It’s been exactly one year since I was forced to say goodbye to you. A long and turbulent year at that.
Our paths crossed after I took steps to become a cat foster, in hopes to do what little I could to help home the stray population of our area. It was an intimidating task. Having cats for years, somehow didn’t feel like enough preparation to take on the challenge of fostering and you particularly were a unique situation. All I knew going into fostering you is that you were around 5 years old and considered feral. A word that I feel is sometimes over used and certainly didn’t detour me from the opportunity. Fostering was just the start of our journey. We didn’t know how long it would take to transition you to the comfort of living in a home. Honestly, we didn’t know if it was possible, but the goal was to try, so we did. I picked you up from a PetSmart that worked with the rescue. I showed up expecting to fill out paperwork and get the rundown of the fostering experience, instead I was met with a young employee who had no clue I was on the way to pick you up or even how to interact with a cat, if I am being honest. No paperwork or proof I was even there to pick you up. It was a very odd situation to say the least. No where near what I thought the early steps of fostering would be like.
None the less, meeting you was an amazing experience and one that will be hard to forget. You were terrified, understandably. You lived the street, surviving who knows what hardships just to exist. Now your just expected to adapt to everything around you changing and having zero control of anything.
Looking past your fear, I saw this beautiful Calico that deserved a safe home and to feel loved. It was clear you had been through some shit. Your tail appeared limp as though it was ran over at some point, but you seemed to still have mobility with it. You were missing your right eye, something that gave you the image of a badass or maybe just a pirate. The oddest part is it wasn’t closed up. Typically that is sewn shut to protect from infections. Lastly, your forehead had a concaved spot that seemed to have healed at some point. Not heavily noticeable, until you petting your head, which obviously took time.
September 1st, 2021
Everything went incredibly fast in the pick up process, but I managed to get you home. It was likely your fear of the situation, but you were so quiet on the drive, which is not something I have been used to seeing with our cats. I had to assemble your kennel hotel with you in the room because I had no time to do so before getting you. It was a complicated thing and I ended up skimming my ankle with one of the metal rods. It hurt a lot and bleed for awhile. I know have a scar there ,but I rather enjoy it because it has a fond memory behind it. The day Leela came home.
Naturally it took time for you to get situated in your kennel. You spent the first night crouched in your liter box, despite the comfy bed setup we had for you. Eventually you got more comfortable and migrated to the bed. Once you realized there was a heating pad involved, it seemed like a no brainer.
We had you for a total of 4 months, from September 1st to January 3rd. Despite how little time it was, it felt much longer. It took time, but within that 4 months you were relatively to the point of accepting a home. You still panicked on occasion and tried to runaway in the confines of your personal bedroom to yourself, something that the other cats didn’t even have the luxury of. It almost became a game each day of seeing if I could slowly come over to you with out you running. Luckily I had plenty of food and treats to help convince you to stop running so much.
One thing you were not shy about is your enjoyment of wet food and I took full advantage of that. While you were distracted I would slowly pet you and it really did not take long for you to realize you liked it. It was a huge surprise to find out you were this affectionate. You would guide me through the parts of your scalp that need scratching and your loud purrs were audibly addicting. I would love to take credit for the progress you had made, but reality is, you probably just needed someone to earn your trust. I just hope that by these 4 months I did.
I remember the first time I got ambitious and picked you up slowly and held you close to my heart. It seemed to help calm you down and bring you piece or perhaps it just became something I needed and you allowed. Either way, it felt like our heart beats were in sync in those moments and it was something that grew to be a regular activity of our day.
Once we got you to the comfort of being held, it seemed to really trigger something in you. You became more confident, laying on the top shelf of your kennel and jumping on the window ledge to look outside. Overall, I could tell that you were able to be more of yourself.
My favorite moments were when you would get your tongue stuck out and I would poke it back in for you. I could never tell if you did it intentionally or if it was a side effect of your past injuries. All I know is it was adorable and I was always there to help.
We were fortunate enough to have you with our family for the holidays. I just wish you didn’t have to be quarantined. I would have loved for you to eat your Thanksgiving meal or open your Christmas gift with the rest of the cats, but you still enjoyed your food and played with your toy and that was enough for me to be thankful.
It was extremely hard on me when your health started to go down. I simply was not prepared for the thought of losing you so soon. It was New Year’s Eve and you started to breath a bit faster. You seemed like you were still eating and drinking water, but something was off. It was the worst time because the holiday caused more limitations on bringing you to the vet. I don’t know if it was a byproduct of the pandemic, but it has become insanely difficult to get appointments in our area. We are talking weeks to sometimes months. The emergency vet’s were even turning us down, somehow. One even told us that they couldn’t see you unless you were in simple terms “dying” and I still to this day don’t understand what is the deciding factor to qualify to be seen. It was probably the day that I felt the most helpless. All I wanted to do was help you and I couldn’t. We did what we could at home to ease your discomfort and I was able to get you in the Monday after the holiday, but it was too late.
