By Tom Demerly.
I don’t believe in fairy tales. That I’ll admit to…
This is a story of heartbreak, healing and coincidence so odd it makes my brain itch.
Fred was my cat, my very best friend. Every pet owner will tell you their pet is the best but Fred actually was. Mistreated as a young cat before I got him Fred wound up with me after being rescued and cared for. He had only one functioning eye- his left eye- and was missing teeth. He was orange and white with the temperament of a cartoon character. A trifle overweight, Fred was a cookie-stealer. If you set your cookie down he would grab it with what teeth he had left, then settle for licking it. I lost a lot of cookies to Fred.
At night Fred would sit on the counter watching me do dishes or make tea. I would read to Fred, he liked the sound of a human voice. He loved books about African safaris. He also liked the BBC World News on the wireless. Fred would purr most times when you talked to him. If I asked him a question he wouldn’t say anything because cats can’t talk, but he would always seem interested in what I had to say. At night Fred would sleep next to me, purring until one of us drifted off.
Even though Fred suffered terribly as a young cat something in his cat brain made him a kind animal. His default reaction was kindness. If Mia, my little cat, would attack him, he would simply lay down. If she attacked him again he would make a low rumbling noise and walk away. Fred outweighed Mia by ten pounds, but he never took advantage of it. Fred was wired for kindness. In this life that is a miracle.
Eventually the things Fred suffered as a young cat caught up with him. He was old, no one knows how old. In his later days he moved slower, stayed in one place more. He never complained. One morning I woke up and Fred wasn’t in bed anymore. He got up early, walked downstairs and lay down near his water dish. He didn’t look good. I called my friend T.J. to take him to the emergency vet. T.J. lives about 15 minutes away but was at my house in 10. I phoned the veterinary emergency hospital 3 miles away and gave them Fred’s vitals. Then Fred looked at me, meowed twice, and died.
I cleared his airway, gave him mouth to mouth- all those dramatic things. I picked him up and we drove to the vet. The vet immediately went to work trying to revive him. But Fred didn’t want to come back. He was gone. His little paws turned white.
The vet brought him into an exam room with me. He was on a white blanket. And I was absolutely alone.
When I got home my little cat Mia, only 3, knew something was wrong. Fred wasn’t there. She had an odd look on her face and she lay on the counter in Fred’s spot in a little ball. For three days.
My friend Billy at work is one of those lads whose wild blonde hair is always messy, but always looks right. He rides a big motorcycle, wins his age category in triathlons. Billy decided to quit his job where we worked and move on. It was a blow since he brought expertise and personality to our workplace. They gave Billy a nice send off at a local pizza place. I normally don’t go to these things but Billy, being a good guy and a great coworker, was a special case.
I was hurting from Fred being gone. Life was awful. I was shuffling around the outside of the giant hole people fall into when they believe life is filled with suffering and loss. I hung a few toes over the edge of the hole. I felt like I was being sucked in. I pulled it together and went to the pizza place for Billy’s sendoff party. Everyone was enjoying the banter, my friend Pete from work was there and a nice sales rep named Travis.
People said they were sorry about Fred. Then Billy told me a story.
“I found this kitten when I was out running.” He said. I felt myself stepping closer to the edge of the hole. It was going to be one of those bad stories where he found a cat and it died. I couldn’t hear too many more of those. He continued:
“It’s eye was hangin’ all the way out of its head, it was in really bad shape man…” God, can it get any worse? This was painful to hear after losing Fred. “So I picked it up and took it to the animal hospital. They saved her.” He took a pull on his beer.
Then it struck me.
“Hey, which eye was the cat missing?” I asked Billy.
“Ahh, right eye dude.” I felt an odd charge.
“What color was this cat?” I had to nip the onset of hopefulness in the bud. In this life, hopefulness only leads to disappointment. Things don’t work out.
“It’s orange and white.”
On the very same day Fred, my left eyed orange and white cat, died Billy found another orange and white kitten in a field with only its left eye. Run the variables. That is statistically bizarre.
But it gets weirder.
Billy took the one eyed kitten to an animal rescue run by a vet student named Gabe. They named the cat “MiMi”. They did an operation, removed MiMi’s damaged right eye. The same bad eye Fred had. They nursed her back to health. She put on weight, started playing with the other cats. She was oddly good natured according to Gabe.
