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Onyx died last night. Bruce and I are heart broken because this cat walked into every part of our lives including our sleep time. Just yesterday he was sitting on the tack trunk looking at the robin’s nest and running down the hall. He slipped into Bitsy’s room and I snatched him up before she could hiss and growl. I set him on the guest bed and petted him, his back and tail arching up to my palm. His whole attitude towards her was curiosity and grace. Even though he was a black cat, he was full of light and good humor and affection. He sought us out like a good dog.

We don’t know what caused him to crash so hard and so fast. Bruce found him panting in the bathroom, drooling. I rushed him to the emergency vet to see if the shots would bring him back. Our regular vet, Dr. Guedet said he never expected him to live this long, that he had collapsed lungs, that other families might not have been able to give him this much time. (Dr. Guedet bought us time. It’s been nearly a year since we discovered Onyx’s lung was collapsed, his heart pushing against his trachea. Doc researched medication that would help him stay the course.)

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This free cat appeared at the bottom of our field a good five years ago and worked his way closer as the days shortened and cooled. When he got to the barn he’d hiss and meow at the same time. I didn’t force him to be my friend. Somehow he discovered that when I drew water for the buckets he could hop up on the straw bales and get petted and that felt very good to him. But I knew his name was Onyx.

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We tried moving him into the house that winter but he sprayed on the corner of the bed, so we moved him back to the barn with an insulated box. Wanda Giles said that she was betting on Onyx winning, that he’d find his way back into the house. She was right. Bruce reminded me there was a bitter night when we opened the door and he flopped down in front of the fire like he belonged there.

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That hard summer when Nate died, and my horses proved me an idiot at a clinic I was sponsoring and my novel was accepted for publication, Onyx’s back paw was gloved. You could see down to the bone and tendon. We put some tuna in a cat carrier and shoved him into the crate and off to the vet.
She called and said we could either amputate his foot or do laser treatments. I had no idea if this cat would become a house cat, because they don’t always stop spraying after they are neutered. I had a busy week with the clinic and I was hosting the teacher. Dr. Verace said, “He’s a good cat. We’ll just charge you the cost of the laser treatments. We’ll keep him this week while you have your clinic.”

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Onyx lived six weeks in a dog crate with a litter box. We took him to the vet three times a week and his paw healed so well fur had grown back when the bandages came off. Then Onyx owned the house. He could move the dogs with just a look. Just the other day he’d walked up to my hands and held Little Dog back as she turned her head away. At times he crawled into my arms and we both slept there. The weight of him at the foot of the bed anchored Bruce and I as we slept.

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He should be sitting next to me while I write this. But nobody stays around long enough. Death seems like a winner, but it’s not. When I sent Onyx away, I asked God to gather him up and comfort him, because this is a cat who called for us when we were in another room, and we called back to bring him to us. I could call him off the Peterson’s fence when he was headed out to hunt and he’d come back from a quarter mile away. This is a God who knows when sparrows fall, who says that creation is groaning, but one day it “will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children  of God” Rom. 8: 20 – 21). This is a God who smashed death to smithereens, who gathered Onyx into His arms as he left mine, but we sure are lonesome. Onyx left a big hole on our laps, where he often settled, weighing us down with a good weight and warmth.

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8 Comments

  • Lori says:

    Oh Katie…..how well I know this particular sorrow. I lost my cat (my baby) just before I moved back here to California. People say cats are not dependent, but Syd depended and sought me at all times when I was home. I just know he and Onyx are playing and running together in green fields chasing butterflies they will never catch and having fun anyway. My prayers are with you…….

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so much Lori. That had to be very painful to lose your cat before your move. (Moves hold so many losses.) Syd sounds a lot like Onyx because he sought us out all the time. Sometimes it was because he was hungry. Other times it was just to be with us. Thank you for the image of them playing in the green fields together…And thank you for your prayers…

  • Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    Oh, Katie, I’m just so sad to read this and so very sorry over of your loss of your precious Onyx. What a beautiful and fitting, if somewhat mysterious, name for a black cat, who came from nowhere and gradually “insinuated” himself into your home and heart. It was meant to be that he should become your comfort and friend, much as you were his comfort and rescuer. If I may, you were like Jesus to this sweet stranger who needed a home. You took him in and offered nurture and love. God gave you extra time, according to the vet, and I know that this cat so appreciated you. It is so difficult losing a beloved pet. We lost our Standard Poodle just before I was to write my 3rd book, and he was both my writing and singing buddy (howled like a banshee whenever I vocalized, and I’m not sure what that tells you about my singing! 🙂 ), but I will tell you that he was my faithful companion. How I missed him when he died. And now, our other poodle is showing marked signs of aging. I dread not having him here. So I can hear your sorrow, and I get how much pets bring joy, delight, warmth, and comfort. I am so very sorry. But thank you for encouraging yourself in the Lord and the sure promise of resurrection and His victory over death–an especially timely reminder as Easter approaches. It was so unselfish of you to share this truth during your pain. People need to hear and believe it. Thank you, dear one, and may the Lord bring you comfort and solace as balm for your loss.
    Love
    Lynn

    • katiewilda says:

      Lynn, Thank you so very much for this wise and compassionate comment. Bruce has said several times that Onyx was a cat of many mysteries. We don’t know where he came from–whether he came from another farm or was dropped off by someone, whether Coyotes had shagged him to our farm. And we don’t really know what made him crash this time because he was bright and active until we found him in the bathroom, panting. He has left a big hole.

      Your poodle sounds like he was quite a character. I’m sorry to hear your poodle is showing signs of aging. It’s so hard when they can’t get around very well.

      I hear you on how people need to hear the promise of the resurrection. Thank you for your kind comfort.
      Love back, Katie

  • Alison Bolshoi says:

    What a beautiful, clear voice you have in this tribute, Katie. I feel like I was in the room. Onyx seemed like more than a cat, more than an animal, when you wrote about him. He was a presence. A being to be reckoned with. I will miss him too! Sending you love at this difficult time.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so very much for these kind words and for sending your love. Maybe Onyx was more than a cat. He was an amazing gift to us, both practically as a mouser and as a wonderful friend. He came in the house just before our beloved Nate died (He too was quite a presence.) He was graceful and insistent in his love. We miss him terribly.

  • Beautifully written. I also know what it is like to tame a wild cat, letting him slowly creep into my heart and my daily life. I had my stray Tomcat for seventeen years and many times he proved more faithful and loyal than my dogs. I didn’t think I’d miss a barn cat (who also eventually learned to tolerate coming in the house at night), but he grew to be so much more than that. Mac died some ten years or so ago. I decided not to replace him, thinking it was only a matter of time before another stray came along. But his presence must linger because no other cat has ever appeared. And so I’ve remained cat-less to this day. May your hearts begin to heal with time. My deepest condolences on your loss.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so very much. Today makes a week since he’s gone. What a loss for you, when your Tomcat passed. I didn’t think I’d love a cat this much as I’m not a cat person. (Had them as a kid and they used to follow me on my midnight walks! But they were just barn cats!)

      A dear friend told me she thinks Onyx will come back…I don’t know. I miss him so. (I do think they sometimes do come back to us. I had this happen with two dogs..)

      Thanks so much of your condolences. We adopted a friend’s parents’ cat because the alternative was euthanasia. She is gradually warming up and getting used to being here. (The dogs scare her so we keep them apart for now. They were good with Onyx.) My husband has bonded with her, spending time in the bathroom, keeping her company. But she has a lot of feral in her and is more of a typical cat than Onyx was. Bruce says he has to be careful where he pets her…Thank you so much for these condolences, for stopping by and reading this.

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