“What’s wrong with her, Dr. Frank?”
Her voice was strained, and as she brushed my coat, I could feel her anxiety flow from her. I raised my head to look at her, and I blinked slowly knowing she couldn’t understand in words, but maybe I could convey to her that everything would be okay.
Dr. Frank had already checked my temperature, and she had looked into my eyes, my ears, my mouth, and even put a tiny little tube up my nose. She laid a hand on my head and scratched right behind my left ear. The resulting sensation was so pleasant, I could not resist the bubbling rumble that grew within me. They, the humans, call it purring.
“Mrs. Chase, I tell you, there is nothing wrong with your cat. Nothing at all.”
I was still watching my human, my eyes now mere slits as I tried to stay completely aware despite the lovely scratching and petting I was receiving from both my human and Dr. Frank. I could see that Dr. Frank’s words did nothing to alleviate the concern my human had for me. She was so worried about me. She had no idea what was really going on.
“But, Dr. Frank, Bella gets so lethargic. She throws up so often. Not hairballs either. I mean her food. At least every other day. And sometimes when she sleeps, she sleeps so deeply she actually stops breathing! For over thirty seconds! I counted! At least six times! You can’t tell me that is normal! She is not even ten yet!”
Dr. Frank pulled out her metal disk again and placed the metal end on my body and the tube ends into her ears. I knew she was trying to hear something going on inside of me. I also knew there was nothing out of the ordinary there for her to hear. Sure enough, after several long minutes, she took the tubes out of her ears and frowned.
“Mrs. Chase, there is absolutely nothing outwardly wrong with your cat. However, you are right, she shouldn’t be throwing up, and she shouldn’t be stopping breathing. This almost sounds like a seizure of some sort, so I will have my tech come in and draw some blood. Is that okay? Bloodwork might be able to offer an explanation or show us something that a basic physical will not.”
I felt my human relax a little and her petting slowed and lightened up. I stretched out on the metal table, grateful that the sweet girl who works with Dr. Frank thought to put a pad down so I wouldn’t have to lie on the cold metal. As I stretched, and my human moved to pet my stomach, I felt something else emanate from her, and I immediately went on alert.
Sitting up, I pushed my nose into her hand and sniffed. Of course, she thought this meant I wanted my head pet and scratched, but I kept sniffing. I sniffed her hand, and then the inside of her wrist.
There. There it was. I could sense it. Just below her skin. It moved within her. Pulsing and flowing. It had a smell. And the smell had a taste. And the taste was bitter. I started retching there on the table, expelling everything I ate that day.
“See!” cried my human as she tried to comfort me, still not understanding.
I could sense the distress in her, and I loved her so much for it. She was the most kind hearted of all the humans I had ever known. She was very attuned to me and her other pets, as well as the other humans in her life. She had a great sense of empathy I’d only ever seen in animals. Most humans have no desire or need for empathy, it muddles up their insular lives. Not so with my human. She wanted to help others. Truly. And her empathy grew as she aged. She worked so hard to be helpful and understanding to others that she often neglected caring for herself.
I mewed in my own frustration, for it was her lack of self-care that was what I was smelling and tasting within her.
Dr. Frank suddenly squeezed the scruff of my neck hard, and I felt a needle jab me under the skin. As I fell asleep, I saw her sweet assistant come into the room with little glass tubes and another, bigger needle. As my eyes shut, I heard my human talk softly to me.
“It’s okay, Bella. It’s okay. We’ll figure this out. I promise.” My last thought as I heard her whisper was that I knew it would be, and I hoped she would understand.
I roused myself from my nap. I knew my human had gone to see another doctor, this one specifically for humans, and I was interested to know if her visit had gone well. I rose to my feet and stretched. From extending my claws to shrugging my shoulders to twitching my tail, I allowed every inch of me to stretch forward and then backward. I sat on my haunches for a just a minute so I could determine which room my human was in.
“Dr. Pelling had ordered a slew of labs on me.”
Ah. She was in the room with the big pillowed furniture that she called a living room. I padded across the floor and through the door to that room. As I walked into the room, I saw her by the front door. She was taking off her coat and hat and putting them away. Her mate, George, who she called her husband, joined her as he stepped off the stairs that led up to the room they sleep in. He took her bags and placed them on a small table and then led her to one of the large pillows they call a couch.
“Why is he ordering labs?”
