When I was twenty-four, I suddenly found myself jobless and living at home again with my parents. I had brought my two cats with me; fortunately, they bonded quickly with my parents’ cat. Often I would wake to find all three cats curled up with me on my bed—and they were not small kitties!
While I looked for a job and apartment, I decided to use the already unpleasant situation of living under my parents’ roof again to do something downright scary that I’d been putting off for years: have my wisdom teeth removed. So I gathered my courage and got the surgery.
Then I got a nasty infection that made my right cheek swell like a baseball and required two more surgeries to clear out.
For an entire week, except when I was at the surgeon’s, I lay in bed miserably while my body rode the swings from agonizing pain to doped-up lethargy. My mother was, unluckily, out of town that week, so my dad came home from work once or twice each day to check on me. But I wasn’t without a caretaker the rest of the time: my bed was rarely empty of a sympathetic cat.
But one of my cats in particular, Murray, lived for times like this. He had won my heart with his
gentle sweetness when I first saw him at the animal shelter years before (the staff there tried to boost adoptions by putting little “awards” on certain cats’ cages, and under the nametag on Murray’s cage there was a laminated yellow construction-paper star with print that read “Best Lap Warmer.” That turned out to be 100% true). During that awful week, he stayed by me almost constantly, ready with cuddles and love whenever I needed them. I think he sensed my pain.
Normally when we slept, he shared my pillow, our heads close together. But one day during that week when my dad came home at lunch to check on me, Murray happened to be sleeping near my feet instead. But as my dad stood beside my bed and asked me if I needed anything, Murray rose and walked up the bed until he was beside my head in his usual place. He lay down again, put one paw on my chest, and then looked up at my dad, as if to say, “I’ve got this. You don’t need to worry. I’m taking care of her.”
And he really was.