Opinion

Frankie, a Love Tale

Frankie, a Love Tale

Over the years, as a dedicated animal lover, I have rescued a number of homeless cats. Most of them young and skittish; many with health problems. But this black four-month-old was emaciated, the worst I had ever seen; he had a tenacious upper respiratory infection, and was infested with worms. He had popped out of a weed-filled, garbage-strewn dump where I was feeding a colony of feral cats, and had run right up to me.

“Where’d you come from, little fellow?” I smiled down at him, scooping up his scrawny little body.

Belying his feral origins, he displayed a surprising friendliness and lack of fear. At the vet, he charmed the technicians, who gave him little hope of survival. It took about six weeks (and a small chunk of my savings), to rehabilitate him, and we got him back in shape.

Even after he put on weight, he had a boney, lanky body and a funny walk like a wound-up Tonka toy. His pointy snout sported a strange fang-like tooth that protruded in an underbite. The vet said that when he was outside, abandoned as a kitten, he might have been hit by something that broke his jaw.

Naming him Frankie cemented his place as a permanent member of the family. He had all the traits of people who charm other people. Frankie wasn’t a cat; he was a person. The gooiest, most “let-me-hang-on-you-I-can’t- live-without-you” cat! A lover who, if human, I would have rejected, considering my great need for autonomy and boundaries.  But I could never get enough of Frankie; he captivated me.  

Frankie turned out to be a perfect “first husband.” His high energy and zaniness made him a fun companion. He’d race across the floor as if shot out of a cannon, and leap into an open drawer. He’d roll around in the drawer, paws flying in the air. Then he’d leap out, and race to the other side of the room. He’d follow me down the steps to the basement, bouncing like a bunny on each step. So, he eventually became “my bunny” among the other nicknames he earned. Those nicknames have become my usernames and passwords.

Every evening after work, Frankie greeted me at the door. He’d follow me around the house asking, “how was your day?” He expected me to pick him up and carry him around the house snuggled in my arms. We’d walk together to put the lights on, our daily home-from-work routine. 

When I held him, he’d throw his little body against mine, burying his face and whiskers under my arm, pushing into me as if he wanted to permeate me like a body snatcher. He’d climb higher and wrap himself over my shoulder like a sack of kitty litter, flapping his rat-like tail in my face. Even after I’d married Jerry, when it was time to sleep, Frankie would curl up against me, and he and I stayed that way all night. Jerry referred to himself as my “second husband.”

Sometimes when music was playing and Frankie was in my arms, I’d sway gently as he clung to me.  

I'd whisper in his ear, “You’re such
a good dancer, Frankie.” 

As soon as I’d sit down, he’d be up on my lap, as I was the only one he wanted to be near, so I believed. In truth, he was a “when I’m not with the girl I love, I love the girl I’m with”- kind of cat. He’d sit on anyone’s lap! Everyone loved Frankie. Even workmen who came back for a job every so often would remember his name, extend their hands to pet him and ask, “how’s Frankie doing”?

He had a long and blessed life.  As he aged, Frankie became a cooperative little patient, willing to let me give him meds. He developed the same ailments many seniors get, but in particular, he suffered from a degenerative spine disease. Every week, we went to a vet who treats animals with laser therapy that relieves pressure, and every month, Frankie was treated by a feline chiropractor. These therapies made a huge difference in his ability to walk normally without any pain, and gave him two extra years of quality life. Inevitably, though, Frankie needed more and more help, and the spinal issue affected his bowels. It was time to protect Frankie from any suffering.

The last sound I heard Frank utter was a meow of disapproval when the vet who came to the house, administered the first sedative. I still hear that meow echo in my thoughts. I see my Frankie, eyes staring toward the distance, fading in comfort into the bedcovers, before the lethal dose. During those few moments, I stroked his ancient body, kissed his sweet-scented face, told him I adored him; I knew he could hear me and feel my touch as he drifted toward the rainbow bridge.

Many rescued cats have been part of my life since Frankie passed away. I’ve cherished and still care passionately for these sentient beings, but no one has replaced, or ever will replace, Frankie, who to this day remains the love of my life.

Frankie in his later years
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