My human sat down and stretched her legs out before her. Even from where I was across the room, I could sense the pain she worked so hard to hide from her family. She had something called Fibromyalgia. No human could see it, but she had it, and she could feel it. While no human could see it, I could certainly sense it. Often, when she had her really bad days and couldn’t even talk herself out of bed, I could sense the exact spots that hurt her the worst, and I would try to lie on those spots. I knew it wouldn’t help forever, but I knew that my body heat helped a little, and I think just being with her brought her some comfort. It’s the least I could do for her.
Today, she was hurting, but not as bad as some days. Still, I sensed stress and anxiety in her as well. This thing called labs had her worried.
I ran and jumped up onto the couch with her and moved to her lap.
She ran her hand over my back and scratched by my tail as she spoke to George.
“Well, Dr. Pelling said that my routine labs showed some irregularities. These labs will help to pinpoint whatever the problem is.”
“Is there a problem?” George asked, concern tinting his voice.
“Well, no… At least, I don’t think so. I mean, you know how hard it is for me to tell if I am having pain that is not related to the Fibro. I have been hurting more, and have been having more digestive problems, but I thought…. Oh, well. I didn’t think anything, really. I just dismissed it all as more Fibro stuff.”
“But it might not be Fibro?”
“I guess not.”
I glanced at George. He loved my human. I could see the waves of concern and care he had for her just roll off of him in waves. I don’t think humans can see these waves of emotion, not like we cats can, anyway. But I loved him for loving my human, even if he did not fully appreciate me for loving her as well. Humans.
He reached out a hand to me, and I lowered my head for him to pet. He only tapped my head gently, but it was enough to show me he had a kind of affection for me even if he didn’t want to admit it. As he pulled his hand away, I rolled onto my side on my human’s lap and wrapped my paws around her hand. She smiled at me and continued rubbing me even as I sniffed at her hands and wrists. Again, I could smell something off. It nearly made me retch again. Something had to be done, and quickly. I stood up and jumped to the floor, unable to stand the stench coming from inside my human.
I raced to my water bowl, no longer concerned about the conversation still going on in the other room.
Several days later, I found her lying in her bed crying. George paced the room.
“Should we tell …”
George shook his head. “No. Not yet. Let’s see if we can get a second opinion. Maybe your doctor is wrong. Stage four? Out of nowhere? I just don’t see how we could not have known sooner!”
My human started crying harder. The desperation and fear in the air from both of them caused the hair on my body to stand on end. I slinked backward out of their room and waited in the shadows. Something was terribly wrong.
“Stage four. George. It’s a death sentence. I’m not ready. There is still so much…”
George sat down beside her and embraced her, stroking her hair and kissing her on the head. “I know, darling. I know. I know.” And he started crying along with her.
As I sat there in the shadows watching the two of them cling to each other in such utter sadness, I realized what I had to do.
I raced down the stairs and out the little door that they had put in just for me. I rushed across the concrete ground to the grass and slinked my way to the edge of the yard. I climbed up onto the top of the fence and mewed as loud as I could.
Instantly, I heard responses. They were coming.
Within minutes, a Tabby, a Calico, a Maine Coon, and a Sphinx in her fuzzy pink sweater had gathered around me in the shadow of the fence.
“What’s the commotion?” asked one.
“I... My human is dying. I can smell it on her. I have for a while now, and my reaction to the death within her is what has been causing me to get sick, even though there is nothing wrong with me. But… she’s dying. I have to help.”
The four pairs of eyes peering at me grew round, but the cats remained silent. Finally, the Calico shook her head.
“You can’t mean to…”
“I know. I know what it means to me, but I can’t help but think I must.”
“Then why are we here?” asked the Coon brusquely. “It appears you’ve made up your mind.”
I hesitated. Finally, I bowed before the other cats. “I called for you, because once it’s done, they won’t understand. I wanted to ask you to keep an eye on her, on them. If what I do doesn’t work, then maybe one of you…”
The Coon sniffed in dismissal, but the Sphinx, Tabby, and Calico began to purr.
“If you fail, one of us, or some of us, will do what we are able. Your human has been kind to all of us, and to many, many other creatures in our area. She deserves our kindness to be returned, if we can. If we must.”
I moved to the Tabby, the one who’d spoken, and I nuzzled her neck as I made eye contact with each of the others.
Overcome, I turned away from them and rushed back into the house and back up the stairs to my human.
