Thank You, Leo Our Boy, for Your Love


photo credit: red5standingby via photopin cc
photo credit: red5standingby via photopin cc

This is a post about a boy.

It’s about a boy cat. A boy cat named Leo. Leo looked like a dollar-store plush toy. With unkempt fur and unmatched temperance and a meow too meager for his mass, Leo was Marie’s first best friend, really, a best friend with crooked whiskers and dark brown tabby stripes. A few months ago, Leo got sick.

Not long after, Marie had to say goodbye to her boy, Leo.

We bought special food to make him well, and sometimes he ate it. Sometimes, he just sat next to the bowl. Marie sat with him in the kitchen. She’d place the bowl in front of him, and move it when he moved, to keep it in front of him.

Marie wanted to give Leo every chance.

She held the food in her hand or poured it on the floor and sometimes he ate it. But mostly, he didn’t.

Leo's brother, Cubby. When they were kittens, their nose color was the only difference between them.
Leo’s brother, Cubby. When they were kittens, their nose color was the only difference between them.

He didn’t get better. He got more sick, and skinnier, and weaker. So Marie lifted Leo off the ground and onto the couch next to her and held him close. He lay with eyes squinted the way cats do when they’re sleepy, but with labored breath.

Marie’s boy had a massive tumor in his belly. He also had a massive heart. He was a gentle giant who challenged my position as the house’s alpha male. He’d knock over any unattended cup of water and greet Marie in the morning with a demure meow that defied his size.

He gave Marie the kind of faithful love I hope she’ll always recognize around her.

Saying goodbye, as you can imagine, was heart-breaking for her.

The girls mourned together in ways I’ll keep private. Their cousin came over and there was a lot of closed-door time together. She’s had to say goodbye to pets, too. They did emerge eventually, and took to crafting to, as Grace said, “take our minds off things.”

They wound up with things like this.

thefish

You might remember also the Jabba the Hut Grace made me. That came out of that day, too.

EJP
EJP

As days wore down and I saw less gumption in Leo, less resolve to stand up and eat, even, I took a moment, scratched his chin, and thanked him. I thanked him for his loyalty. I thanked him because even under the heavy-handed affection of a toddler, he never hissed and he never scratched.

I thought of that night so long ago I saw him and his three siblings perched on a curb just waiting for me. That’s a story, too. It’s a story for another day, though.

This post is for Leo, and Marie. And the way the cat guarded the girl’s door, and how the girl could always count on the cat for company when she was sick, or just felt sick, doing homework. He’d cuddle up even when Marie was doing nothing at all. He’d always be there.

Susan Zutautas of Everything Susan and More blog asked if it would be okay to challenge me to tell about why I write. Well, this is. Stories like Leo’s, and Marie’s. I write because my mind thinks in 400-600(ish) chunks of blog, for a community of readers and writers who come here and read and comment.

It might seem so – but blogging isn’t really narcissistic.

It’s a contribution to a community. Sure, you write a story to tell your story, or your kids’, or their pets’. But after you put it out there … you want to hear from everyone else. The post is the main course, and the comments? They’re the side dishes around the table.

I hit publish … and wait – for what you have to say.

photo credit: DomiKetu via photopin cc
photo credit: DomiKetu via photopin cc

Today, tell me your Leo story. Rather than tell us how things ended … tell us what made them less a pet and more a friend, in your comments to this post.

As for the ‘why we write’ challenge …

I’ll challenge these bloggers to do the same. I haven’t asked them if they’d accept – instead, it’s up to them, and I’ll give them their shout-out here.

Sandy Ramsey, of Mother of Imperfection blog

Tamara Bowman, of Tamara Camera blog

Laurie Smith, of Adventures in Writing blog

cat quote

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53 thoughts on “Thank You, Leo Our Boy, for Your Love”

  1. Cats and dogs are such loyal beings. I’m glad Marie had this special companion, and hope her pain will ease as time goes by.

    I have nothing extra special to say about the little stray cat who came in my back door and decided to take up residence in my house and heart. She’s just a little tabby, but she has made my life that little bit richer. I’m glad she chose me to be her slave.

