When a friend loses a cat, my heart aches for my friend. Today, the world lost a very special tortie named Steeler.
I never met Steeler. She belonged to my friend Bernie, but she also “belonged” to a group of friends who met via one of my blog posts about Tortitude: The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. Bernie found the post when she did a Google search after Steeler first arrived on her door step, because, as she said “I was curious to see what kind of a cat I had taken in. She just looked so exotic to me.”
Bernie found the abandoned tortoiseshell cat crying at her backdoor one night. She had never had a cat before, and knew nothing about cats. The little cat wanted in. Bernie did not want a cat. When it became colder, and no shelter would take her, Bernie decided that any cat that wanted a home that badly could stay.
She called her Steeler, because she stole her heart, and because Bernie is a big Pittsburgh Steeler fan. Steeler watched the games with Bernie. Like all tortoiseshell cats, Steeler proudly wore the gold and black not just on game day, but every day.
Steeler became a comfort to Bernie’s husband, who had become increasingly debilitated from Alzheimer’s. He responded to Steeler’s presence long after the disease took away his ability to respond to anyone else, even Bernie. After he was hospitalized, Steeler continued to provide love and support to Bernie.
Steeler was at Bernie’s side through a lot of tough times, including some devastating losses over the past few months. Bernie’s husband succumbed to his illness last December. A few weeks later, Bernie’s son Eric lost his battle with lung cancer. Steeler was Bernie’s anchor, and for a long time, she was the only one who could bring a smile to Bernie’s face.
Steeler had been battling multiple health issues for the past few months. She died quietly in Bernie’s arms early this morning, wrapped in a Steeler’s fleece blanket.
I believe that animals come into our lives when we need them most, especially when we don’t even know that we need them. None of us who love Bernie will ever understand why Steeler had to leave so soon, and none of us will ever forget this special little cat.
Rest in peace, Steeler. You’re with the angels now.