The Rev. Bob Bondurant, who formerly oversaw the Marshall University Campus Christian Center, sent me a Facebook post with a legend that said something like, “He sent creatures without wings so that we wouldn’t know they were angels.” Below the legend was the image of a medium-sized brown and white dog with a small tabby cat cuddled up against its side.
Count me among the legions of believers who just know that God Almighty blesses us through our pets. And also among those who hope there’s a place for these godsends in heaven with their human companions.
I’m fond of telling skeptics, “Well, we do indeed know that animals will be with us at the end of time.” That is, if you believe what’s written in the Bible. Isaiah 11:6-7 speaks of a wolf being guest of the lamb, of a leopard who “shall lie down with the kid,” and a “calf and a young lion browsing together.”
My “pitch” to God is the following: “Look, if we’re going to have animals such as these with us when the Earth’s tenure has run its course, why not our cats — Max, Cleo, Punkin and Mocha? And why not my huskie-shepherd therapy dog, Cooper, who served nine years at Hospice of Huntington?”
I constantly run into people who believe likewise. Or who have lofted prayers to the Creator to include their FiFi or Hot Stuff in paradise.
All five of our pets have been rescues, some in the purest sense, meaning we did not adopt them from the animal shelter, but found them — or they found us — practically in the wild.
Max came first. Paula and I were living in a shingle-sided cabin by a creek — Twelvepole in Wayne County, to be precise. We loved taking strolls down Camp Road with the creek burbling right at our side. Then one day, a winsome gray/cream tabby, pretty close to the image in Bondurant’s post, came off a front porch and began following us.
We took him back to the porch whence he had sprung and rang the doorbell. A kindly 60-ish lady answered.
“Ma’am, we brought your cat back. He’d been trailing us down the road.”
“Oh, that’s not my cat,” she said. “He’s been hanging around our porch now for days, and I do put out some milk. But we have a Sheltie that does not get along with cats. Why don’t you just keep him and take him home?”
Long story short, we did. And never in 11 years regretted it, so fine, so sensitive a companion did Max become. And how he loved long trips in the car with us, back and forth to Chicago. He died tragically early of an infection in the brain, leaving us stricken with grief.
We got Cleo, midnight black with tuxedo white spots, when friends in Blacksburg, Virginia, begged us to take one of their two cats home with us, as they would be moving into a community that limited residents to one pet. Punkin, a tabby like Max, was part of a litter dropped on the grounds of our church; white and gray ragdoll Mocha was spawned by a feral mother and given to us by a friend. And Cooper’s people had thrown him and his sister into a creek in rural Lawrence County, but happily both were rescued by friends of a friend of ours.
John Patrick Grace and his wife, Paula, share their home in eastern Cabell County with Cooper, Punkin and Mocha. R.I.P. Max and Cleo.