  2. Years ago we got a kitten from a shelter. We brought her home and gave her a bath as directed by the folks at the shelter. My then 8 year old daughter was worried about little Candy catching a cold so she bundled the kitten up in a beach towel and cuddled with her all night. An instant and lifelong bond was made. Fast forward 13 years – my daughter graduated from college, got a job and her own apartment far from home. Candy went to live with her to keep her company and greeted her at the door every night for another 5 years. Thank you, Candy our girl, for your love.
    My heart breaks for Marie. But I’m glad she got to experience Leo’s love, if even for an all too short time.

    1. I think the bond is beneficial to both, isn’t it? What a beautiful story. I think a pet shows a child about caring for something else; and shows what kind of loyalty and companionship can result.

      I think Marie will carry a bit of Leo around always.

  3. Leo was to Marie what Hardy is to Matthew. I can only imagine how devastating that was to her, much less the rest of y’all.

    I am glad you had Leo in your lives for the time you did. Marie sounds like a very compassionate, caring girl and I am sure Leo was only part of the way she is that way.

    1. I think it was just tough to see her hurting so. Hoping she could help him, but ultimately unable to.

      He definitely had an impact on her. When I see her acting compassionately, some of that comes from parenting, of course, and just her character. Part, I’m sure, is from lessons she learned with Leo.

  4. Lovely post, Eli.These small souls love us unconditionally and what amazing companions they are. My two cats have been through so many experiences with me and they are always there…loyal, cuddling, purring and present. We could all learn so much from our companion animals, if we would simply slow down and listen. Whether walking a dog (sans smartphone) or sipping a cup of tea with one of them nearby, it really is peace and calm that we seek – both them and us. I’m sure that for a long time to come, Marie will still feel Leo’s presence…even if she doesn’t tell anyone. Blessings to you all as you heal. Thank you for writing your blog. It is a treasure for all of us. 😉

    1. Thanks Carrie! They do show unconditional love, don’t they? He was always there for her, and in the end, she was there for him, too.

      I think they understood each other pretty well, and it was a natural pairing.

      And thank you for being part of this with me, Carrie.

  5. So sorry about Leo – I hope Marie and all the girls are doing OK!!!
    I love that you said blogging isn’t narcissistic! I’ve had people tell me that blogging is self-indulgent and maybe it is but it’s so much more than that!! (and if they don’t like it they don’t have to read it!!)

    1. They’re doing well … we all miss him, but the tears have stopped and the memories remain.

      I think those who misunderstand blogging see it as narcissistic. I think the proof is in the comments … if a blogger engages in the comments, and they take on a life of their own, they’re doing this right!

      I do hit publish and wait – I can’t wait to hear what my friends are going to say, about it, and about themselves.

  6. So sorry for your loss. I’ve had to say goodbye to many furry friends (had cats all my life) and we have an old boy right now that we feel has numbered days now (turned 16 yo in July and has been loosing much weight). We get so attached, they are little people in a way. I love your Hemmingway quote, So very true.

    1. Thanks Yanic. Sixteen years is a great run to have with a friend like that. It never feels like enough time, though, does it?

      Yes, Hemingway had it right. He often does.

  7. Ah, Leo.
    As I write this, Bella is under my desk, occasionally tickling my feet. I usually don’t like her but I’m going to like her today for the sake of this beautiful post. And because she makes my kids happy. Even Des! And Des calls Dinah, “Bella” (more like Bulla) so he likes her too.
    I do have a story I was going to tell. When I was a kid, we had a loud birthday party at our pool. Everyone heard a screaming, but they ignored it because we all knew the screaming was the next door neighbor boy. (he was a screamer)
    It kept going on and people kept ignoring it. I knew something wasn’t right so I grabbed my mom and we ran down the rocky hill, barefoot, and found the true source of the screaming – our Samoyed puppy who had gotten her NECK caught in a fence, and was about a second away from panicking enough to break her neck.
    We got her out. I was only nine. She never looked at me the same after that. It was better. She knew I had her back. She knew it when she tangled herself around a tree in the woods late at night (I found her) and when the doctors found a cancerous tumor in her stomach (my parents were away and I was the one to notice something wrong).
    Ah, these pets.

    1. I honestly say I tolerate the cats for the sake of the rest of the family, who loves them.

      That dog definitely knew you’d saved her. And we don’t have a choice, do we? It’s like cupid makes the choice and we’re bound for life.

