Sunday, November 29, 2015

Black is the New Black - Our Second Shade of Black

Ray - Our "Back Up Cat" and So Much More - Cat II, in our III Cat Series

When we went "window shopping" for our second cat, it was just supposed to be an excuse to go for a drive out to a town just outside of our city. It was supposed to give us food for thought for another day.

We came home that night and I was sold on the idea of fostering the quiet big, black panther of a cat who was looking for a home. My son was adamant we adopt him. "What if someone else wanted to adopt him after he has become part of our family?" He couldn't bear the thought of falling in love with a cat, only to have him taken away from us. It was an unlikely possibility (we were told that many people won't adopt a black cat), but it was there.

I liked the idea that the vet bills would have been covered, if we had gone the fostering route but time would tell us that my son's route was the best way to go. For all of us.

It seems ironic to me that our skittish big, black panther's signature pose was this:

Who can resist reaching out and loving a cat who shows such trust? Certainly not us! Ray's body language was very deceiving though. He is the most fearful and skittish cat I have ever known.
I would love to know Ray's back story. He must have led a very traumatic life before he found us because he is scared of everything and everybody. I called him our "Scaredy Cat" but I have since realized he is more like a butterfly. Sit still, let him come to you and he will gingerly approach you. Pursue him and he is gone. Like a butterfly.

Ray's gentle nature was endearing to our senior cat, Andre. He approached Andre with respect and reverence. He would hunker his head down and nuzzle into Andre's chest as if to say, "Do you want to play??" Andre's playing days were nearing an end by the time Ray joined us. But we enjoyed the cat tussles while they lasted.

We adopted Ray in the spring and Andre started doctoring in the fall. We weren't quite sure what Andre was fighting but lungs were compromised and we savored each breath he took for the year and a half that followed.

Ray followed Andre's lead, showed us what a gentleman and gentle cat he was and he worked his way deep into our hearts.

Ray is laying on the floor; Andre is gingerly playing with the ear plug Ray snatched from my second son's room. Andre nips at Ray and Ray just backs off and lets him be. What a gentle and respectful cat  he is!

I will always wonder how well cats understand each other. Did Ray know how ill his brother cat really was? Did he know more than we did at that point? No matter what he knew or didn't know, or what Andre was able to communicate to him or not, Ray took it upon himself to endear himself to my son.

When my son returned home from a long day at school, Ray would wait to be invited onto my son's lap, then he would lap up all the love my son had to offer. I sat back and watched the non-verbal communication between the two of them. Ray's tail is the most animated tail I've ever known. He would caress my son's face and chin with his tail as my son petted him. It was a mutual adoration society for two.
It was not a surprise but it was still a shock to our systems when Andre died this year. He was loved and he knew it. We were with him when he took his last labored breaths and it was an honor. He left this world surrounded in love. Our hearts ached and there was a crater in our life where Andre used to be. Ray stepped up to the plate and let us hold and love him in the way we needed to during those dark days. Our skittish, stand offish, not-so-cuddly cat crawled onto my empty lap and helped my heart heal. Maybe he needed us as much as we needed him. It was a very good time to have a "back up cat". But by that time he was so much more. Just as he always has been.

Ray is so sensitive and gentle with us, as we are with him. He knows he is adored and he seems secure in that knowledge even though he still doesn't trust me enough to know I'm not going to hurt him if he is sitting, standing or laying in my way. Our little "broken" cat may always have trust issues but we are certainly not going to make matters worse for him. We just keep loving him in the way he needs to be loved and he reciprocates the feeling.

Andre's last Christmas with us. He snuggled up on my lap, while Ray stood by in the background, ready to take on the role of "Only Cat" when the time came.
Note the shade of black in one of Andre's later pictures. Our first and original black cat changed to a rusty shade of brown/black in his final years. Apparently this is normal but it was the first we had heard of it. 

Ray's healthy shiny, ebony coat of blackness would carry us through one of the saddest periods of our lives. He filled our broken hearts with cat-love and antics which continue to endear him to us more with each passing day.

Andre could never be replaced. We didn't even want to try. Maybe we would get a dog one day, but not a cat. No cat could step into the paw prints Andre left in our hearts.

Stay tuned for the third instalment of our story. Would we get a black dog? Or would Andre's shadow forever remain a lighter shade of blackness within our lives? Is one cat ever enough once you know you have room in your heart for two?

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