by Jim Markitell
(Greensburg, Pa. USA)
Cleo in her prime
Cleo found us in December 2003. I frequently throw table scraps out in my yard and noticed a buff colored, somewhat mange-y cat sometimes eating them. She was skittish and ran as soon as I opened the door, but eventually grew more accustomed to my presence.
We went to Disneyworld over New Years and I told my family that we could take her in when we got back... if she would get close enough. She would meow to me and when I finally got to touch her, it was like I was her best friend. Cleo was skinny, had ear mites, and had a bent ear from her life in the wild... and had a skinny, long tail. Despite looking ragged, she adapted well. The scraggly 6 month old cat turned into the softest, fluffiest, and friendly cat I would ever know. She talked to me regularly and would raise her paw, as in saying Hi, whenever I would see her.
Cleo became "my" cat and seldom left my side. She was smart, amusing, and always had a sparkle in her eyes and purred louder than any other cat I've known. Last year, Cleo had an ear injury, right before we left for our yearly trip to the beach. Cleo had to wear a bonnet to keep her from scratching her ear as it healed... we ended up taking Cleo to the beach with us and snuck her into the hotel, carefully avoiding the housekeeping staff for the 10 days we were there. She loved to look out over the beach!
Earlier this year we lost another orange cat, Thor. He died from an autoimmune disorder and suffered with labored breathing before he passed over the Rainbow Bridge. We noticed Cleo was breathing a bit harder than normal, so we took her to the vet where she was diagnosed with a mass in her chest, which was pressing against her lungs and other organs. She lost a lot of her appetite and began to lose weight. The vet mentioned putting her down at that point, but our family couldn't do it. Cleo hung on for another 6 weeks, when I was forced to take her to the vets for her final trip. While we knew she was better off, the heartbreak our family went through was unbelievable, and tears were shed by the gallon.
Today was a coldish, rainy, miserable day and Cleo left our world around 3:30. On the way home, the sun broke out and gave us an hour of beautiful weather, almost like a sign that Cleo had indeed made it over the Bridge to be with her friend Thor. Someday I hope that we are all reunited. I have a huge hole in my heart that will take a long time to scar over. I will never forget my Cleo and I'm thankful for the 7 years we had together. Some cats are one in a million, and Cleo was one of these. Like me, she was an orphan and I thank God that he guided her to me, or should I say, God guided me to her. I'll miss her loud purrs and constant playing... she provided me happiness like no other and I will miss her until my last day. Rest in Peace, Little Girl, someday we will be together again.