Paw prints | Inquirer Opinion
High Blood

Paw prints

One early evening, my husband and I found a scrawny, two-month-old kitten in the pathway, looking lost and forlorn. Her fur, white with splotches of black, was so sparse that her raw skin showed through it. Her eyelids were reddish and her nose had a dark bump, which made her look like a pathetic zombie. She was such a miserable sight that we decided to take her home. Since it was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, we named her Frances.

Aside from our cat Kenshiro, we are also fostering two stray mother-and-daughter tabbies, Momshie and Catriona. When Momshie and Frances saw each other, they hit it off right away. In no time, Momshie was nursing and caring for her like her own, as if she instinctively knew that the little one needed a mother’s loving and comforting touch. It was indeed providential that beautiful things just seemed to fall into place that night for the little fur baby.

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But our excitement soon petered out when, the following day, Frances turned lethargic. Taking her to the vet was out of the question because of the pandemic, so we took matters into our own hands and nursed her back to health. For a time, she just lay there without budging, hardly eating and scarcely breathing.

So great was our joy when, after a couple of disquieting days, she was back on her little feet, playful and sprightly, scurrying here and there, frolicking with the other cats, and not in the least bit shy or uptight around us. It amused me no end to see her watching cat games on YouTube, sitting there rapt and engrossed like a conscientious student, her eyes darting and her head bobbing as the virtual bugs and rodents whizzed past the TV screen from all directions. Sometimes she would strike the screen with a delicate paw, in a futile attempt to capture the crawling creatures. Surprisingly, our territorial cat Kenshiro didn’t seem to mind her incursion into his turf, simply sniffing or eyeing her curiously, or looking the other way and giving her maximum tolerance as she explored the nooks and crannies of the house.

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At feeding time, she would outrace Momshie and Catriona to their food tray and eat the meal with them. It never ceased to amaze us that while most kittens her age were still sucking milk from their moms, she was gobbling up food for older cats, without gagging or getting sick. She was wonderful beyond words, and she captured our hearts hands down.

Then one day, as suddenly as she entered our lives, she was gone. My husband searched long and hard for her while I waited in agony like the mother of a missing child, hoping and praying that she was safe and sound. When he found her lifeless body by the roadside some distance from our house, he picked it up with deep distress and took it home. It still pains me to think of the desolation she must have felt as she lay dying in that cold and damp pavement, tired, hungry, frightened, and alone.

They say that when an animal that has been close to someone’s heart dies, that animal goes to a beautiful place called “The Rainbow Bridge.” I can see Frances in that paradise now, cavorting with her furry friends, sniffing the flowers, playing with the birds, and catching real, live insects with her dainty little paws.

Frances may have left my life, but not my heart. She was an unexpected blessing, and I will always be grateful to God for making the human heart a wellspring of love, care, and compassion for His creatures, and by it, giving us every good chance to become better human beings.

* * *

Delia T. Combista, 69, a retired college professor, resides in Pooc, Talisay City, Cebu, with her husband, son, and the family’s pet cats.

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