Monday, October 4, 2010

On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi: A Very Special Cat

He wasn’t much to look at, just a scrawny, scraggly white cat with odd eyes (one blue and one gold), a perpetually runny nose, and scabs on his ears from scratching too hard, but Rupert was the most wonderful cat I’ve ever known.  He didn’t belong to me (as if a cat could belong to any human – it’s usually the other way around).  He lived with a friend, but he was my best “pussy boy”.  Every time I came to visit, he would run to greet me, meowing frantically and dancing on his hind legs as he begged me to pick him up.  When I did, he wrapped his front paws around my neck and covered my face in kitty kisses, purring all the while.

Rupert had a purr for everyone.  It didn’t matter if a visitor was a confirmed cat hater.  Rupert would still purr and try to cuddle.  He even liked going to the vet!  Most cats run the other direction and hide under a bed when anyone so much as mentions the v-e-t.  Not Rupert.  He just purred…and purred…and purred.  He purred so much and so loudly that the vet couldn’t  even check his heartbeat until he gently tapped Rupert’s nose a couple times to pause the purring…but only for a few moments. 

Rupert’s favorite treat was a visit to the local nursing home, and we took him frequently.  He seemed to know where we were heading the moment we got in the car because his excitement level skyrocketed.  We never had to put Rupert in a cat carrier.  He enjoyed sitting on my lap and looking out the window when we traveled (no, I was not driving).  Rupert had a knack for remembering every nursing home resident, and he responded to each one’s needs.  He would snuggle calmly in the lap of a small lady, blissfully squeezing his eyes shut as she petted him and talked about the cats she once loved.  He would play vigorously (but still gently) with a man in a wheelchair, who laughed heartily as he enjoyed Rupert’s antics. 

Rupert had two special friends at the nursing home.  “Grandma Miriam,” as we called her, was a cat lover from day one who adored Rupert.  He had the run of her room when he visited her, and he knew it.  First, he’d climb on her lap and smother her in kitty kisses, hugs, and purrs while she giggled and cuddled him.  Then, he’d explore, sniffing here and there, climbing over furniture, and batting a stray tissue or candy wrapper while Miriam watched in delight.  Finally, he’d settle down in her lap for a nice long petting session while we visited.

Rupert’s other special friend was D.J., a young man who was left with a severe brain injury after a motorcycle crash.  D.J. couldn’t talk and could barely move by himself.  Most of the time he was unresponsive, just sitting still in his wheelchair and staring off into space, but all of that changed when Rupert came to visit.  Rupert knew just what to do get D.J. to respond to him.  He’d stand in D.J.’s lap, turn around, and tickle D.J.’s nose with the tip of his tail.  And D.J. would laugh!  He’d begin make petting motions, and one of us would carefully place his hand on Rupert’s back so he could stroke his soft fur.  The two of them would sit together for a long time, D.J. petting and Rupert purring.  They had quite a bond. 

Rupert is gone now but far from forgotten.  I don’t know whether our pets go to Heaven or not (I like to think that they do), but if any cat would’ve qualified, it would be Rupert.  He touched many lives with his charming personality, loving nature, and endless purrs.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us and protect our animal friends.  Amen. 

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