Life lessons from a wobbly little cat

Theodora Roosevelt Brassard

Theodora Roosevelt Brassard (better known as Teddy), June 2015-Jan. 22, 2016: the sweetest kitty ever.

I almost can’t believe that the latest news from the Manse is the loss of another beloved cat. Readers mourned with Raymond and me when we lost our dear Sieste (the first Manse Cat); and even before that, when Bayona the chubby and loving calico died suddenly before ever getting to see this big old house that was just made for cats to chase each other around in.

But this past Friday night, little Teddy (short for Theodora Roosevelt Brassard) succumbed, at the age of only seven months, to the neurological illness that she was born with and that began to manifest itself a couple of months after we adopted her and her sister, Honey Bunny, from a feral-cat rescue organization. That illness affected her balance so that she could not jump or climb, or raise her head really; and she had a bit of a to-do getting herself up and onto her feet – finding her sea legs, as Raymond liked to say – when it was time to get up and walk. And then when she did get upright, she walked with a wobble. But she had determination, and she always got there. “Teddymarch!” we would say. In fact, here she comes now:

Teddy was, quite simply, the sweetest cat ever. She loved her people. She loved new people, visiting with them without shyness and with great affection. She loved to be held, or just to be close. Here she is showing how much she adores her dad:

Teddy loves her dad

As Raymond (still in bathrobe) gets an early start on the day’s National Newspaper Awards work, Teddy shows her appreciation for being allowed into his lap.

And here she is helping him at foot level in the kitchen, something she was very fond of:

Teddy helping Raymond in the kitchen

“Teddy underfoot!” Raymond and I would say to each other when we noticed she’d parked herself beside us in the kitchen. (Our highly unrenovated kitchen, I should add – but that will change soon.) One didn’t want to step on her!

Here’s Teddy with Raymond during what was her first and, very sadly, only Christmas. It was a lovely Christmas at the Manse, and it makes me happy that she shared it with us:

Teddy's Christmas

Teddy’s Christmas, 2015. What does she do while curled up in her dad’s lap? Why, Teddypurr, of course. It will be hard not to have her with us next Christmas.

We’d had a close call with Teddy’s health once before, but to our great joy she pulled through. I wrote about that experience here, giving Teddy the Harry Potter title of The Cat Who Lived. Sadly, it turned out to be only a reprieve. Teddy died this past Friday evening.

I hope you’ll pardon me for revisiting the theme of the loss of a feline pet, but I feel like I have to write about Teddy. Mainly it’s because I am just so sad, and telling you folks about what a sweetie Teddy was will make me feel better. And then there’s this: if I don’t write about Teddy, I won’t get a chance to share with you one of the funniest and cutest cat photos you’ll ever see. And we can’t have that. (It’s toward the bottom of this post.)

Teddy’s death was as peaceful as it could have been. For the previous couple of days we had vaguely noticed her showing some small signs of weakening – moving around a little less than was normal for her, and having a slightly harder time getting her legs under her. But it never crossed our minds that she was approaching the end of her short life. Teddy was pretty much herself on Thursday, beginning the day as usual by quietly asking me if she could sit in my lap while I had my morning coffee. Twenty-four hours later, she suddenly could not walk at all, and then lost interest in food and water.

Her final illness really only lasted a day, and we looked after her all of that day. She slept in her soft bed, and she allowed her sister to nuzzle and bathe her:

And then she quietly breathed her last at about 9 o’clock in the evening. She did not suffer. She died in complete peace in a warm, happy and comfortable place, with Honey Bunny, Raymond and me all with her. It was the kind of death we all should wish for when our time comes.

While Teddy’s life was very brief, she had a big impact on our lives – just how big we are in some ways only realizing now that she is gone. I am beginning to understand that the reason for the immense love we felt – and always will feel – for her is the fact that she was a special-needs cat. She needed our help: to steady her sometimes as she tried to get her balance; to clean up after her when she temporarily forgot, during that first health crisis, how to make it to the litter box in time to pee (something she fortunately figured out again eventually); to lift her up and down from places she couldn’t jump; to stop her rambunctious sister from playing too roughly with her; and most importantly, to show her that she was loved as deeply as she loved us. In needing these things from us, she taught us what a gift it is to help someone in need.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot over this weekend, in between bouts of weeping for my dear Teddy. And I have concluded that we could all stand to learn some life lessons from the late Theodora Roosevelt Brassard, aged seven months when she left this world for a better place where, I hope, she doesn’t wobble any more. Here they are:

  1. Life is short. Spend all of it being gentle, kind, open and loving.
  2. Be close to the people you love for as much time as you can possibly manage. March after them if you have to.
  3. Don’t complain.
  4. Don’t let physical impairments stop you from getting where you want to go.
  5. Love everyone you meet unreservedly and unfailingly.
  6. When you’re happy and you know it, purr.
  7. It is sometimes all right to be unladylike. Especially when your legs don’t work very well and a big stretch makes them feel better:
Teddy looking unladylike

When Teddy was really, really comfortable in someone’s arms or lap, she would stretch herself out as far as she could. It seemed to ease the physical discomfort she experienced. It wasn’t very ladylike, and it was pretty funny to see, but if it made her happy, then we were happy too.

