For almost 16 years, one of my mom’s dearest friends was a black and white cat she called Pepsi. When I was in 6th grade, a classmate of mine was going through some family troubles and she spent about a year with us. She begged to have a kitten, and my mom agreed, thinking it would give my friend something to have as her own in an unfamiliar place. Eager to assist, I dragged my friend to the stable where I kept my horse. Barn cats freely roamed the property, which meant plenty of kittens for my friend to choose from. After spending a couple hours crawling, chasing, and getting scratched by all the bright eyed colorful kittens, we proudly brought home a little black and white ball of fur. The fact that he pathetically sat by my horse’s stall for days with his eyes sealed shut with goo made him a natural choice for two preteen animal lovers.
As so often happens, my young friend lost interest in the kitten, and when she moved out, little Pepsi stayed. I think he knew who to truly thank for this new home, with soft sheets instead of dirty straw and clean water instead of muddy puddles. He followed my mom everywhere, hanging on her shoulder like an infant and purring loudly in her ear as she dozed in bed. However, for many years, Pepsi and I had a more distant relationship. True to his barn cat nature, he’d go out in the yard and proudly bring his finds to my mom: baby squirrels, my chicks and ducklings, birds, or bunnies, nothing was too good for the woman he adored. Fortunately, as Pepsi aged and I matured, we came to an understanding, at least about my creatures, and he was polite enough to become more selective about the gifts he brought in to my mom.
He eventually was diagnosed with kidney failure and thyroid issues, and the vet explained that treating one would speed the progression of the other. Thankfully, Pepsi was in no pain, and he lived with his issues for a couple years. Although he was too old to proudly stalk the yard as he once did, he was still king of the house, eating raw drumsticks and growling at anyone besides my mom who was foolish enough to disturb him while he dined. Then one day, Pepsi asked to go outside again, crying at the door as he hadn’t done in months. He circled the property, stopping at the chicken coops, the swimming pool, the evergreen trees, visiting each of the places that he had hunted in and ruled over all these years. Eventually he made his way back to the house, scratched to come in, and slept the rest of the day. Two days later, Pepsi drifted away in my mom’s arms, embraced by the one person he truly adored.
Who knew that a muddy, sickly little creature in a dark corner of a stable could become such a dear companion. And I know, trust me on this, that he’s waiting on the other side of that Rainbow Bridge, stalking all the canaries, parakeets, and goldfish of years gone by, just waiting for the day he can climb on your shoulder and purr into your ear once more.