Sylvester was his formal name. He was known to the family and me as Vester. Sometimes Vesty-Vest. It has been a few days since he left us and I have had difficulty writing about him.
He had a rather complicated past which I guess began in a run down building in the small town where I live. A woman who lived in a nearby building began feeding him and then eventually took him in. She did the right thing and had him neutered. The necessary vaccinations and he began his life with her, her son, an older white cat and an old dog. They called him Squirt…an awful, undignified name. That was all before I move to the town in a building near where they lived. A year later, she married and it seem to all change for Vester. He began hanging out by the side door where I parked my car and came and went.
Most mornings I would walk a couple of blocks to the post office to get my mail and Vester began walking with me. Oddly like a good gentleman he stayed on the traffic side of the sidewalk. He kept pace with me and when we would reach the traffic light, I would tell him to go home and not cross the street. When I would return through the light, he would soon show up having waited for me.
I watched him carefully guide the old dog out of the street and walk him back home to their small yard behind their building. He did the same with the old white cat, grooming him and nurturing him.
The woman would lock him out at night so I would see him running home to get breakfast only to watch her drive away as he almost made it home. No breakfast for him. So I began going down from my apartment and giving him food. It seemed the right thing to do. Then it became dinner as well and a pan of dried food for him to have during the day if he wanted. All tucked by the side door of the building. We did this for about a year.
Another cat showed who was in really bad condition. Vester began graciously sharing his food sensing the poor guy needed it desperately. They did not fight over the food rather simply shared. I soon put out two plates of food for breakfast and more food in the pan.
They seemed to become buddies and hung out together in the flower bed beside my building. Then one morning I noticed the other cat was in really bad condition and need ed attention by a vet. So I took him in and to the vet. Had him neutered and all that goes with a new rescue. He lived in the downstairs of the building and really blossomed. No hair became full on long hair and the markings of a Maine Coon cat. They are very loving and great cats.
I continued to feed Vester thinking he belonged to the people where he had been living and not wanting to take their cat even though he definitely was not getting any care. I don’t think her new husband much liked the cats or even the old dog. He wasn’t a nice man. It wasn’t until Vester showed up in my flower bed just laying there very ill that everything changed. He had a huge cut on his side. Fever and no energy to move to come for breakfast. So I took it to him and he ate what he could.
I went to speak with her about him and her response was that she no longer felt he was her cat and that if she saw him she would put hydrogen peroxide on the wound. How can people turn their back on a cat that had been part of their family. It is beyond my comprehension. So I swooped him up and immediately took him to the vet.
He recovered in a separate room from where the other cat Bernard was living because he needed to be quiet and not disrupted while his wound healed. He rallied soon and began living downstairs with Bernard or Nardy as he came to be known. The routine continued of the feeding ritual now simply going downstairs to feed them each morning and then spending time with them while I had my shop open. They were very good together and seemed extremely happy to have the home.
Eventually they moved upstairs to the apartment when my sister came to stay while evacuated for a storm. They fit right in with the other cats. Vester much more so then Nardy. Vester was such a gentle soul that he did not provoke confrontation and would do all he could to solve it if it occurred. He nurtured all of the cats with the exception of the one bossy female, Bailey.
Some years before I rescued a feral mother in Florida who lived most to the time under my bed. Coming out for breakfast, dinner, the litter box. She did not like to be in contact with anyone or any other cat. Then Vester showed and all that changed. He must have said to her, Girl come and enjoy life. This is great. Let’s have some fun. There are toys. Sofas to lay on. The sun shining in the big windows to soak in. Soon she was out and about. An entirely different cat. He had worked his magic with her. To this day she is more approachable and certainly not feral, thanks to whatever counsel Vester provided to her.
