Look carefully, you’ll see it. Because Dodger was very, very orange and on Thursday he left us and stepped onto the bridge, leaving his earthly suffering behind.
He came to us in 2007 as a very sick little kitten. Taylor discovered him in a Lompoc shelter, christened him Dodger (after the artful Oliver Twist character, not the baseball team) and brought him home to us. One eye was completely swollen shut, his fur was strangely mottled and our vet was furious. Said such a sick cat should never have been adopted out. Said there was no guarantee he would survive.
He joined a crowded field of siblings and tried to make his way. Always sweet-natured, he wanted to be everyone’s friend.
But that was, shall we say, complicated. Cody, who’d been relegated by senior feline Dizzy to second place in the cat line-up, was determined not to be in third place, and he never ever let Dodger forget it.
Dodger tried hard to be his friend.
But Cody wasn’t having it. They got off on the wrong paw and things only went from bad to worse. There was what we will euphemistically term “acting out”. Carpets were replaced. Draperies were replaced. To be quite honest, for a long time the CE wanted Dodger to be replaced. The lines were drawn: you were either Team Dodger or Team Cody.
I assiduously defended Dodger. Someone had to. After all, I pointed out, he was the perfect Halloween cat.
He worked very hard every day at being orange. And oranger.
He amused us with his fascination with all things water.
And when he could make no headway with the cats, he did the reasonable thing and aligned himself happily with the dogs.
He and Soho eventually became best buddies.
It might not have been perfect, but it was a far cry from a precarious and highly uncertain outcome in a Lompoc shelter. And even if he wasn’t top cat, he was not wholly uncelebrated. At one point, our friend Julia found his doppelgänger – you might say Dodger was living an artful life.
The winds shifted in April of 2018 when Cody lost his battle with chronic renal failure. Dodger was suddenly our one and only cat, but attention was focused elsewhere, as both Soho and then Chloe became ill and left us that summer. Dodger was the sole remaining household pet. He could hold his head high.
Of course, sweet Dodger wasn’t looking to be king of the jungle. And when we brought Lily home this May, he patiently welcomed her puppy kisses. We looked forward to a long and happy time ahead for the two of them together.
But a few days after Lily’s homecoming, Dodger had a fateful visit to the vet. He hadn’t seemed quite right for a bit and, in fact, we discovered that day that things were very, very wrong. A seemingly minor skin cancer he’d had removed had metastasized to his lungs. There was no cure. There was only prednisone, which our vet said might give him a month or two.
That was in May. Thanks to the miracle of the prednisone and Dodger’s determination to be a companion to Lily, he soldiered on past the expiration date he’d been given. The CE had long since forgiven Dodger the errors of his earlier ways and stepped in heroically to nurture him, carrying him up and down the stairs and searching out every tasty morsel to be found at the grocery to entice him after even the prednisone failed to stimulate his appetite.
Friends Tammy and Tom (who were always Team Dodger!) kindly kept up the hospice regimen while we were away on a trip in August. And, of course, Lily remained a constant inspiration. Dodger wanted to be here for her.
In his last weeks, Dodger was showered with love. Caleigh had decided when she visited in June that he was her soul mate. She much preferred his gentle spirit to that wild, unpredictable puppy and she ferried Dodger from room to room, offering him oodles of fish cookies at every turn.
When she and her sisters visited again last week, they all gathered around Dodger to let him know he was loved.
Evie even made him a friendship bracelet. Green, to match his beautiful eyes.
We watched the light go out of those eyes on Thursday afternoon. The tumors were pressing so hard against his lungs that the effort he had to make to even breathe kept him from being able to eat or drink. He was beginning the painful process of starving to death. We could not let him suffer.
By now I would like to think he has had a joyous reunion with Soho and Chloe, and hopefully made his peace with Cody. If not, replacing the carpets and the drapes at the Rainbow Bridge will be someone else’s problem. We have only good memories of that sweet kitty and we pray that he does go gentle into that good night. Farewell, dear Dodger, you are so loved, you will be so missed.