There’s this story about a dog and a cat that has resonated within me since hearing it for the first time. It’s a story told to us by an employee (possibly owner?) of the neighborhood pet store we discovered this past summer.
Her story followed after ours; the one in which we found out that our 19 year old cat, Rain, was deaf. Yes, that’s right. Our senior citizen cat is deaf. But more on that pet story after this one.
The pet shop employee’s (I’ll call her PS for short) story began with her own experiences with a deaf pet. She had told us about her cat and dog who always displayed such a unique relationship their entire lives. Ever since they were both kitten and puppy, they had played together and snuggled together; stuck by each others’ sides.
PS had known, once they were both much older, that her dog had become deaf. And she knew this because he would never respond to her calls out to his name. And he would only obey her with non-verbal signs, rather than PS’s spoken commands. But despite this, he would always know whenever it was feeding time; always was right there the minute his bowl was set down for dinner.
There was a reason, PS speculated, that this dog knew it was dinner time. And this wasn’t because of his sense of smell. Rather it was because whenever the can opener would go off, PS noticed that her cat would suddenly start meowing loudly and (if she wasn’t already snuggling next to him) would rush over to where her dog was at, as if to wake him up. PS had witnessed, at various times, her cat nudge her best friend to get his attention … and then would watch as the two of them would enter the kitchen side-by-side, almost as if they were attached at the hip.
It wasn’t until weeks after her finally dog passed away that PS realized something was also wrong with her cat. She had thought, at first, that her cat stopped eating because she was so emotionally distraught about the loss of her best friend. But whenever PS put cat treats directly in front of her, she would gobble them up and immediately ask for more, as if she was starved. If picked up and placed directly in front of her food, this cat would also gobble up her food as if there was no tomorrow. But the thing is, PS ever picked up her up and set her down elsewhere in the house (whether it be the kitchen or any other room), this cat would immediately start meowing and wandering around in circles.
And that’s when PS realized that her cat was actually blind. It was also when she realized that all the years of her cat nudging her dog during dinner time was not only so that her deaf dog would know when supper was … it was also her dog’s way of leading her blind cat into the kitchen.
It took weeks of training, PS told us, but eventually the cat was retrained on how to get to and from her food bowl by memory whenever dinner time rolled around. Sadly though, this poor cat died within a year of her best friend.
I remember this story every time I snuggle with my cat, Rain. And I know that it’s only because I will be completely devastated when Rain finally passes away.
I don’t purposely mean to become so melancholy while remembering PS’s story. In reality, my Rain will be 20 years old next year, and despite her being deaf … she’s had quite an amazing life. One that includes finding her at approximately 6-wks old underneath Dr. Bro’s car in the midst of a late spring thunderstorm. There’s been moments of catching her at 1-yr old snuggling next to our family beagle, Muffin … who was always so gentle and kind enough to let her smack her around a bit. I remember the periods of adjustments she’s had to make when getting used to other “roommates” … whether it was Hubby moving in with us, or the variety of other pets we’ve collected since being married. And I remember one particularly difficult period of time, which included surgery to repair a broken leg. (All of which occured simutaneously during my one IVF cycle, btw …)
Sadly, we discovered Rain’s loss of hearing earlier this year. And it’s only because I had made the comment to Hubby one day that poor Rain developed the habit of yeowling* late at night whenever we had already gone to bed. I would complain about how loud it was and how I would have rather dealt with her late-night sudden bursts of energy** instead.
When Hubby mentioned this to a co-worker of his, she mentioned that her cat did the same thing before she found out from her vet that her cat was deaf. The vet had told her that cats do this when they start losing their hearing because cats apparently don’t like it when things are completely silent. So they start to meow loudly, hoping that they could hear something. Anything.
At first I refused to believe that her loud yeowling meant that Rain was going deaf. So I began to test her. Call her name while she was busy eating. Snap my fingers at her while she was asleep. Clap my hands loudly while she walked the opposite direction. All to try to get her attention. And all in vain. Because she had, indeed, lost her hearing.
While she no longer was afraid of big ole Kozzy bounding up to her (she couldn’t HEAR how loudly our dog would come prancing towards her), she began to startle a little more easily. And while she no longer does her late night excercising by running all around the apartment, she has begun to sleep more and more frequently.
And I know it’s all about Rain getting older. And that this is the natural “circle of life.” But it doesn’t stop me from feeling sad about what’s eventually going to come. That perhaps, I will be like PS’s cat in the story above … so reliant on all the comfort and happiness that Rain has given me all these years, that I’d feel lost without her.
Rain, Rain … Don’t go away
Stay with me another day
* Yeowling = Howling and Meowing simutaneously
** I swear, there are nights where I thought that the cats had more than a “nip” of that Catnip …
Read Part Deuce here …