I feel that human children choose their parents. And often fur-babies do as well! My best friend, Becky, spotted the sweet, soft kitten, and it was love at first sight. Here is the story of two souls, one human and one feline, who will forever remain connected.
Becky got laid off from her first job in October 2001. The next month, she felt lonely and decided to search for a pet. After visiting and meeting many kitties, Becky and her husband found Gus. Or as she said, “He found us! Gus was at a shelter in Denver, Colorado called The Dumb Friend’s League.”
I paused here and audibly cleared my throat. “Huh? Seriously? That was the name of the shelter, Beck?” Perhaps I misheard her.
She confirmed the name when she said it again. Gus was only 11 weeks when Becky adopted him. Within a week, she realized that her husband was allergic to cats! But they were instantly smitten with this “soft, black-haired fur ball.”
“Gus was incredibly verbal, and talked like he was human! We bonded instantly,” Becky said. She got a new job not long after that. I remember visiting Becky and marveling at this rather vocal cat. She is not exaggerating. I can even recall moments in which I’d hear Gus purring as we tried to have a phone conversation!
Becky laughed as she remembered the first day they brought him home. “Just imagine this tiny kitten with big ears. He climbed into the bowels of a recliner couch. He stayed there for three hours. I called the vet. I couldn’t get him out! I even lifted the couch and tried to shake him out. I was terrified; I’d never owned a pet before. I had no idea what to do.”
After two years out West, Gus trekked with Becky across the country. He spent the next 15 years in Chicago, where they now live.
“We had to sedate him—that was stressful! He was out of it for like 14 hours! But he made it!” Becky recalled with a sigh of relief.
“He talked all the time. He was like half dog half cat. When he was younger, he’d fetch and play hide and seek. He was a riot. Gus had tons of energy. He’d come around the corner and purposely scare the crap outta me!” Becky exclaimed.
“The witching hour every night, he’d run around and get a burst of energy. It was like Speedy Gonzalez! We’d chase him around the house; he was just so sweet. Every single day when I would come home, he’d wait by the door to greet me. He was playful and would love to cuddle. He’d love to sit on paper, especially when I was trying to work! Gus didn’t like anyone to pick him up except me, but he loved to snuggle.”
I asked Becky about how Gus reacted when her first daughter, who is now 8 years old, was born. He was accustomed to a family of three.
“At bedtime, he’d come up and say goodnight to each of my girls. “He’d whine at me like ‘meow meow meow it’s my time now.’ He knew what time it was, and he’d complain if the kids didn’t go to bed on time,” Becky reflected.
“He was never resentful, just curious, when the girls were babies. He didn’t like to hear them cry; he’d look at us like ‘what are you going to do about that?’” Becky said she sometimes wondered the same thing.
Just like when people get older, it hurt for Becky and her family to witness Gus age and change. But in typical Becky fashion, she said she’s had opportunities to teach her girls about responsibility and empathy.
“I saw such a compassionate side of my girls; that was awesome. There are a lot of lessons in that. It’s teaching about life and how to care for animals and all living beings.”
Gus started to visibly decline this year. He had three strokes, kidney failure, and lymphoma. They say cats have nine lives—certainly Gus did! On Saturday, Becky took Gus to the vet. And is sometimes the case with humans, Becky said that it seemed Gus knew this was his last visit to the doctor.
“I now realize what people have to go through losing a pet—making this hard decision—more than I knew before. As I have shared with strangers and friends about Gus, I am hearing other people’s stories, and how much others love their pets just like we do. When you lose a pet, you become part of community of people who’ve gone through this before. Maybe it’s the unconditional love that pets give you. I know Gus gave us that and more,” Becky said as her voice softened.
I asked about her family’s journey as they said goodbye to their beloved Gus. And we talked about the gifts he gave to each of them. Becky overheard her younger daughter Sunday telling a friend at church, “I am really sad—I lost my pet.” She was glad to hear her 5-year-old expressing her emotions.
She added that “we (Becky and her husband) can teach our kids about loss. We keep saying, ‘It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to be sad.’ I called my kid’s school to tell them this happened, too.” And Becky also shared that not everyone wants to talk about it, and that’s also fine.
The family will create a collage of pictures and do a service when the time feels right. “Pets are part of the family. I need time to grieve right now. I need time and space to work through this in my head,” Becky said. “It’s really different when someone who’s always in your house, someone you’re with every, single day, passes away. It feels more real than a relative who lives far away. And it feels kind of different than when you lose a friend or relative. You can get another pet, but you need to be ready.”
Becky shared with me one of her favorite Gus stories. “He was a kitten when we lived in Denver. My mom was living with us. We had our Christmas tree in a loft. My mom would call me cracking up while I was at work. Gus climbed the Christmas tree and kept knocking the ornaments off. He thought the tree was his toy!” Becky said as she smiled.
“Gus may not be with us this Christmas, but as my youngest said, ‘I know he’s not here, I know he will always be with us in my heart. He was so loving, so present, so soulful. He gave me unconditional love. And we will never forget him.”
EVERY Soul Has A Story—what is yours? I’d love to hear about it. You can connect with me at everysoulhasastory.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or direct email (email@example.com)