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Just Before the Snow: The Amazing Tale of P.J and Hal

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She sat on the walkway just outside of the pizza place; a friendly adult black cat, waiting patiently for assistance. She sat just outside of the stores glass windows and as each new customer came and went she cautiously walked towards their feet, making eye contact as she moved closer. And each time the human would look quickly away, pretending they did not to see her at all.
We had just pulled into the parking lot to pick up a pizza for the evening. I watched as the lonely cat stumbled from one person to the next, clearly asking for help. A bustling liquor store sat adjacent to the pizza place and as she was ignored time and again by the pizza customers the cat strategically placed herself outside of the liquor store. The sky was dark, but the walkway was well lit. The cat walked up to a man on a bike who strapped in his purchases and pulled away without a second glance. She walked up to every customer who came and went to no avail.
My eyes traveled back towards the pizza place and I saw that two Styrofoam bowls had been placed outside on the ground. One held water while the other contained a few broken crackers. After watching the cat while eating our pizza in the warmth of our vehicle, we assumed the cat was in dire need of help. After speaking to the manager of the pizza place, it was confirmed that indeed the cat needed rescue. The manager said the cat had been hanging around for several weeks and all that they had been feeding her crackers. They didn’t want to call the pound as they knew the fate that would be inflicted on her. So when we offered to take her with us that night, he was grateful to know the cat had finally found safety.
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We named her P.J. and she showed her gratitude by purring up a storm. She sat on my lap for the ride home and rolled over for belly rubs. I began fostered P.J. and she settled in nicely after her spay surgery and vetting was complete. Just one week after her rescue we were hit with the first large snow storm of the season- covering our streets and yards with layers of snow and ice. We were thankful P.J. was safe and indoors now! However, it was clear after her first several weeks that she had an issue with her ears. After multiple veterinary visits it was discovered that P.J. had two tumors in her ear that needed immediate removal via surgery. We were thankful that P.J.’s tumors were non-cancerous and she made it smoothly through a second surgery. As P.J. recovered from her surgeries she discovered her favorite spot in the house was on a cozy window perch, basking in the rays of sunlight that poured through the window during the day.

P.J. loved to be petted and purred continuously. As an older adult, short hair black cat, we knew her chances for adoption were difficult- but we persisted. She had a wonderful personality and we hoped that we could find her a forever home to call her own. She certainly deserved it! Sadly, three times over the period of one year we had potential adopters set to meet P.J. and three times the potential adopters fell through. Approximately 9 months after her initial rescue we saw that P.J. had a small lump develop in her throat. She was suddenly having difficulty swallowing her food and we were concerned. Our veterinarians took a biopsy and we were relieved to discover that the new tumor was non-cancerous. However, P.J. needed surgery now to remove the tumor and an infected tooth. P.J. endured the surgery and recovered quickly. We were so pleased with her recovery as soon after she began playing with the other foster cat in our home and she seemed happier than she had ever been. We hoped that P.J.’s health concerns were now behind her.
Nearly two months later, P.J. suddenly fell ill and within days she had passed away from kidney failure. P.J. passed nearly a year to the date of her rescue. We stayed by her side as she passed away keeping a fluffy pink blanket beneath her and letting her know that she was loved.
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The same week P.J. passed, we had rescued a short-hair black male cat who had been trying his best to survive as a stray. We had been leaving food and water out for him, but worried for his safety. After several months I had finally been able to pet him; however he would allow no one else near him. A few weeks before P.J. feel ill, the stray cat would wait for me in the evenings and run to greet me when I arrived to fill the food bowl. A few days before P.J.  fell suddenly ill, he allowed me to hold him and bring him indoors. We had him fully vetted, but he was terrified indoors. Although we had developed a bond over the last several months, the newly rescued cat wanted to leap at the walls and seemed panicked at the idea of being indoors. But we worried for his safety. He was incredibly friendly now and outdoors he had been dodging a busy street of traffic and winter was on the way. He had been previously neutered and so we knew he had had an indoor home at some point in his life.
I placed Hal in a large wire dog crate and filled it with all of the necessities, along with a thick cozy blanket and limitless food. This guy was hungry! Despite the fact that I had been feeding him outdoors for quite some time, he knew he could finally relax and eat without the fear of harm now that he was safe indoors. Whenever I wasn’t giving Hal attention (petting him, talking to him, sitting with him or feeding him) he would bounce from the bottom to the top of the cage. He seemed stuck between two worlds. He had obviously been trying his best to survive outdoors for quite a long time and now the transition back to indoor life was confusing. But I committed to him and promised him he would be my project and I would work with him for months or a year if that’s how long it took. He deserved a well-cared for, indoor life.
Hal remained stagnant in his progress that week. But the morning after P.J. passed away, when I sat with Hal it was evident that he had changed. In the blink of an eye he had become calm and peaceful. No more leaping at the cage or wanting to frantically jump at the walls or doors. This time, he curled up in a ball on my lap and purred away. He was suddenly content. Suddenly okay. I had no logical explanation for his overnight progress; but I was grateful for the transition to have taken place.
As I watched Hal walk around his room that morning, he confidently marched towards the door and gently pawed at its base. I let him out and he met my cats and dogs and acted as if he had always known them. He did not jump at the walls; instead he used his head to rub against each pet. He did not hiss; not even once! But he did intertwine his tail with the other cat and walk happily by her side. It was as if he had always been here.
As if Hal’s transformation immediately following P.J.’s passing wasn’t astonishing enough, the very next night we had our first snow of the season. Several inches of snow blanketed the ground; driveways needed shoveling…all too reminiscent of the week we rescued P.J. just one year earlier.
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