It is with a very heavy heart that I tell you, my dear friends, that our beloved cat, Orca, passed away tonight.
We adopted Orca and Shiva from a shelter where Natalie and I volunteered for a year. We’ve volunteered together quite a bit over the years, and this shelter was full to capacity, and a no-kill shelter to boot, so we were compelled to try and help. We came a few times a week (this is back when we both worked, and both wrote full time, too, so our lives were very hectic) and opened up thousands (literally) of cans of cat food each week, cuddled with the cats and tried to socialize them…we loved volunteering, but it was devastating, each week, to see so many cats wishing and hoping for homes and never, ever getting them.
Two cats in particular had very, very sad stories. Shiva had been in the shelter for five years, an owner surrender when he was already a pretty old cat. He was a beautiful orange tabby, with big golden eyes, but he was a very old kitty, and no one wanted him.
And then there was Orca.
Orca was a small black ball of sadness. He stayed, curled up in the corner of his cage, and he never uncurled himself. He had an inflamed airway because of debilitating feline herpes, and he had incredible difficulty breathing. But when Natalie came near his cage…he uncurled from his ball, he came to the door, and he asked to be picked up. He did this for NONE of the staff or volunteers…he only did it for her.
So we adopted two of the saddest cats at the shelter, because we loved them.
Shiva was, of course, very old, and he passed two years after we adopted him, peacefully, of very old age, dying in our arms one snowy night.
The day after we adopted them, we took Orca and Shiva to our vet. “Well,” the doctor said with a sigh, “the orange tabby is ancient. I don’t know how long you have with him. But the black cat? I don’t think he’s going to survive.” Then he shrugged. “Maybe, MAYBE you can get four years.”
That was six years ago.
Orca had the best life. He cuddled on Natalie’s lap constantly, wrapping his paws around her neck and nestling his head under her chin. He helped her write, helped her with pretty much everything where she was sitting down, always giving her his wheezing purr as he curled himself up in her arms. Everyone who came to visit remarked that if people could meet Orca, they would stop thinking that cats were aloof, because he would curl up in their laps happily, the second they sat down.
He was such a sweet, loving cat, and he loved me…but he loved Natalie with a fierceness that was extraordinary.
His breathing had gotten to the point that none of the measures the doctor provided could help, and the last week, he went downhill fast, still calm and happy, but deteriorating. We kept coming back to our decision that, unless he was suffering, we wanted him to die at home, calm and surrounded by the pups and kitties and humans he loved so much. And he was so calm and bright eyed, right up until the end, when he passed away between us as we held him tonight, crying our tears onto his beautiful black fur as his heart stopped beating against my fingers.
He was our little Spork, and we loved him so very much.
This photo was taken in very early 2010, right after we adopted him. ♥