Bonnie entered our lives 18 years ago. Susan somehow got her from a litter of a feral cat. A beautiful calico color, she had a bad temper and was prone to bite and scratch us, as well as any visitors who dared to touch her. I don’t know about Susan, but Maxx, Alex, and I all have Bonnie scars.
I’m not a cat person. While I can tolerate them, I was not a big fan of Bonnie. Susan loved her, though. That bond grew very strong while Susan was weak and sick from chemotherapy treatments. Bonnie would sit on her lap and purr as Susan stroked her. I have no doubt she helped with Susan’s recovery, perhaps more than I did.
For me though, Bonnie was mostly a pain in the neck. She shed hair all over my clothes. She spit up. She brought fleas into the house. One time, for reasons known only to her, she peed in my sneakers. After four separate washings, I threw them out. No amount of washing was going to get that smell out. Because Susan loved her, and I love Susan, I put up with Bonnie. What choice did I have?
Bonnie wasn’t all bad. She certainly cleaned up any extra fish we had. Her coat felt wonderful, thick and silky. Something soothes one while stroking a purring cat. And we have never had a problem with rodents here.
The past few years, as she got old, she mellowed some. But she also became demanding at meal times, meowing a wailing cry that would make someone think we were trying to starve her. Any impartial observer could easily see that was not the case.
She also got in the habit of lying as much in the way as she could possibly be- for example, right behind me as I was trying to prepare supper. Yes, I stepped on her, more than once. And while on the one hand you feel bad, on the other it’s, “Stupid cat, what did you expect?”
Bonnie also started going deaf, a dangerous situation for her when I’m always backing boat trailers. I dreaded to think what Susan’s response would be if I flattened her cat.
As it turned out, Susan flattened her cat. It was much worse than if I had done it.
Susan was clearing the driveway of oak leaves, using an electric blower. She used it on Bonnie, who was, as was her habit, right in the way. Bonnie didn’t like the noise or the stream of air, and scampered away. Unknown to Susan, she scampered right back.
In the meantime Susan needed to move her car in order to get the leaves that were under and on the other side of it. She put down the blower, got in the car, and moved it.
Tragically, Bonnie had lain down right in front of her passenger-side tire. Susan never saw her. Bonnie never moved.
Susan came running into the house, hysterical with grief and remorse. I had no idea what was going on. I ran out with her only to see Bonnie, broken and bleeding, kicking her leg futilely a few times. Then she was still. Gone.
Susan’s anguish was almost beyond belief. I tried to console her, without success. Our neighbor Tom had heard the commotion and came over to see if he could help. No one could have.
I was grim and Susan was still crying while I dug the grave in our yard. Susan begged me to dig it deep so Bonnie wouldn’t be disturbed. It was hot, hard work and I had to rest several times. But the hole got deeper and deeper and finally Susan said, “That’s enough”.
To my surprise I sobbed as I covered Bonnie. It was the saddest I’ve been since my father died, a long time ago.
I knew that Bonnie was annoying, a pain in the neck. I knew that Susan loved her unconditionally. But I didn’t know, until that moment, that I loved her too.
Goodbye, Bonnie. We miss you.