I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I first saw those two little green eyes peering out at me through the bars of the cage. I tried to look away, but my eyes were locked and I knew I had been “picked.” The paperwork was completed and the next day we picked up our six month old black and white kitten. Boots seemed the logical name since her tiny paws were all white. It didn’t take long for Boots to put our sixty-three pound Collie Sheppard in her rightful place. I have had many cats throughout my life, but Boots was unique. She has never jumped on a countertop, ripped a curtain or clawed at the furniture. She was truly a dream come true.

Boots and I have shared many life events, as well as a home, over longer than with anyone else in my entire life. She is an indoor cat who, fortunately, believes the only way to go outside is with a leash on. At times I believe she actually thinks she is a dog. Boots has never been a lap cat, she is content to sit on her chosen perch and watch the world go by, in her own majestic way. Through the years Boots and I have always had an unspoken respect for each other, while maintaining a courteous distance.

But Boots and my husband Ed, on the other hand, were much more intimate. Every morning as Ed got ready for work Boots would join him in the bathroom and after twenty minutes they would both emerge bright eyed and ready to begin their day. I have to admit at times I was a bit jealous of their relationship.

When my grandchildren joined the family Boots knew to stay clear of flaying hands and wobbly feet. Boots travelled well in the car and also in the camper, which is a rarity for felines. By the time Boots was eight years old, she developed a cancerous tumour in one eye. The vet assured us it was not serious and is contained within the eye. Through the years Boots and I began to grow closer and occasionally she would lie beside me on the sofa. By the time she was ten years old, our lives had changed drastically as Ed had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Boots seemed to sense his illness and began cuddling beside him in bed and on the sofa following a long day of chemotherapy treatments, while Rusty lay nearby on the floor. Our pets provided much needed comfort as we struggled through the trauma of our daily lives.

A few months later we noticed a weakness in Rusty’s back legs. A trip to the vet revealed she had a deadly cancer too, and would probably die within weeks; sadly we chose to put her down. When we arrived home Boots was waiting for us, perched on the back of the sofa, looking as if she already knew Rusty wouldn’t be coming home again. During the months ahead Boots was our ray of sunshine, always beside us providing warmth and tenderness to the very end of Ed’s life. After Ed’s passing Boots and I grew closer as we consoled each other during tear filled days and nights.

Eventually the dreadful day came when I knew it was time to go through Ed’s things. Through the blur of tear filled eyes I gently folded Ed’s clothing into piles. Initially Boots sat off to the side watching, then she sauntered over and began sniffing and rolling herself on top of the clothing. I knew this was her way of saying goodbye to a much loved friend. People say cats are aloof but I knew this wasn’t true.

After much healing Boots and I moved on and developed a new life journey which now included Stan. Boots was happy to have another man in her life, as she readily snuggled up for chin rubs. When I began writing this story I feared it might have a different ending as Boot’s health continues to decline having more bad than good days. Boots is a special cat and her and I will always share an exceptional part of each other’s lives.

After-word: The story was supposed to end there, but since I first wrote this, Boot’s health continued to deteriorate and, recently, she stopped eating. Sadly, I knew it was time to say goodbye to my loyal, faithful companion of twenty years. Boots peacefully closed her eyes moved on to the journey that ultimately awaits us all. Till we meet again my dear sweet girl.

Barbara Godin is a graduate of AU and writes the “Dear Barb” column. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband, and two dogs.

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