He became my steadfast and reliable cat. He was the one I counted on in some odd way as we do with the stable ones in our life. Not really noticing that we are relying on them, yet we are. And so I was comforted that Vester was there to keep the cats in line. To more or less rein them in when need be and to offer comfort to Oisie as she needed it. He groomed most of them and tolerated others. He would wait until Bailey had her turn at any of the bowls of food and he would not barge in on another while they ate their breakfast or dinner from their individual plates. If there was anything left then he would go for it but not until they walked away.
A year ago, a small kitten showed up and continued to hang out in the middle of the street in front of my house. I had buried a kitten a few months prior so I knew his chances of living without being hit by a truck or car were slim. I brought him in hoping to find him a home which did not happen. He took to Vester immediately I suppose sensing he was the kind, stable one who would look out for him. Vester seem to teach him the ropes even though at times he was a wild little guy…not wild in the sense of feral however wild in the sense of I have a home so I am happy, happy, happy. He flew through the house many times breaking stuff as he went. He would jump on Vester who was by now a rather old fellow so not up to the intense play of a growing kitten. Yet Vester tolerated it.
They bonded though and Seb, the new guy would sleep next to him as Oisie did. Always seeking him out and staying close to him. Vester sought refuge in the cabinets something he had never done. Soon Seb discovered how to open the cabinet doors and there was no peace for Vester. That continued for some time.
Vester by now was showing his age or so I thought that was what it was. It is tough to know what is happening with a cat because they conceal so much by pure instinct to do so. Then just two weeks ago he appeared to not be feeling well at all. So we went to the Dr. Welch…a really great vet. X-rays revealed he had fluid build up in his lungs which had caused his breathing to be compromised and the infection compromising his body thus the weight loss. We began the treatment process. Soon because of the inflammation he could not eat so I created a brew to give him by syringe and did so several times a day. He was trying so hard and wanted to live. I wanted him to live as well and kept promising him a screened porch when we moved to a new house. He was the one I wanted a screened porch for the most. I knew he would love every minute he spent there. All through this digression Vester would pull himself to the litter box. Never once taking the convenient method of just going where he was. By this time though he had a litter box near him yet others would have forgone the effort.
We made several visits to the Dr. Welch…each time he would say I am not sure we can get him well but we can try to keep him comfortable. I worked so hard and so did Vester to keep him living. He was a huge part of the family and we needed him. Yet on the next visit to the Dr. Welch, the news was not so good and the recommendation that I let him go, came. It is not an easy decision to make, yet as Dr. Welch said it is the best thing to do and we do it quickly with care. So reluctantly I signed the papers for Vester to travel beyond and to another life. It is heartbreaking on all fronts. He was my best ever cat because he was so reliable and stable.
There is a huge void in the house now. The other cats are so quiet and solemn. Seb looks for him. Oisie is unsure what to do. Even Bailey is searching. We go about our day with breakfast and dinner. The nibble now and then of dried food from the many bowls set out. We continue on yet the void is so glaring and the silence so loud.
He is sending a message now and then. Yesterday while mowing the lawn a huge black butterfly hovered around me for a long time. No flowers anywhere nearby for it to enjoy…just hovering over me. I knew it was Vester. The sky the morning after he passed on a drizzly raining day, was so rich in colour. So unusually beautiful. I knew it was him saying it is lovely here. Then I saw a pure white cat when I ventured to the town center much like the cat he cared for before he came to live with me. I have always felt for some odd reason that white cats are an omen of good. So that too was a message from Vester.
He will always be in my heart and it is so difficult to sit having my coffee in the morning and have the absence of him next to me. A morning ritual of all the nine years he lived with me. Like so many things that can never return we wonder if we showed enough love. Enough caring. If we did the right thing. I hope that Vester knew how important he was to the family and how much he was loved, not just by me, by the other cats.
He was indeed a very kind, gentle soul who did not judge another cat. Who helped out those who seemed in need. Who encouraged an afraid girl to discover herself and life. Who provided me with a lot of support, love without question. I am going to try to be more like Vester. If I can be as a person half of what he was as a cat then in my remaining years I may at long last accomplish something of importance.
Rest in peace my sweet Vester. Rest in Peace.