It is so easy to take things for granted. If they come every day, we tend to think they will always be there. It was nice to meet Jackson, who took nothing for granted. He showed us how to live the attitude of gratitude.
It all started two years ago. I was traveling through Texas with two of my children, and we stopped for the night at a modest hotel in a small town in the panhandle. The sweetest cat was on the front walkway to the hotel, acting all the world like he’d been waiting for us and he was happy we had finally arrived. He walked up to us and we petted him. Before we went to our room, we pulled some lunchmeat out of our cooler and shared some with him. He was hungry and happily gnawed on what we left. I complimented the desk clerk on the furry ambassador they had.
That’s when I learned that he was a stray that appeared one day; the staff thought he had been dumped there. The desk clerk broadly hinted that we should take the cat with us. He was obviously sick and hurt; I don’t know how he would have lived much longer. He would have been coyote-bait had we left him at the hotel. We kept him in our room that night and the next morning we loaded him in the car. We absolutely didn’t need another cat, and I’ve tried to know my limits. I cannot help every animal that needs it; I just don’t have the resources. But if we didn’t help him, this sweet little kitty didn’t look like he would last much longer. I felt as if the whole world would be diminished if this soul departed; he just emanated peace and love. I took him to the veterinarian the day we brought him home and was told that we wouldn’t want to keep him; he had feline leukemia. He also had injured a hip and a nasty upper-respiratory infection. I took him home anyway and we named him Jackson.
Because we had two other cats who did not have leukemia and whom we did not want to expose, we initially sequestered Jackson away in a suite of three rooms – my youngest daughter’ room, her bathroom, and a spare bedroom. We got the other two cats vaccinated, and after a while, we felt safe letting them mingle. The cats never became friends, but they didn’t fight (the usual way to transmit leukemia), so we were happy. My daughter, however, was overjoyed to have a cat all to herself. Jackson was quite devoted to her and he was very easy-going. My husband often worked in the spare bedroom, quickly dubbed “Jackson’s room,” and Jackson became his good buddy too. Everyone, it seems, loved Jackson.
He never missed the litter box, never complained about the food, never caused us any regret. He was so happy to have a warm, safe place to live and regular meals that he was the perfect guest. It was clear that he had eaten lots of mice and birds while he was on the streets, so we took special care to protect our birds. He thought they looked absolutely delicious! That small concession was the only one we needed to make. He didn’t complain when we got him neutered, either. “A small price to pay,” he seemed to say. There were times that he would sit in our loft and I could have sworn he was smiling as he beamed love to everyone around him. He was just a very loving cat. His leg healed and after several months of specialty care, his respiratory infection did too.
But leukemia is incurable, and his time was up this week. We miss this incredible soul who never failed to be grateful for the home and medical care we gave him. He seemed to know that we didn’t have to take him in, but we recognized his inner light. He never gave us a reason to regret it. He was such as sweet soul who left huge pawprints on our hearts. Thank you for such a wonderful run, Jackson. Take a rest, choose a young healthy body, and then come back. My daughter is waiting for you. Heck, we all are.