January 3rd, 2022
The Vet said you had fluid in your lungs, likely caused by either a Foxtail weed or a puncture from a bite. All I could think of is the healed injury on your head and was it a bite from a dog? Is this how you lost your eye? I imagined the rescue would have known about this, but somehow they didn’t? Or did they? None of it really mattered, I just needed the rescue contact to give me a response about what to do as far as treatment protocol for a foster. I was willing to help, but I needed permission. Eventually I got a response that was in simple terms she is your cat now and go ahead and help her… AKA we have no interest in covering any of the bill. None of that mattered at the moment, though, I just wanted to save you and it was clear at a certain point that that was no longer an option. I had to make an extremely hard decision and to be honest, I will always have the thought lingering in my head, what if I made the wrong choice. I will never know and that’s something that I am still struggling to move past today. I am grateful that I was able to spend your last moments with you. I just hope you knew I loved you and you were always a part of our family. As much as I wanted to say we were fostering you, I think I had already made up my mind that you were home.
I still miss you. It was a long time before I could even build the strength to go back into your bedroom. I went through a heavy period of depression and ultimately, only sought help after the encouragement from Jessica. In the beginning it was just the obsession of replaying what I could have done differently in my head. Eventually it would be a normal day and then I was hit with grief that you’re gone. Naturally, we decided to take time away from the podcast after your passing to morn. There was even a point where I questioned even returning to the podcast all together or ending it. I didn’t really know how to enjoy things like that after, in a way, it felt wrong, like I was a terrible person. It wasn’t until someone reached out about our return, because they enjoyed the nonsense we recorded each week, that I found the second wind to jump back in. It still felt weird and we didn’t record weekly like we used to, but I tried and I think I am at the point that I can enjoy it as much as I used to.
You are probably in cat heaven wondering why am I telling you everything that you already experienced with me? I guess I just needed this letter as closure for myself. Not to forget you, that will obviously never happen. I don’t know where I stand with destiny or fate, I used to think that everything was just cause and effect with no plan or purpose. I feel like it had to be something more than circumstantial that we met. I feel like maybe we needed each other at the time. I wish it lasted longer, but I hope that I made the most I could for you that I could.
A lot has happened over the last year, but I will keep it to the important points. Trying to process everything I felt after your passing has inspired me to write some scripts. Reality is that they will likely never be anything beyond that, but I have ideas that I want to put on paper. One involves my time with you and another is just a silly idea to reboot The Cat from Outer Space within the MCU. It’s probably a terrible idea, but it’s happening. I also got out of my comfort zone in the last half of the year and started streaming on Twitch. Turns out I am really good at throwing sticky grenades in Halo Infinite and I have become #1 in the world. It’s such a stupid achievement, but its true! I haven’t really grown a lot on Twitch, though. I don’t think I will ever be big even with that “skill”. I just hope that I can spread love and awareness of cats that need homes. I go by “ClassyCatDad”, which I already did on social media and such, but I have really leaned into it now. I hope to get the courage to tell your story sometime without ugly crying, especially on stream. Nobody wants to see that.
Another big thing is we went to C2E2 again, and this time I was able to be much more outgoing and friendly than last time. I felt much more comfortable to be myself and really grew some more relationships through the PCL community.
Lastly, Jessica and I swapped roles and she brought home a kitten a friend found alone on the street. I was hesitant to bring in another foster after everything with you and it was hard to see him in your kennel at first. He’s quite the character and only 2 months old. He’s extremely vocal and food motivated. We brought him to visit family over Christmas and ended up in a brewery with him and some friends in town. I know it sounds ridiculous, but people had dogs and I had a kitten so what’s the problem? Turned out to be great, our friends were apparently interested in adopting a kitten and Stanley (That’s what we named him) was charming the hell out of everyone. He ended up joining their family. It was abrupt and something that I didn’t expect to happen so soon, but I am glad we found him a home. I think you would have liked him. Thank you for sharing your kennel with him and given him the opportunity to find a home. You did that for him by paving the path to foster. Oh they renamed him Roger. Not as cool, but he likes to wrestle and it’s fitting because “he can do that all day”.
There have been some other hardships, but nothing that you should be burdened with. It’s your time to rest.
Thank you for being a part of my life, Leela. It’s been a difficult year and I still miss you, but I am learning to accept what happened and value what we were able to share together. Please look after your little brother, Flash. I miss and love you both. Forever in our hearts.
P.S. Your blanket and pizza toy are safe from the other cats.