– Stephanie Nichols-Young, ADLA President
As animal people we have all had our heart broken by a four-legged soulmate who left us too soon. We thought we had our guard up, but Heather Lynn’s story touched us all. She posted it the day after the 2018 General Election.
I voted today. It was one of the hardest choices I ever had to make. I had two choices in front of me, and neither one was a winner by any means. When the time came though, my vote was seconded… and our final journey together began.
When a scrawny little tabby found his way into my heart almost seven years ago, I didn’t expect the outcome to end the way it did. From the moment I laid eyes on his guilty-yet-innocent face surrounded in bathroom tissue all I could think of was “Please, sir. May I have some more?” And he was dubbed Oliver.
He belonged to a trailer park colony of cats I did TNR for and I couldn’t help but scoop him up, hoping to find him a good home (after getting him fixed, of course) and give him a happily evfur after. It ended up being with me.
His best friend, and Cat Daddy, was my lovable goofball Benji. Oliver took to him on Day One and the two spent many years of grooming and cuddling. It always warmed my heart to come in a room and see them wrapped up in a ball together. When you have a friend like that, life’s gotta be good.
Early on, I realized Oliver wasn’t going to be a typical feline. We played beauty parlor where he’d sit on my lap, I’d brush his teeth and clip his nails and he enjoyed it. He was also the pickiest eater I ever met; I surmised because his mom scavenged food from the nearby restaurant. So I cooked for him. Fresh chicken, bacon, salmon while buying cat food after cat food hoping he’d like one with no luck. He’d try them out but always came back to the kitchen for the good stuff. Then Gramma Mae’s came into our life and Oliver’s love for dry food suddenly made my life 100x easier.
Then we rescued a puppy and one day Oliver wanted to go outside when she did. I couldn’t bear the thought of what happens to cats when they go outside so I told him point blank the only way he was going out was on a harness and leash like the dog. He looked at me like “Okay, so what’s the problem?” Of course, who tries to put a harness and leash on a cat? Especially a former feral that’s now almost two? Apparently me.
Oliver sat there so calmly while I put it on, you’d never know it was his first rodeo. When we went outside for the first time since being catnapped almost two years prior, he just stood there soaking it all in. He sniffed the flowers and the rocks, circled the door and sat down on a step, moved a few feet and sat down. He smiled at me and tugged the leash a little so I followed him a few more feet to his next destination. All in all, our first walk lasted about 30 minutes and a total of 10 square feet.
The next day he sat at the door and meowed. So I grabbed the harness and leash and he let me put them on again. And so our daily routine of courtyard walks began. He never went more than 20 feet during the first year, was chatty and friendly to the neighbors who always wondered how I got A CAT into a harness and walked him. It was fun. I decide I was officially the Pied Piper of Pussy (crazy cat lady is such a blasé term).
We went to the beach, I figured what cat wouldn’t love an endless supply of sand? He didn’t get wet but what a day we had. After a couple more years of walks and short adventures under our belts, Oliver and I set out on a 2,500+ mile road trip from Arizona to Montana. We stopped at Horseshoe Bend, Zion Park, and drove through Yellowstone National Park together where he got his fill of Mother Nature on a whole ‘nother level… from geysers to buffalo, and trees up to the sky.
We stopped at the top of Beartooth Pass (11,000 ft in elevation) and Oliver nearly flew away in his Batman harness and cape when we stopped for a photo opp. He was elated to get back in the car. We saw snow. He wasn’t having any of it. A true Arizonan 😎
When we moved, our new neighbors got used to seeing him out on his walks and marveled at his feline charm. He got to a point where it was okay to let him out on the front lawn without me wondering if he’d come home. My other cats were jealous; prisoners with little means of escape, not that any of them openly planned one.
He played dress up. He wore dresses and hats. For Christmas, he wore an elf costume. During Shark Week, I got him a shark costume and called him JOliver. His Batman harness and cape were seen around the neighborhood, frequently chasing would-be cohorts back into their lairs. Who was that masked cat?
He eventually circled back around to wanting more meat again, so I started cooking for him. Baked salmon (fresh, not farmed and no added color), crock pot chicken fresh from the Albertson’s meat counter. Bacon, oh the joy of bacon. Shaved deli meats (ham the favorite by far) and an occasional Whataburger (hold the onions please).
After a quick deterioration and several thousands of dollars on tests, medicines and endless prayers, Oliver let me know it was time to take one more adventure. To the Rainbow Bridge.
It was with a heavy heart I voted to let Oliver take that journey although I would’ve selfishly gone on presenting candidate after candidate of alternatives. But I voted for the betterment of his being not my selfishness, and I voted with all the love in the world. And when you vote like that, you’ve got to believe it counts.
God Speed my four-legged feline friend and soulmate. My heart will never forget you.
In honor of Oliver’s life, I’m raising money to support TNR efforts through ADLA… because if it were not for this organization, I may have never had the blessing of Oliver in my life.
– Heather Lynn, Oliver’s caregiver