  8. I remember when you mentioned Leo’s passing and the crafts the girls made to shake off the sad feelings. You guys still miss him, huh, especially Marie? I hope he is in a better place now!

    My mom never let us have a cat (which was the pet I wanted because they have a nice life: food, sleep, play, cuddles). We lived close to a busy street where unfortunately many cats ended up, well, flat, at the shoulder of the road. “It’d be too hard if that was our cat” she kept saying.

    I guess “Is It better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” applies to cats, too.
    Does that mean I should get one for our kid?

    In spite of the sad thoughts – I hope you and your family are having a happy Monday!

    1. I love that they came up with the craft idea. It worked. I know the girls aren’t as teary anymore, but they do miss him, when they look in his favorite resting spots.

      I wonder how your C would love a cat. Could he just stay inside?

      I think our memories are greater than our sadness. We do miss the boy. We’re happy we knew him.

  9. We had a dog, Baxter long before we had children. After Abby was born you would have thought he would be jealous, he was after all 8 years an only child. When Abby started crawling she would use him to stand up (most times he stayed, sometimes not). As she got older she was known to put a crown on his head, a tiara on his body tell him to LAY DOWN THERE as she “read” him a story. It wasn’t until she began preschool and the teacher asked us what his name was we realized what a part of her life he was. When we said, oh Baxter our golden? She cracked up and said: Oh that makes so much more sense. Abby calls him Bastard. Thanks for reminding me of that memory. He has since passed away, but he was a good boy. the best.

    1. Now that’s one lovable bastard! I love that story. Do you think a dog (or cat) knows when they’ve assumed the role as a child’s companion? It’s like it gives them a seventh level of patience and virtue.

      I wish it was that easy for humans, too. Thanks for the story, Kerri.

  10. i’m so sorry, pets are truly family members and it is a tough loss. in kindy this is usually the first kind of loss that the children have ever dealt with. we support them in whatever way they need to grieve for and celebrate the life of a pet they so loved. you are such a good daddy for all you do for your girls and this is such a poignant life lesson, about love and loss.

  11. Pets truly are family members and it is so hard to lose them. I am allergic to cats, but have had several dogs throughout childhood and adulthood. Our last dog, Maggie, was the first my hubs and I got together. She was a rescue dog that stole my heart as soon as I saw her. She experienced the ups and downs of life with us as we had children & moved a couple times. She got sick and quickly deteriorated. The vet never did figure out exactly what was wrong. When we were moving into our current house, we sent the kids to stay with my parents for a couple days and were debating whether to have Maggie put to sleep while the children were away because she was obviously in pain or wait until they got back so they could say their good-byes. We weren’t sure which would be more/less traumatic for our girls. Maggie answered quietly for us as she passed away in her sleep before the kids returned. My husband and I stood under a giant oak tree in pouring rain & a lightning storm after a long, hot day of moving to bury her because that’s what you do for family members.

    Sorry for the loss of you dear pet and friend.

    1. Lisa – what an incredible story. Thanks for sharing it here! You’re absolutely right. That’s what we do for family. We stayed up all night waiting for one of the cats to hopefully pass yarn she ate. We left the house for a few hours because we thought another might die after we thought she had a stroke.

      Maggie just seemed to know, didn’t she?

      thanks again for the story, Lisa. Beautiful.

  12. Oh, I’m so sorry about Leo. We got Lacey (a mutt) when I was 14, and by the time she lived a full life and was ready to let go, I had an infant and a life apart from her. I absolutely dread having to eventually say goodbye to our dog Nellie, who will be 10 in October. She’s been a part of our family since my youngest was 3, and the kids don’t remember life without her. They do remember being terrified of her when she first came home – they would hop from couch to chair so she couldn’t nip at their heels.

    1. Thanks Dana. I think kids and pets grow together. They learn each other and adjust. Trust each other after fearing each other. It’s kind of beautiful.

      Lacey and Nellie are lucky dogs.

  13. I’m so sorry, Eli. We’ve had to say goodbye to several pets in our 22 years. They’re truly members of the family. The last cat we had to say goodbye to was very much like a dog. He went for walks with us. He could jump up and open the door. He had a heart problem and we knew his time was near. When he tried to crawl underneath the floorboards of a bathroom floor my husband was refinishing, I knew that it was it. I carried him into another room, and all of us sat with him and petted him until he left us. I’m not sure if that is what he wanted, but we loved that cat so much…it gave a lot of comfort to us to be with him telling him we loved him in his final moments.

