Abby filled a void we didn’t know we had

Abby lived to be 16 years old. KARIN SPICER
Abby lived to be 16 years old. KARIN SPICER

Anyone who has lost a pet knows how hard it is emotionally, the animal being an important part of the family dynamic .On Saturday, Feb. 9, Abby, our beloved 16-year-old cat, passed quietly under the care of her vet and surrounded by the three people who loved her most — my husband, daughter and me.

Because cats can live into their late teens or early 20s, when they pass away, it is natural to feel as though there is a void.

When Abby first pounced into our lives, I was unaware we had a void that needed filling. We had one cat, Bailey, before Abby, a stray that showed up at our home one summer day. We welcomed her into our lives and loved her until she passed. But we weren’t “cat people,” and the idea of having another one never came up.

Enter Julie, resident cat whisperer and one of my old college friends. On a cold December night, a young female cat and her kitten showed up at Julie’s front door. She invited them to stay, naming the mama Babette, and the baby Willow.

Julie, being the cat whisperer, had a sneaking suspicion Babette was pregnant. On April 17, 2002, Babette delivered several healthy kittens.

A few months later, Julie was traveling with Ed, Jordan and me to an art show opening in Cincinnati. She and Jordan were sitting in the back of the SUV talking about the kittens.

At first, I didn’t pay too much attention to the conversation. The 10-year-old was asking a lot of questions, and I was thankful I wasn’t having to answer any of them.

Jordan asked the kittens’ names and Julie reeled them off: “There are two boys, Milo and Zeke, and one girl. I gave her a special name.”

“You did?” Jordan said, clearly excited.

“Remember the painting your parents bought in Chicago with the kitten, frog and mice? Do you remember the kitten’s name?” Julie asked Jordan.

I spun my head around like an owl spotting its prey. I stared at Julie.

Jordan just about jumped out of her seat. “Abby! Is your kitten’s named Abby? Mama, Papa can we have Abby? Aunt Julie, can we have Abby?”

Julie met my stare with an “I got you” smirk.

Ed, who had been harboring cat adoption thoughts, quickly said, “That sounds like a good idea.”

All I could muster was, “Only if Lucy approves.” Surely, I thought, the separation anxiety-prone, lovable mutt wouldn’t take too kindly to a kitten joining the family.

Julie readily agreed and a few weeks later, Abby came for a “meet and greet” with the family.

Lucy welcomed Abby with open paws.

Abby quickly fit into our family dynamic, filling a void I didn’t know we had.

Lucy was less stressed when we were away because Abby was by her side.

Ed and Abby read the newspaper together. Jordan made sure the cat had plenty of boxes to sit in and soft blankets to curl up on.

The feisty feline became my work companion, helping with grading exams and writing research papers.

Abby loved each of us as much as we loved her.

Several years after Abby joined our family, Julie died after a long battle with breast cancer. I held Abby tightly days after knowing the gift Julie had given me.

Now, Abby is with Lucy and Julie is keeping a watchful eye over them both. And this gives me great comfort.