Oddibe came first. He watched me from across the road, as he sat beneath the row of cedar trees. Our eyes met; we bonded. It didn't matter that I already had two indoor cats and two dogs. I became Oddibe's human.
He was already an old tomcat, and obviously not neutered. I called him "Oddibe", because he "ought to be" somewhere else. He would come to my window at night, sitting on the porch rail, and tap on my window screen. He knew I would then get up and go outside to feed him. Our midnight rendezvous began right after we bought our rural lakefront house, though the neighbor's had never seen him before.
Soon Oddibe brought his girlfriend with him. She was a petite little thing, and very young. Quite feral, she trusted only Oddibe. However, for food she came to my house with Oddibe. She was "Echo", because she kept coming back.
By Spring, Oddibe and Echo had a little grey kitten. She would blend into the shadows of the cedar trees, so she was "Shade". Echo would bring her shrews and tried to teach her to hunt. By now she trusted me, so she taught Shade to come eat from the bowls, too.
Oddibe would go off on his tomcat business, but would still come to my window. He also watched over his family. Elusive, existing in the shadows for the most part, they lived this way for a couple of years. Survival was their mindset; I was a safe haven.
There came a time when Oddibe was missing. The girls came alone for a couple of weeks. When Oddibe finally appeared on my porch, he was emaciated and weak. I quickly got him into a crate, which was never a possibility before. I knew it was serious, when I took him to the vet that Saturday night.
Oddibe had cancer. At his advanced age, "probably close to 20 years", surgery was not a realistic option. He would not survive even the anesthesia. I cried all of the way home, and throughout the funeral we held for him. I missed him, and so did Eco and Shade. They would sit under the cedar trees and seemed to be waiting. They looked somehow lost and lonely, their little faces questioning me.
For years, they came together, alone, and sometimes with kittens. We rescued many, finding homes, keeping some, but some would just disappear. After a couple of years, Shade disappeared, too.
Echo would stay away when in heat or when she had kittens hidden. We were never able to trap her. Her sense of survival and dedication to her family was acute. Tomcats came and went, none like Oddibe. Some were haggard, mean, very wild and feral.
When Echo was about 12, she went missing for about a week. I knew she did not have kittens and became very worried. Then one morning quite early, there she was. She was very happy to see me and I her! As I gave her food and water, I noticed her rear left leg hung at an odd angle. It seemed to be very loose and I knew something was very wrong.
I scooped her into a crate, which I had never been able to do before. This time she actually went along with the idea. We went right to the vet, where Echo was overwhelmed by the entire experience. An exam and x-rays showed that there was nothing but bone chips between Echo's hip and foot. Her foot was intact, and her hip was fractured; the entire leg was shattered by a hollow point bullet.
Hollow Point bullet* (source: Wikipedia)
*Note mushrooming effect of explosion & impact
Hollow point bullets are used by law enforcement and military. Their purpose is to kill in a drastic, surefire manner. A hollow point bullet increases its size once it enters its target, and it remains there. It expands inside and does not pass through, creating extensive damage. This usually results in blood loss and/or shock, and thus death. Echo was a six pound cat.
I had a choice to make. Echo had to be put to sleep or have her leg amputated. She had lived outside her entire life, free, doing whatever she wanted to do, wherever she wanted to do it. I saw her living the life of a wild thing, and happy to be that way.
If Echo's leg was removed, she would become our indoor cat. She hated other cats. We would have to make her a home in the secure basement, and under supervision. Could she be happy this way? Could we put her down, let her go because of someone else's cruelty, after loving her and being trusted by her for 12+ years??
There was no choice. She had the surgery, and came home to live out her last five golden years inside the warm house. Echo had her favourite pillow and blanket, on her sofa in the basement. She flew up and down the basement stairs. She had immaculate litter manners. She appreciated it all.
We promised her she would be safe and secure for the rest of her life. We never looked at her any differently, though we were amazed that she made the transition so easily. Love is blind when you see with your heart. She was the same little, petite, sweet, gentle Echo that she had always been.
When Echo passed over the Rainbow Bridge, she was well over 17 years old. She developed cancer, but went quickly and without pain. We were left with the pain of her loss. She had had a long, very full life. Echo's golden years were safe and secure; we kept our promise to her.
And she echoes in our hearts still.