    1. Thanks Michelle. I can’t even tell you how many goldfish are buried in the yard, but that’s a different story. Those that can curl up with you, those are the family pets.

      Our first cat, Pumpkin, told us too, that way. She’d been sick, and the day she tried to burrow in the back of the garage, I knew just wanted to rest for good.

      It was on my birthday – and I didn’t want to wait even a day, because the next day was Elise’s.

      I think to leave this world knowing that kind of love that your cat did, that’s the way to go.

  14. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, and extra virtual hugs for Marie. It is so difficult to lose a member of the family, whether it be person or pet. Leo sounds like he was adorable. Love the Stormtrooper Kitty.

    My dad brought home a puppy on Christmas Eve. My sister was 2 months and I was 16 months. My mom was not happy. Pumpy interacted with us in different ways. She would beg dad for attention. He would be fake gruff, but play when he thought no one was watching. She would protect my mom, and even though she wasn’t allowed upstairs, Pumpy would always venture up when mom was sick. She loved playing with my sister. I gave her food. I couldn’t resist her begging eyes. We all missed her when she passed.

    Again, your story was beautifully told.

    For the record, I don’t think blogging is narcissistic. I think it’s a way to meet people who we never would, otherwise. There is good and bad, but mostly good.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, and especially for sharing Pumpy’s story. I love how a pet can sense the best way to connect and interact with everyone in the family.

      Glad you see what I do about the lack of narcissism. Maybe there is some of that, but those blogs don’t last, do they? The growth is in who you meet and engage with. A blogger who doesn’t respond to comments or comment on other blogs finds himself alone pretty quickly.

  15. It’s amazing how deeply pets become part of our lives, of our families, isn’t it? So sorry to hear of Leo’s passing. It sounds like he was well loved and that he loved all of you well in return.

    We have three cats whom I refer to as the Rotten Cats. Truth is, they are anything but rotten and we could not be more blessed to have them. The Hub and I decided when we bought our house that we wanted pets. Being constantly on the go and out of the home, we decided cats were a wiser choice. We connected with a local foster organization and picked out two all-black boys from a very large litter. We took them home and all was well. A month later, the foster mom contacted us to tell us that the one remaining brother from the litter was just plain miserable. See, we took two of the last three from that litter and yes there was a brief debate on the day we did that as to whether we should just take all..we left him behind because who adopts THREE cats? Apparently, we do. When the foster mom contacted us, she described how his behavior and demeanor had deteriorated since he was left there with out his brothers. She asked if we’d consider adding him to our home, offered to waive all the fees, and said if it didn’t work out she’d adopt him herself because the poor thing was so upset at adoption days that nobody took him. We asked a few friends and family members for input and most said “no way – that’s crazy” but my mom (a life-long cat hater) said “oh the poor little guy – you HAVE to go get him.” And so we did. That was nearly 8 years ago and none of us can imagine life without all three boys here. Since then we’ve added a Kidzilla to the household and all three boys absolutely adore her. They help her get ready for bed, supervise her morning routine before school. They curl up when your feet are cold or when you feel sick. And they do all manner of annoying cat things, too…hairballs and missing the litter box and all of that. They drive me nuts. Every. Day. But so do my Hub and Kizilla, so…yeah.

    Sorry this is getting long…but had to tough on your comment about blogging and narcissism. Perhaps for some it is – I’ve read a few of those blogs. But overall, I think it’s really just about people having something they want to say, some reason they want or need to connect. For me, it was about holding on to my sanity and some sense of control when my Husband’s job was eliminated unexpectedly over two years ago. I needed to do something to help make sense of it all. It was an outlet, a diary of sorts, a way of dealing with it all. It worked. And I have “met” a ton of wonderful people through it and that has been absolutely fantastic. So that’s my two cents.

    Wishing you and your family fond memories and peace from all of us!

    1. I love all the detail in your story, It reminds me that Leo had a rare opportunity to live a life with three siblings. Yes, three. Who know the day we took in four cats with the intention of finding them a happy home, it would be with us.

      What cats get to do that?

