For more than a year, kind hearted people at my company had been feeding the local feral cat community. The move to our new location was quickly approaching and a decision was made to trap the cats and find them new homes since they had become dependent on this location as a source of food. A large number of cats were trapped, provided medical attention, and sent to foster care until a forever home could be found. I was not involved in the feeding, trapping, or relocation process, but was aware as a close colleague was the primary organizer of the effort. Towards the final days, one of the female cats brought her litter of kittens to the loading dock as if she knew they would be taken to a safe place. Volunteer rotations were established to take care of the kittens until homes could be found. My friend convinced me this would be a good job for me, so I agreed and brought home six very feisty feral kittens. The kittens were able to eat on their own, but wanted no human contact, which proved disappointing to my two young daughters that desperately wanted to play with them. I grew fond of the single blue gray kitten from the start. My friend of course knew that once I brought those kittens home, at least one would end up staying. As it turned out we kept two and they were named Alloy and Savannah by my daughters. It took six weeks before they ever showed any signs of leaving their feral nature. Savannah was first to approach and nuzzle and Alloy quickly followed.
The children grew up and moved away, leaving the cats with me. The cats were inseparable until Savannah began to fight with Alloy. After exhausting all logical reasoning as to why, a trip to the vet to have them both checked out revealed Alloy had a severe abdominal infection that required immediate surgery. Once she recuperated the fighting did not cease. The vet surmised Savannah could smell the infection and associated it with death and instinctually shunned her sister and continued to do so. Exasperated with trying to reunite them, we decided the two would need to live apart. My daughter took one of the cats for a period and we tried to reunite again, but to no avail. I eventually ended up with Savannah and my daughter with Alloy. We never tried to reunite them again.
In 2009 we moved from Atlanta to Savannah (yes, Savannah moved to her namesake city) and Savannah seemed to blossom. She loved the large screened porch and I would often find her almost nose to nose with curious squirrels or chasing the endless supply of lizards. Life was good for the 12 year old feline.
In 2013 we made a decision to take on another pet and were a bit concerned how Savannah might react since she had ruled the roost for nearly a decade. To make this decision a bit more risky was the fact we were getting a Great Dane puppy. With Savannah nearing 16 there was some concern, but she was not showing her age and we felt she would hold her own, even if she was only a mere 5 pounds. On the day we brought the puppy home we expected a lot of hissing and exposed claws, but there was none of that. She just stared at the pup and somehow the pup knew not to mess with her. We never witnessed Savannah expressing any aggression towards the dog or vice versa. They became close friends and would often nuzzle noses, which was a sight to see given the disproportion in their sizes.
Alloy developed diabetes and eventually passed, but Savannah was going strong and exhibiting no signs of slowing down until the fall of 2015. I noticed she was sleeping a lot more and not showing her physical prowess as before. Her once shiny coat became dull and matted as she no longer groomed herself. I knew she was slowly declining. She was losing weight and eventually turned away all food. It was two days before Christmas and I felt she was suffering and that I had to face it was time to tell my friend goodbye.
I packed her into her travel crate and just before we left she and the dog had one last lingering glance and I wondered if they knew this would be their last time together. While driving I placed my fingers inside the mesh opening to reach her face and she gently nuzzled my fingers. I cried the entire way to the vet. After her examination the vet entered the room with two syringes filled with fluid she had extracted from her chest. She explained the options and that if I thought Savannah had lived a good life maybe the best solution was to let her go. I agreed and they left me to have my final time with her. It was so sad holding her tiny body and knowing I had to do this. She was just a few months shy of turning 18. She was the oldest pet I ever had. I could not have imagined when I fell in love with that feral kitten so many years ago we would have had this long journey together. She will forever be missed.
It is strange the strong bond we form with animals and how much comfort and companionship that bond can provide. Animals offer a closeness that is different from any human relationship and for some of us very vital to our existence. Maybe the bond stems from the connection with another species that can only be attained through love and caring. Whatever the reason, I cherish the lifetime of experiences.
Give your pets a special hug today and remember all the fond memories of those that have passed.
©Sydney Busch Photography