The moon hung low over the horizon. Its light shone into her room and across her body. George had not yet come to bed, but my human was fast asleep after crying herself to sleep. I stood at the end of her bed and listened to her breathing. Then I listened to her heartbeat. I watched the auras of pain, and love, and fear, and hope all rise off of her and mix in a hazy swirl around her body.
As I stepped closer to her, the rancid smell touched my sensitive nose. I fought to keep from retching as I moved to sit directly on top of her. I searched into her and felt the area I thought was the most affected and moved to sit on the spot. Then I laid down facing the window, staring at the moon.
Humans forget we are God’s creatures too. Simply because the Bible they read speaks only of His love for humanity, they assume He has no love for us, but we animals all know different. We see His love in ways entirely different from humans. We experience it in the most natural ways, and we are given very unique gifts because of His love for us. Many of these gifts resulted in what humans call folk tales, lore, myths, and legends. Mostly because God’s miracles can’t be explained, and humans like things to have explanations.
As I lay on my human, I looked out at the moon and I stared at the face there. A reminder that our God is always watching. I closed my eyes and began my prayers.
As I prayed, I could feel the gift within me shift and move. I felt myself grow heavier and heavier till I felt as though I were sinking into my human. She never stirred beneath me, and I wondered how that was for I felt as though I now weighed as much as she did. But then suddenly, I began to feel lighter and lighter. Then the light of the moon grew brighter and brighter, and I opened my eyes as my prayers finished, and I realized I was finished.
I had done what I needed to do.
The Tabby sat on the fence and listened to the commotion in the house where Bella lived with her human. She watched as the human male carried Bella gingerly to their car and drive away in haste. She heard the woman crying upstairs, the window to her room cracked to let the fresh night air in.
The Tabby stayed till morning, and then was relieved by the Calico. The Calico moved from the fence to be closer to the house, for the man had come home without Bella. She sat at the little door Bella used to go in and out and listened to the man and woman talk.
“Dr. Frank said that Bella’s body was riddled with cancer.”
“But how can that be? The labs proved she was perfectly healthy!”
The man coughed and then replied, “Dr. Frank said it is the strangest thing she has ever seen. The cancer was so bad, Bella should have been dead a long time ago.”
The woman began to cry. “Was she in pain?”
The man replied, “We can never know for sure, my love.”
The Calico began to slink away, but paused as she heard the ringing of the woman’s talking device they called a phone.
“Hello? Yes. This is she. Of course. I can be there in the morning.”
“Who was that?” asked the man.
“Dr. Pelling arranged an appointment for the morning for that second opinion and more labs and things.”
“Ok. Listen, sweetheart. Let’s order in tonight. Just you and me…”
Sobbing and hiccupping, “Oh, George. My poor Bella. I just… I just want to go to bed. Is that okay? This cancer, and now Bella, from cancer of all things…. I just… It’s too much…”
“I know, dear. I know. Come. I’ll get you tucked in and then make you a cup of that tea you like.”
The voices grew faint, and the Calico raised her eyes to the sky wondering and hoping. Had Bella succeeded?
Several days later, the four cats sat in the shadow of the fence and stared at the home Bella had once lived.
“She was a good cat,” commented the Tabby.
“Aye, one of the best of us,” agreed the Calico.
“You’re sure you heard right?” demanded the Coon.
“Yes, I’m sure,” replied the Sphinx. “Her human was crying, but she was excited. You should have seen the aura coming off her! It was the most beautiful I have ever seen. She was so full of relief and joy! And her mate too! He just glowed with happiness.”
“Tell us again what you heard,” asked the Tabby.
“Well. They were getting out of their car, and my human, who you know is good friends with her human, was waiting by their front door. She started to ask about the news, but Bella’s human just started crying from relief. She said that all the tests came back and all the cancer was gone, as if it had never been. Her doctor and his entire staff were baffled. One of his nurses kept saying it was a miracle. They were so caught off guard that they double checked and triple checked, and even looked at the original tests, but there is no error. She said that there was cancer, and then there wasn’t cancer.”
“So Bella did it,” commented the Coon.
“She did,” replied the Sphinx.
“She sacrificed the last of her nine lives to save her human,” whispered the Tabby.
“Bella's gift. What a gift. She was indeed one of the best of us,” whispered the Coon.
© 2021 Heidi Relge