Stories about animals are my weakness and Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown was a must-read for me, and should be equally so for all cat lovers. This honest memoir, though sometimes tinged with grief, is filled to the brim with hope and liberally slathered with a dry sense of humor.
Native New Zealander Brown, and her two young sons Sam and Rob, pay a visit to a friend’s house where a litter of kittens had just been born. Brown, a self-confessed dog lover has no intention of adopting any pet that day; much less one of the feline persuasion, who also happens to have the unfortunate fate of being the runt. But that is exactly what happens! The kitten is supposed to be delivered for Sam’s 10th birthday. Tragically, it’s a gift he never receives. Sam is accidentally killed by a car while trying to save a pigeon in distress. Naturally, the family becomes grief stricken and has a difficult time coping with everyday life.
However, weeks later as had been previously agreed upon, the little runt kitten arrives - much to the dismay of Helen, but also to the sheer utter delight of her youngest son, Rob. After some debate, Cleo (named for Cleopatra), ends up staying and brings much needed joy and comic relief to this devastated family. This vulnerable, tiny animal with its emerald green eyes, while in reality helpless is nonetheless gutsy and full of life. In time, and in more ways than one, the cat begins to charm the family with it’s reckless abandon and rambunctious, playful ways. Even the family’s elder pet, an old retriever named Rata, is smitten.
Reminding one of the pages of Marley and Me, this impish black creature ended up bringing much joy and warmth to the Brown family for almost 24 years! So what they say must be true; “A cat always turns up in the right place at exactly the right time”.
But this blog is not only about Cleo. It is also a tribute to another remarkable cat named Cosmo. Cosmo was my and my husband’s beloved companion who died during the snow storm on February 2nd, 2011, while I was reading Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family.
Cosmo was 14½ years of age when he succumbed to renal kidney failure. We adopted both him and his litter-mate brother Julius, when they were a mere 7 weeks old from the KL Cat Hospital, whose staff nursed Cosmo, Julius and their 3 siblings during the early weeks of their lives.
Due to the crazy and wild nature he exhibited in his youth, Cosmo was named after Cosmo Kramer, a character on the Seinfeld show. As time passed and Cosmo matured, he began to exhibit a true heart-of-gold disposition; a creature who first thought of pleasing others, be they humans or cats, before pleasing himself.
At the age of 7, he was found to have a pre-cancerous eye condition, which was monitored by a veterinarian ophthalmologist at the Michigan Veterinary Specialty Clinic in Grand Rapids every 6-8 months. Five years ago, he was also diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which sent him to the Kentwood Animal Clinic for 2 weeks to receive radiation iodine treatment in an isolated area in the clinic. Finally, in November 2010 he was diagnosed in the supposedly early stages of kidney failure and had to receive subcutaneous fluid injection about 3 times per week. Throughout all these physical ailments Cosmo’s light-hearted, caring temperament made it easier for all.
Unfortunately, although Cosmo seemed to be doing well with the subcutaneous therapy, his remaining time with us was very limited. Even his perpetually sunny personality could not save him after his kidneys shut down completely. Our veterinarian, Dr. Dame, did everything in his power to help, but to no avail. Cosmo died peacefully in his sleep, in the early morning hours of Groundhog’s Day. He is terribly missed, truly loved, and his memory will live in our hearts forever.
Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family