Our friend Jill said something perfect about Teddy in a kind note of sympathy:

She had the best care from all of you (including her furry mate) while she tiptoed this earth and warmed your hearts.

I love to think about Teddy tiptoeing this earth. That really was what she did: tread lightly and gently for a few short months, spreading goodness wherever she went.

It was peaceful outside as Teddy was buried yesterday afternoon. A gentle snow was falling, and a gentle winter sun was shining. It was just right for saying goodbye to a gentle and loving kitty who in the five short months she lived with us taught us a very great deal about showing kindness and gentleness and love. Her life was … a Teddygift.

26 thoughts on “Life lessons from a wobbly little cat

  1. I’m so sorry about Teddy. Thank goodness she had you all in her little life! She knew she was loved and she loved in return. Rest in peace, sweet baby.

  2. Sherry Moran has certainly captured my feelings about Teddy.
    “Rest in peace” indeed.
    A wonderful listing of “life lessons”
    Always appreciate your blogs.

  3. I was really sorry to hear about poor little Teddy. Having lost two cats over the years, I know how sad it can be.

    I currently have two aged cats, both with health problems. Murphy, a former stray,came to live with us in 2002. On Dec 22 I was sure he was ready to leave me, and had made an appointment to have him put down the next day. But when I called my son Neil, the vet, he thought he might last a little longer. I cancelled his appointment, and was so very glad I had, because although he is very thin, he seems to be enjoying life. I constantly remind him how lucky he was to have our “family vet” save him. Although I worry whenever he seems to be eating very little, he always surprizes me by eating more the next day.

    You can take comfort in knowing that Teddy had the best possible care and devotion during his short life. Best wishes, Marg Munday

    • Thank you so much for your kind wishes, Margaret. It makes me happy to hear that your Murphy decided to stick around and continue to bring you joy. We were so delighted when Teddy did the same at the time of her close call. It made her that much more precious to us afterward, and we only wish her reprieve could have lasted much longer than it did. I wish you lots of time with Murphy. I am sure that he, as Teddy did, appreciates all the love and attention you give him. They are such good companions!

    • She really was a special cat, Hilary, and you would have loved her. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to meet Teddy. In addition to her lovely sweet face, her fur was beautifully soft, which always reminded me of your Gus and Sophie.

  4. Hello Katherine. I haven’t commented in such a long time……..

    I am so sorry to read about little Teddy. You have written so beautifully about her.

    It will never cease to amaze me how a little tiny scrap of fur can contain a perfect little soul – as complete and intangible as any “human” being. It is humbling. My heart breaks for you, Raymond and Honey.

    Fondly, and with tears,

    • Thank you so very much, Jane. Teddy was, as you put it so well, a perfect little soul. In only five months, she changed our lives, and I think – no, I know – we will always be better people for having had that time with her, learning what she was quietly teaching us about love and trust and sweetness.

  5. Well, now I’m weeping here in New Hampshire for Gracie’s little cousin, Teddy, whom we hoped to meet and cuddle in April. She was well loved, of that I am sure. We’ll have extra big hugs for you and Raymond in 2 months.. in the meantime, know that you are all in our thoughts. Take comfort in the fact that Teddy knew she was adopted into the perfect, compassionate home with you and Raymond and Honey Bunny.

    • Thank you so much, Eloise. It is sad that so many people who love cats, and who would have adored Teddy, didn’t get a chance to meet her. I guess I hoped through my post to try to rectify that. I expect that by the time you come to visit (which we are very much looking forward to) we will have a new feline companion or two for Honey Bunny. But no one will ever replace Teddy in our hearts.

  6. Hi Katherine,

    I am so sorry to read about Teddy’s passing. I am sure the Manse feels a bit empty, and I know how you & Raymond and Honey Bunny must be feeling. However, you gave little Teddy a chance to live and to be happy (and happy she was, as we can tell from the photos), and her time with you must have been so special to her. R.I.P., little one, and my condolences to you.

    • Thank you so much, Sash. The Manse is indeed sad and empty these days; even high-energy Honey Bunny seems to be downcast and a little lost. She’s a good comfort, though, and we will eventually get another kitty (or two) and we will love them and they will bring us much joy. But dear Teddy was something precious and special.

  7. I inadvertently happened upon your beautiful blog as I was looking for homes in the Tweed vacinity, I find you have so much heart when it comes to your cat tales (tails)!
    Please don’t ever stop writing of your everyday adventures, They make me feel like I am there.

    • Thank you so much, Leslie. We still miss Teddy every single day. She was the sweetest cat ever. We now have two new little kitties to keep Honey Bunny (and us) entertained, and we love them very much, but there will never be another Teddy.

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