The Gift of Love

by Beverly Vana

Ten years ago, Iowa had an exceptionally brutal winter. Wind chill factors took January temperatures to the minus 35 to minus 50 degrees below zero range. I was happy to be inside warm and safe with my three cats.

One night Barney, my oldest cat, was looking intently out the living room window. What he was looking at! Maybe leaves or paper blowing? It was so cold outside that people were urged to stay inside if at all possible.

I ventured over to the window to see what Barney was so interested in. To my amazement, there was a feral (wild) mother cat with five babies on my porch. I immediately ran to get them some food knowing they were cold and hungry.

As I opened the door to place the food on the porch, they all scattered. I went back inside and peered out the window. Slowly, one by one, they returned to eat. The long-haired black kitten was the first one at the plate, then the gray one, and soon all the kittens were there filling their bellies up while mom waited until she was sure her babies had eaten, before she ate.

This routine continued for about three weeks. I built them a makeshift shelter looking forward to mom and her babies stopping by. One night, as the wind chill factor reached minus 65 degrees, I had the bright idea to catch the kittens and put them in the garage. My plan of action ready, I waited anxiously.

Right on schedule, mom and her babies came to eat. The black kitty came first. I ran outside to catch him and, to my surprise, he did not to run like the others. The minute I picked him up, he purred and seemed unafraid. I took him inside, placed him in the bathroom, and waited for the others to return. They did, but I had no luck catching any of them.

I came back inside to check on the one kitten, who sat calmly in the bathroom where I left him. He didn't seem scared or worried. He just looked up at me with those beautiful gold eyes as if to say, "Hi, nice to meet you". Sneezing frequently, he seemed to have some sort of respiratory infection. It also seemed he had a non-stop purr motor. As I sat there with him, I thought, "I cannot keep him, I already have 3 cats."

The vet confirmed that he had a cold although during the examination, he purred constantly. I told my vet that I was going to take him to the shelter in hopes that he would get adopted. The vet warned me if I took him there while he was ill, they would put him to sleep. Then he said, "Bev how can you resist this cute little guy"? I explained that I already had three cats.

"What's one more?" he said. I named him Mandible since I already had another named Maxillae. I left the vet's office with medicine and hopes that I could find him a good home. As hard as I tried, I could not find anyone to take him. But Mandible had already won over my heart—we were soul-mates.

Mandible was only five when I had to help him to the Bridge. He mysteriously developed grand-mal seizures, which could not be controlled. I cried as his body went limp, and whispered in his ear that I loved him dearly and to wait for me.

Now, not a day goes by that I don't think of him and how grateful I am to his mother. She had given me the greatest gift of all—the gift of love. The last time I saw his mother, she had icicles hanging from her eyelids. Her little kittens, I expected, died that winter but she was able to save one of them.

I live in a small town in Iowa on the Mississippi. I have eleven cats now and am a foster mom for a local no-kill shelter. I volunteer for the Humane Society and take animals to nursing homes.

Beverly Vana

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