and carelessness inflict on precious creatures.
Madison is just a cat (I admit I am sometimes extremely tenderhearted), but she reminds me of so many people I know, who also suffer severely from mistreatment and rejection. They may not receive the love they need, and if their helplessness, fear, and sorrow continue long enough—unattended—their hearts can grow hard, bitterness sets in, and they can become ‘unlovable’ in the sense that they tend to bite even the kind hands that try to feed them.
May we all have watchful eyes and sensitive hearts, and a sense of responsibility to perceive crucial moments or seasons where we can make a difference with a caring, thoughtful gesture—to lift burdens and reverse someone’s hard knocks.
Sweet Madison, I’m going to miss you.