      Yes, cats are annoying. They cry for food. They upchuck and miss litter boxes. They scratch up all your good stuff and stain the carpet. But as you said, so do kids!

      I just don’t think a narcissist can thrive as a blogger. We want connections, not rants. We want interaction, not just to heap attention on someone. Writing the post is only the first part of this process – what do we do for those who visit us, and what do we do when we visit them?

      When I write a post, I’ve found I’m thinking more and more about those who will read it than the person writing it.

      1. Four cats??? Have to laugh because when we took in Cat Three, the person who initially introduced us to the foster cat mom said, “Three? Wow. Well, as long as you don’t ever get four. Because four cats is too many cats. I have four cats. And four cats is crazy.” Never forgot that.

      2. When there’s more than one, what’s two or three more? One cat can seem like too much. Yes, four was crazy. Three’s not exactly the epitome of sanity, either, I’ve discovered.

        (Did I mention we feed two out the back door? That’s two more, not two of the three).

  16. Oh Eli, that’s so sad! I couldn’t begin to imagine how I’d feel if we lost Napoleon (cat) or Cally (dog). They are such an integral part of our lives. Napoleon is ten and Cally is four, so God willing, we’ll have them for many years yet. Sending a big hug to Marie.

    1. Thanks Lyn – it’s been a couple of months, and I’m happy with how well the girls have done. They do miss and think of Leo, but they’re doing well. I’m thankful it wasn’t a long illness – not long before he died, Leo was active and doing the things that made us love him.

      I hope Napoleon and Cally have many more years to keep your family on its toes!

  17. I’m sorry to hear about Leo, and hope Marie is healing after the loss of her buddy…

    As you know, I grew up on a dairy farm out in the middle of the country. I didn’t have any friends that lived near by, and my brother was four years older than me. Enter Melvin. Melvin was a shepherd mutt that we got as a cuddly little puppy. He grew up to be my best friend and companion, never leaving my side when I was outdoors. I had a 185 trail/street Suzuki that I rode like a lunatic all over the farm. Melvin ran right beside me, not wanting to miss a moment of fun. I’d stop just to give him a break to rest.

    I went off to college, and on my first visit home, Melvin jumped up and wrapped his front legs around my waist and wouldn’t turn loose. It was the world’s best hug!

  18. Sweet Marie. This post brought me to my knees. Sometimes the love between an animal and their human is so intense it’s palpable. I am so sorry for the loss of Leo. So very sad but it’s nice to know that while he was here, he was loved so well.
    It’s ironic that I read this today because it is our chocolate lab’s birthday. Chloe is six today and her life is more than likely half over. She doesn’t run like she used to and her muzzle is beginning to gray. I sang to her this morning and will be whipping her up a burger for her big day in a little while. She gets so excited when she sees bags being packed for a trip or a day on the boat because she knows that more than likely she will be going too. When she gets her ‘necklace’ on, she really KNOWS and I see the pup in her again. This dog is not a dog. She is our family. Like Leo was yours.
    As for the writing process…I wrote one a while back. Am I allowed to leave you a link here? Or is that cheating? You can decide :). http://motherofimperfection.com/2014/04/28/writing-process-what-writing-process/
    Great post, Eli. Spectacular, actually. My hugs to your girls.

    1. I just loved to see the two of them bond. You have the sense early on it can’t be forever; but you can’t be paralyzed by that. You have to seize the day and appreciate the love.

      Think of it this way, Sandy – sure, Chloe is likely more than halfway through life, but she also has half of her life to go.

      That definitely counts, Sandy. I’ll love checking out why you write. Can we really learn enough about each others’ processes?

  19. We lived on a busy street growing up and we had more than one cat not make it back from a hunting trip across the street. When the last of a pair died, my mom said “no more.” It was too traumatic for her to watch us grieve. Shortly thereafter a neighborhood cat adopted us, no doubt lured to our house by the mysterious trail of baloney no one ever admitted to putting on the sidewalk. He knew the neighborhood, so we thought he was tragedy-proof. And he was until he just got old. It took my dad a very long time before he allowed another cat in our house.

    1. Sometimes the roll right through their nine lives, don’t they? We’ve lost three all told, and one more is probably on her eighth life.

      I think the outside cats are more street smart. I think when they’re all gone, the girls will probably want another.

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