In 2003 my ex and I were stationed in NY. I started feeding the cats that were left behind when other military families moved to their next duty station. I was TNR-ing them as I got the money (I didn’t even know it was a thing when I started, I was still a baby without any rescue experience.)
Some cats were more friendly than others, and I had my favorites. There was an orange tabby I named Sherbert who was the most friendly. (Yes, I spelled his name wrong, fight me!) He was the first to let me pet him, and eventually would even tolerate me picking him up to snuggle.
One day while bringing in groceries Sherbert snuck in the propped open kitchen door to eat our cat’s food. My ex wanted to put him back out immediately, but I said to just leave him, he’d go back out once he finished. Sure enough, by the time we were done unloading groceries Sherbert was nowhere to be seen.
We had dinner and watched TV for a few hours, then I decided I was going to put on my pajamas. When I came to the top of the stairs and looked in my bedroom, there in the middle of the bed was a stripey, orange ball of fur.
“What are you doing up here?! X is going to be so mad!” I whispered as I walked closer. Sherby just stretched his little paws out and purred so loudly!
I giggled quietly and stroked his back which made him stretch out again. This time I noticed something off about his paws.
I called X to come upstairs to see something. He came up and said, “What’s he doing in here? He can’t stay, we can’t have another cat.”
I replied, “Look at this,” as I gently squeezed Sherbert’s paw, “he’s declawed.*”
“Why do people do that? Ugh. Well, we can’t put him back outside, he doesn’t have any way to defend himself.” Despite his roughness, X had a soft spot for animals, and especially cats.
I took Sherby to the vet where he received vaccines and a microchip, he was officially ours. He refused to be an indoor only car after being out so long, but always came inside in the evenings, and was never far from the yard during the day.
In 2005 my marriage to X had ended and we split up the animals. I couldn’t afford them all, I couldn’t even afford the slum I would be living in with Heidi, my German Shepherd and soulmate, so the cats went to live with X.
Sherbert wasn’t happy with the arrangement and began urinating on the countertops and in the kitchen sink. I suggested a vet visit to check for urinary issues, but then Sherby peed on X’s knapsack right in front of him… While making direct eye contact. X was livid and told me I needed to take him (among some other not so nice words).
I was working at a boarding kennel at the time, and asked the owner if I could bring Sherby there. She was nervous at first, she didn’t want the kennel smelling like cat urine, but I assured her he would be a good boy, and I’d already scheduled a check up for him to make sure it wasn’t a health issue.
Sherbert was issued a clean bill of health, and was such a happy, easy going cat that he moved up to the office and was loved by everyone. I had hoped that eventually I’d be able to find an apartment that would allow me to have him home with me again, but that was at least several years away.
An animal rescue boarded their dogs and cats at this kennel, and the volunteers came in every weekend to show the animals for adoption. One of their long time volunteers, Joan, also brought her own dogs during the week for daycare, so we got to know each other pretty well, and she got to know Sherby really well since they hung out at the desk together every weekend.
She loved orange tabby cats, but hadn’t had a cat since her Tigger had passed, it was just too painful. But she always admired Sherb and made sure to say hello to him whenever she came in.
Sherby had been living there for at least 3-4 months when one morning Joan stopped to talk to me as she dropped off her dogs for daycare. I remember that conversation so well.
“Stasia, would you ever consider adopting out Sherbet?”
“Oh, Joan, it would have to be a really good home. They would have to be the perfect adopter for me to be able to let him go. Did you have someone asking about him this weekend?”
“Well, I was thinking maybe I could adopt him…”
“Oh Joan, I would love for you to have him! Of course!” I threw my arms around her in a big hug, and I remember her laughing and being near tears.
My heart was breaking knowing that Sherbert wouldn’t be mine, but I also knew that he would be so much happier in a home, where he could curl up in someone’s bed like he’d always done on mine. I was so happy knowing that he was going to live with Joan, because I knew she would give him the life I wanted to and love him like I did.
This morning Joan sent me a message that Sherby had passed in his sleep. He was at least 15 years old, but may have been older. It was a good long life for a cat that had been put out like the trash.
I’ve been crying since she told me. But I will forever be grateful to Joan for giving Sherbert the happily ever after he deserved.
*Declawing is not just removing the claws, it’s removing the end of the toe. Although I’m strongly opposed to this practice, I’d rather see a cat declawed and in a loving home than homeless. Please don’t tell me your opinion on this, this blog entry is for Sherby.