I went to see this kitten. Gabe brought her into an exam room with me. Then he left the room, closing the door behind him with me and this little one-eyed orange cat inside.
The cat walked around, jumped on the counter. It was extremely small. Only 7 months they said. It sniffed, moving its little head swiftly to compensate for only having one eye. Sunlight filtered through a window in the room.
I sat there, this little kitten with one eye on the counter across the room from me. The absurdity of what I was doing hit me. A grown man. Sitting here like an idiot with an abandoned kitten with one eye. My cat died. It was gone. Maybe I should just deal with it. Life sucks and then you die. The kitten kept its distance. Quite some time passed. Why did they leave me in this room so long?
Then a thought entered my head, from nowhere. No one can hear me in here…
“Say,” I said to the cat, “Do you know Frederick the Cat?” MiMi went wild. She walked in tight circles and meowed three times. She leapt from the counter to the exam table, then from the exam table into my lap. She rolled over on her back in my arms, looked at me with that one eye and meowed one more time. Then she closed her eye and started purring.
I filled out some forms and brought MiMi home. She knew where the litter box and the food were. She jumped up on the counter and sat in the sink. She tried to play with Mia the Cat but Mia couldn’t figure out who this new cat was and hid in the corner. Like she had seen a ghost. MiMi listened to the radio and fell asleep when I read to her.
Yesterday I was petting MiMi’s kitten fur. Before Fred died he had a sore on his left shoulder near his scapula bone. It was a raised bump that had to be drained of fluid. It was almost an inch long and about a quarter inch wide.
MiMi has a little scar there.
Your story leaves me with tears in my eyes. What a wonderful story! I hear there are no coincidences in life and I don’t think this is one either. The similarities are amazing..What’s the odds. I think you have been blessed with an angel. You are a fortunate man to have found your best friend once again. Enjoy every moment!
Wow what a great story to share! Cats have 9 lives you know and they may not always come back as a cat! Animals leave such huge imprints on our hearts. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt story that made me tear up. Enjoy the wonderful years you have with Mimi. I also have a one eyed dog named Pirate, a rescue that is the best dog. I hope his spirit will live on when his body is done.
More weird to add: my mom and her husband, FRED, also have a one-eyed orange striped cat (named Socket) that pretty much looks like Mimi – found in the woods as a kitten with its right eye so badly damaged it was removed (hence the name).
Great story. My daughter sent me this link because we have an orange tabby who I found at 5 months with a damaged eye. We had the eye removed and called him Socket. He is now 7 years old. He is the best cat ever – my favorite of our five. We also have a 16-year-old pure white cat named Whitehead who has cancer of his nose. It is almost time for us to help this guy cross the bridge – his nose is slowing rotting away and I believe his quality of life is fading fast. Anyway – this story made me tear up. By the way, my husband’s name is Fred.
I have heard it said that, whenever someone dies, a baby is born.
The life that we live here is not, by any means, reality in total. It is only a small part, the tip of an iceberg. It is an illusion, a dream.
Mimi needed saving. But she also came to save you.
Your sister Patty
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story lovely pictures of Fred and Mimi. I’m so sorry about Fred but so happy you found Mimi
“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanual Kant
Beautiful, just beautiful, I hope you know how sharing your story will help so many. In this life, sharing our loss is all we can really do to help.Hope is sometimes all we have and the creatures and people that enter our world leave their imprint. Thank you.
Wonderful story. You are a very lucky cat dad and your cats are lucky to have you.
What a precious and beautiful story. Thank you for sharing Mia and Fred, for sharing Mimi, and most of all for sharing the depth of love in your heart.
Tom, I read your amazing story. Very well written. As sad as it was, I knew there would be an uplifting point to it. I won’t call it a “happy ending”, because the story has no end, only a point where you stopped writing it.
Thank you for writing this story and especially for posting it here. I enjoyed it quite thoroughly and will share it with my human partner and perhaps a few other special friends.
So… does MiMi like to steal your cookies?
U just made me cry…
Oh. My. Lord. I truly believe that Fred the cat sent Mimi to you. Is Mimi really Fred in a new life? God knows. But I know that the love of a cat goes deeper than anyone can know. I hope you and Mimi have a wonderful life together. Fred will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge