I was featured in a video back in 2015. It was supposed to be a quick screen test for my business partner Dan Wensley. During the test, Dan kept the video running, and it turned into quite a testament to the influence pets can have on us. Sadly, this became a type of eulogy for my cat, Sydney. Shortly after making the video, Sydney developed diabetes and other complications and died on March 16, 2015. The following is an excerpt from that video, adapted for print:
“I got Sydney, then aged one, spontaneously from Angels of Assisi in downtown Roanoke. I just popped down there, answered various questions, filled out the forms, and adopted him. He was mine.
I didn’t like cats at that time. I used to call the city to catch cats that wandered into my yard! It was all quite strange. I remember that first day when I got him, carrying him in the transportation box to various business meetings, quite at a loss on what to do with him! But I brought him home, and friends helped me get a litter box, food, toys, and a climbing tower.
Since then, I have become one hundred percent blown away by how attached you can become to an animal. I was studying cats recently, the history of them. They weren’t pack animals. Before they were somewhat domesticated, they used to roam about on their own. I think that explains some of the mystery of their behaviors. They don’t necessarily bond in the way that some other pets do. Contrary to popular opinion, they are extremely affectionate. They like to be given attention, petted, and loved. When they’ve had enough of that, they just go off with no warning, and do their own thing. That’s what makes them tremendous I think, their little independent spirit, exploring, sleeping, and investigating for hours on end.
Sydney is the gentlest cat I have ever seen. With his sweet purring, the way he jumps on the bed and gives his soft little pushes to my face with his little head, curling up right against me. He likes to make sure his body is against mine when he sleeps. He’s never hissed, never scratched me, he’s really just totally perfect. But then he goes hunting and it’s like Jekyll and Hyde! He hasn’t lost those wild instincts.
A huge thing Sydney has taught me, is about my life with God. I’m a person who believes in Him. I think what moves me so much with Sydney is that I have nothing but affection for him. I want him to live the most exciting life possible, which he does– and I just know he’s gonna live for many years. He’s not gonna die young! But it can be heartbreaking, [when] I want to approach him, or give something to him that I know he’d like. He’s very timid, and he’ll run away. It’s like he won’t believe that what I’m going to do is a good thing. Sometimes I may believe in certain instances that God isn’t out for my good, or isn’t interested in me. And just seeing my relationship with Sydney and my desire for his best, I can’t help but think of God and me. I’m not meaning to humanize Sydney, but his lack of belief towards my goodness extended towards him is a learning experience. It’s like because of Sydney and his life with me, I can now experience so much more clearly the feeling of God being grieved when I don’t trust or respond to Him. Who would have thought that a cute little cat, adopted a whim, can have such an impact on one’s life!”
When Sydney died, I never would have expected the sense of loss I felt. I know this sounds silly, he is just a cat after all. As I said before, when I adopted Sydney I didn’t even like cats! However, on March 19, 2017, I was ready to adopt another cat.
I went to Petco, with my friend Ben, because they provide cats from Angels of Assisi. They had just one cat, Willow. Ben picked him up, cuddled him, and said, “He’s the one for you, River!” He was sure of it. So, I trusted Ben and we got Willow. It turns out Willow was a cat I met at Angels a few weeks earlier, when I was cat browsing, before he was moved to Petco!
Boy, could one cat be so different from another! The vet says Willow is “type A” personality, and feisty too! Unlike Sydney, who delicately nibbled on his food throughout the day, Willow sounds like a piglet when he eats and never has enough. He’s already on a weight loss diet!
Willow quickly won the hearts of many at The Aurora Studios in Downtown Roanoke, where I bring him to the office with me. He is an easygoing cat, riding in his carrier to work on the handlebars of my bicycle, like nothing out of the ordinary is happening!
I still miss Sydney. Writing this article is the first time I have looked at photos of him since he died. And I threw out everything that was his after he died. I just kept the photos. But now Willow lives with me and I love him.
Angels of Assisi have been wonderful throughout. If you can have a pet, please do consider adopting one from Angels. They have many available, and are terrific at helping you choose one that has the personality that suits you. Who knows what wonderful impact that cuddly bundle of sweet personality and mystery will have on you?
Visit www.angelsofassisi.org for more information on animals you can help through donations, adoption, and volunteering.
Written by River Laker