This is one of the saddest posts I have ever written and it has taken me more than a week to be able to write it. It is never easy to say goodbye to a pet, especially one who’s life was cut short by a speeding car in a quiet neighborhood. But for all the happiness he brought us, Otis, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast cat, deserves a loving farewell.
When James and I bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, our inn in Asheville NC, we decided that we would run it as a pet-free facility. This was not because we don’t like pets. On the contrary, our family had cats and a dog which were very much a part of our lives. But they had lived to a graceful old age and we had not replaced them. And we were mindful of the fact that some people have allergies or are not at ease with animals so we chose not only to keep our inn pet-free but also to respect our guests and have no pet of our own on the property. This we did for six years. Still we missed the love and presence a pet brings into a home. A short stay by our eldest daughter and her cat, Milo, convinced us that it was possible to have a cat of our own who could be kept away from our guests. (Otis had other ideas but more about that later).
So we headed off to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue where we found a TON of cats waiting to be rescued. My thought had been to get an older cat who would not need as much time (time being hard to come by in an innkeeper’s life) but then we saw Otis. Of course he was not named Otis then. He had another name, like Roger or something like that. But we were getting a cat because of Milo so we had already decided our cat would be named Otis. Anyway, Otis was not an adult cat. He was six months old. He had been previously owned but the owner was having a baby and not able to keep him so she turned him in for adoption. He had only been in the shelter for 4 days. You could tell he was a little frightened by the noise and people but he snuggled into our arms and purred like a motor boat when we held him. And he was the softest cat I have ever held. So he purred his way right into our home and hearts.
That first day he was super-snuggly. He slept on my lap while I watched TV and spent the night right up under my arm. But shortly he got comfortable and got to work exploring the innkeeper’s quarters. He very quickly learned not to go through the swinging door to the inn and to stay off the counter-tops and table in the kitchen. He had clearly been trained for this as all we had to do was show him the spray bottle and he exited the scene quickly! Like all cats he liked to walk on the computer keyboard while I was working, but his favorite perch was on top of the printer where he could watch what was going on in the kitchen without getting in the way.
He also loved to sleep on James’ shoulders but quickly discovered that mine were too small and bony to balance on.
And, as we soon learned, Otis was a very well socialized cat. Unlike Milo who fled from our guests, Otis was happy to see them. Many of our guests will remember being greeted by him as he threw himself on the ground in front of them and presented his belly for rubbing. In the evening he would often make his way to the front porch to see what all those people were doing.
Like any animal he had his quirks. He hated to use the cat flap. Instead he would climb up the screen door to let us know he wanted to come in. We thought that would come to an end when winter came. Imagine my surprise when I heard a noise and looked over to see that he had climb up the wooden door and was staring in the window at the top! Silly cat, a meow would have worked just as well.
And like clockwork, he came home every evening at 9PM. We didn’t want him to spend the night outside–too many critters around for a cat who won’t bolt through the cat flap–so we had trained him to come when we called him. It was one of my favorite parts of the day. I would call his name once or twice and then hear his bell as he came shooting across the yard and through the door. I would give him a treat and he would snuggle a bit before moving to the basket where he had made his bed. Some time after we went upstairs we would hear the bell again and feel the bed move as he joined us for the night.
But on the night of January 14th, Otis did not return when we called. James and I searched the neighborhood nearby fearing he had gotten trapped somewhere. He liked to climb into cars which were left open and had been known to get trapped in our garage. The next morning we alerted our neighbors who all knew Otis well and at noon one of them came to us and said she had found him by the side of the road. Otis was white and brown cat, the spot where he was found is well lit. Our only thought is that someone was driving too fast and unable to stop in time. While most people are careful on our street and mindful that it is a residential street, from time to time there are those who race down the road.
And now our house is quiet and the places where he filled the corners of our lives empty. We buried him on our property near a tree he liked to climb and in the spring I will plant flowers there. We plan to get another cat but we will never forget our “little man” and the happiness he gave us.