What I Learned from Bob the Cat

bob-under-the-coversWe let our son, who was 10 years old at the time, name one of the two kittens we were adopting many years ago. He decided on “Bob” which my husband thought was a “stupid name for a cat.” After a few months though, we couldn’t imagine Bob with any other name. They had called him “Kermit” at the shelter, because he hopped a bit when he walked. My husband thought something was wrong with his back legs but the woman at the shelter assured us that it was a temporary condition. It wasn’t, but Bob learned to pull himself up with his front legs rather than jumping onto places he wanted to get to. The procedure was comical at times and we could never call Bob a graceful cat.

Bob was a sweet cat, who considered humans warm furniture. When our family sat down to watch a movie or TV show together, Bob would enter the room, eyeing each of us in turn, trying to decide which person’s lap he wanted to settle in. Often he would rotate from person to person. He didn’t go outside so his life was rather uneventful, other than trips to the vet and a fall from a second story window once. My son had opened it without realizing there was no screen in it. I happened to be sitting in the breakfast room at the time, and watched a cat fall from the sky onto our back deck. It took a while for it to register that the falling cat was our Bob, but he just sat and waited patiently on the deck for one of his people to come to the rescue.

So Bob’s days were filled with food and sleep, pets and laps. He developed routines and didn’t like change. He slept at the foot of our bed all night. My husband usually has a bowl of ice cream right before he goes to sleep and leaves the empty bowl on his night stand. Bob always waited until the morning before going over and licking the bowl. On the rare mornings when there wasn’t a bowl on the night stand, he would just stare at the place where it should be in bewilderment.

My husband would then take his shower and afterwards put on a terry cloth robe. Bob would wait until he heard the water stop and then go to the bathroom door. He didn’t meow or scratch; he just waited patiently until my husband opened the door. Then he would stretch and put his front paws on my husband’s legs, which meant he wanted to be picked up and held. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that this time was my husband’s morning prayer time, but maybe Bob knew.

Bob’s love of sitting in laps or just cuddling made us slow down. I would look at him and wish I could be as serene as he was. Sometimes in the morning I meditate using an app called Calm. It takes effort to let my muscles relax and still my mind. For Bob, it seemed to be his natural state. So much of our time is spent taking care of our possessions, working to buy more possessions, finding room to keep all our possessions. Bob didn’t need much – just the basics really — food, shelter, and, of course, love. I often gave thanks to God for Bob and thought about the lines from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” where he wrote:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

A few months ago, Bob was diagnosed with kidney failure, a common condition in older cats. Two nights ago my husband and I had to make the decision to let him go rather than have him suffer. For almost 17 years, Bob looked to us for all his needs, but he gave us so much. Thank you God for animals, large and small. Thank you for Bob.

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