I first saw Cooper in a dream. Well, to be honest, I didn't see him as much as feel the weight of him in bed curled up next to me, hearing him purr. It had been a terrible week; John had suddenly become violently ill on a Saturday night and we had already visited the ER once, but they sent him home.
A few days later he was obviously having trouble breathing, and decided he needed to go back to the ER. He had seemed to be doing better overall while they pumped him with antibiotics, and we were sure that this was just a bump in the road. There had been many bumps in the road over the past five months, and each time we got through it, so we were confident about this one too.
At least I was, until I had the dream. I didn't share it with John because I didn't want to scare him. It wasn't even so much as a dream as a strong feeling in the midst of sleep; the weight of a ginger cat next to me purring, and the knowledge that John was going to die. Not a fearful state, but a warm, loving, it-will-be-okay embrace from someone, somewhere. I'd like to think it was Anne giving me a heads up. The very presence of a cat was odd, because while I had always wanted a cat I could never convince John that we should get one. He was adamant throughout all our years of marriage that he didn't want a pet. Ever. So I resigned myself to enjoying other people's cats, and while occasionally I'd pine for one, it wasn't even on my radar.
The next day at the ER, John and I chatted and laughed like we always do and unable to shake the niggling feeling I had, I began asking John about end of life wishes. He was annoyed.
"We've already been through this," he snorted. "Why are you asking me again? I'm fine!"
"Oh, just humor me," I smiled. We discussed all the important things one last time, and then I kissed him goodbye and left him in the hospital that evening around 7pm. Around eight hours later, the ER was calling to tell me to come back immediately, and that was the beginning of the end.
A few days later despite the fog of grief, I couldn't get the idea of a ginger cat out of my head and so on a whim, began looking at photos from shelter websites. Suddenly, there he was; a ginger cat, about 1 1/2 yrs old. His name?
Johnny. It was serendipity. Meant to be. I'm supposed to have that cat.
He was very shy, the shelter told me, and a little beat up from being attacked by an animal or human at some point. Sporting a freshly shorn back end, his tail had been recently amputated. He needs a little love, they implored. Someone with a quiet house and probably no other pets, who would be patient with him.
"I need a little love too," I gently stroked his head. "I just lost my husband, I have no kids at home, and my house is empty."
I adopted him on the spot. The thing is, I hadn't owned a cat since I was 11 years old, and I had no idea what I was in for. When I was a kid, we lived in the country and our cats were mostly outdoor animals. I had never scooped a litter box in my life. For the first few weeks after I brought him home, I wasn't even sure I'd made the right decision.
Turns out, Cooper was the best decision I could have made.