When I reflect on memories of our cat Sadie that predate her departure from this world last Thursday afternoon, her purr will always come back to me.
It often reached incredible volumes – Cathy described it as “yell-purring” – and surprisingly high pitches, frequently sounding like the tires of a car trying to gain traction on an icy road.
We adopted Sadie from Forget Me Not Animal Rescue in mid-2017, three months after losing another of our cats, Mombo. We figured the remaining kitty in our home, Grace, might like some company. We questioned our judgment when Grace spent the first three days of our Sadie-fostering experiment growling at the new arrival, who responded by hiding under the bed in our spare bedroom.
But Sadie’s difficult days preceded her relationship with our jealous Grace. Forget Me Not’s operator at the time, Cheryl Skinner, told us that Sadie had several litters of kittens before the age of two, was mainly an outside cat during her pre-adoption phase, and was still in a semi-feral state when we took her on. That could account for a skittish nature that never left Sadie during her time with us, as well as her gaunt figure during our four-week cat-fostering trial period.
Barely two weeks had passed before we suspected that Sadie was here to stay. She endured frequent swats from Grace and slowly let her guard down. Unlike Grace’s moody-teenager-in-a-cat’s-body style, Sadie had the demeanour of a little lady, elegant and dignified. We figured that if she opened her mouth and started speaking English, we’d hear the voice of a Downton Abbey character, likely Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess.
Slowly but surely, Sadie developed courage. She visited all the rooms in the house, and while she never tried to sleep with us in our bed (likely due to the presence of a certain bratty feline sister on our mattress), we often found her big, bright eyes staring happily at us from Cathy’s clothes closet.
Sadie also found the nerve to request exactly what she wanted. If either of us passed by the spare bedroom while Sadie was there, she would frequently flop down on the floor, start purring, and invite us to rub her belly and scratch behind her ears. After only a few months of this pattern, she would start guiding us with her paws towards her favourite spots for a belly-rub and, later, leading us to the bed for a nightly cuddle session.
The purrs that filled the room – and often travelled well down the hallway – were so therapeutic and cathartic that Cathy started referring to Sadie as her “counsellor cat.” When I went to Quebec two weeks ago for a four-day training session for my new job at Telile Community Television, Cathy and I had a video chat and I got to hear Sadie’s unmistakable purr.
She found other ways to get braver. Last September, our niece Mullen started rooming with us as she enrolled in the Office Administration program at the NSCC Strait Area Campus. While Sadie had to adjust to Mullen living in the spare bedroom that our “little lady” had claimed as her own, the two became roomies and friends, and some of my favourite pictures of Sadie also feature Mullen delivering those beloved belly-rubs. The others are with Cathy, who finally convinced Sadie that it’s not actually a bad thing when someone who loves you picks you up and holds you gently in their arms.
We worried about Sadie’s breathing for months, applying a liquid steroid to her suppertime food and getting her checked for everything from asthma (which she had) to feline leukemia (which she didn’t).
Finally, after a 48-hour period in which she remained under a downstairs chair and didn’t eat, drink or visit a litter box, we went to our vet clinic and learned, via X-ray, the horrible truth: Sadie had at least seven tumours in her abdomen, was experiencing severe bloating and anemia, was too weak for emergency surgery, and would probably not last the night if we took her home.
The “little lady” who had become so brave during her time with us then showed the greatest love and courage of all; giving us her trademark purr as she accepted the injection which would take her to a new body that would never give her any further difficulty, never grow old, and never die.
When asked to name the most important commandment, Jesus said simply: “love God” and “love your neighbour as yourself.” I don’t know Sadie’s exact relationship with God, but she gave us nothing but love and courage during the 30 months we were lucky enough to spend with her.
I hope I live the rest of my life that way. And I hope I remember Sadie’s purr as I’m doing it.