In the Beginning
Rusty was an amazing orange tabby cat who came to us after my husband’s brother committed suicide. Rusty had belonged to Steve, my husband’s brother. Rusty was 2 years old when he joined our family and had to fit in with a 14-year old gray tabby, Felix and a 12-year old Persian, Minny. Felix disliked him and Minny ignored him, but Rusty was relentless with his friendliness. I can’t count the number of times Rusty was whacked by Felix when he went up to him to touch noses. Over time, Felix came to accept Rusty and they often went on short adventures together in the field behind our house. Rusty was always eager to accompany Felix and very happy to come home to his human mom and dad.
My husband and I used to joke that Rusty had the “Georgie gene.” Georgie was a cat I had in childhood for more than 19 years. Georgie was a unique little cat who loved people and other animals, was infinitely curious, and always happy. He adored his human family and loved being with them. And that’s exactly what Rusty was like.
A Real Zest for Life
Rusty’s curiosity, affection, and zest for life could not be curtailed. He often climbed over the back fence in the morning to sit on the bike trail until kids on their way to school would stop and pet him. Rusty once got locked in a neighbor’s garage at night because he couldn’t resist squeezing under the door to see what was inside. And he could play until he was exhausted — either chasing and retrieving paper balls, or chasing his own tail around and around.
When Minny and Felix passed away, Rusty “adopted” a feral cat who was staying in the back yard. Showing no fear, Rusty walked right up to the large, bedraggled, orange tomcat and touched noses. It took four long years to gain the feral cat’s trust and lure him inside, but once we did, we named him”Geezer.” Rusty and Geezer became fast friends. They slept together and often shared the same traveling bed for vet visits.
Sadly Geezer only lasted a couple of more years, but during his stay we had adopted Merlin, a large white flamepoint Birman from the Humane Society. With Geezer gone, Rusty only had Merlin for a buddy. Unfortunately, Merlin never really “took” to Rusty. Rusty often tried to snuggle with him and sit with him, but Merlin was pretty standoffish.
A Senior Citizen
In is old age, Rusty spent a lot of time with us, his human parents. He sat on our desks as we did our computer work, he sat on our laps as we watched TV, and he slept with us in the bed every night. He loved the sun, and spent many hours sleeping on the extra-deep window sills in our house. Up until his last day, he managed to climb downstairs and go outside, migrating from one sunny spot to the next during the morning. He was especially fond of one spot in the back yard where he could get morning sun and then crawl under a nearby bush and lie on the dry leaves in the shade when it got too hot.
During the last 6 years of his life, Rusty received subcutaneous fluids every night to help his kidneys. It was a nightly routine for him to lie in his kitty bed in the bathroom while I gave him his fluids and lots of extra pets. In the last 2 years of his life, he developed hyperthyroidism and high-blood pressure, but both were easily controlled by medication. He even had some low-level diabetes, which almost disappeared with tiny amounts of insulin.
Rusty’s final checkup at the vets was good, but we could tell he was tired. It was almost as if he had lived all he wanted to live, experienced life to the fullest, during his 21 years on earth, and was ready to go. Yet, somehow he knew we would be very sad, so he spent almost every moment of his final week of life in our laps, in our arms, or in our bed. He wanted to show us how much he loved us … and he wanted to tell us goodbye.
Letting Rusty go was the hardest thing my husband and I have ever done, but we knew it was what he wanted. We only hope that somewhere, Rusty is watching us and remembering us, because we will never forget him. And maybe, years from now, we will discover another kitty with the “Rusty gene.”