Earlier this year when my mother’s health began to fail, she made me promise two things.
“Tell everyone I love them,” she said, “and take care of Rosie.”
The first task was easy. The second, not so much.
You see, years ago, my family nicknamed Rosie “the psycho cat.” Rosie only had eyes, and heart, for my mother.
Always an animal lover, Mom adopted Rosie after her beloved Oreo, a black and white Rat Terrier, crossed over the “Rainbow Bridge.” Rosie, a gorgeous, gray and white, short-haired kitten, bonded quickly and fiercely to my mother and no one else.
In fact, Rosie seemed to despise everyone except Mom. Whenever we visited, she allowed one or two people a five-second chin scratch. After that, she hissed, growled and swatted at anyone who attempted to touch her.
Of everyone in our family, Rosie tolerated our son, Tre, the most. For some reason, she let him pet her a full 30 seconds before throwing a hissy fit.
At one point, I asked my veterinarian about medicating Rosie. Perhaps she suffered from anxiety. He didn’t like the idea of sedating an animal simply to alter their disposition, so he recommended an expert in animal behavior modification.
Mom pooh-poohed the idea. “I don’t mind that she only loves me. And really, it hardly ever causes a problem.”
And then my mother passed away. The next day I asked Tre, a freshman at WVU, to consider adopting Rosie. He and his roommate quickly agreed. Having a cat would be fun, they said. A pet would make their house more like a home.
My daughter, Cody Brook, volunteered to transport Rosie to Tre, no easy feat. The day Mom relocated from her independent apartment to her assisted living space, I carried Rosie upstairs in a laundry basket, with another basket on top. She screeched so loudly staff came running, certain a resident was being attacked.
That afternoon Cody and I chased Rosie around Mom’s apartment to no avail. Thankfully, the hospice chaplain, unaware that Mom passed away the day before, stopped by. He cornered Rosie with the cat carrier, and, as soon as she scrambled inside, we zipped it closed.
On the way home from Bridgeport, Rosie cried so pitifully Cody Brook took a risk. She cracked the carrier’s zipper and slipped her hand inside. Because Rosie nuzzled Cody’s fist so sweetly, Cody unzipped the carrier even more. Rosie hopped onto Cody’s lap and stayed there, curled up, the entire trip.
Back in Morgantown, at Tre’s house, Rosie circled the first floor once, then bounded up the stairs. She hid beneath Tre’s bed and there she stayed for five days. To ease the transition, Tre set up her litter box, food and water in his room.
In time, Rosie discovered and refused to leave an unoccupied bedroom full of boxes and extra furniture. She still visited Tre’s room to eat, drink and do business, but, for two weeks, the extra room represented her domain. Tre rarely saw her, but, when he did, she narrowed her pale green eyes and hissed ferociously.
To lure Rosie out of the spare room, Tre moved her necessities of life. First down the hall, then down the steps and, finally, into the office where Tre and his roommate study. On the rare occasions when Tre spotted Rosie, he stroked her with a feather boa attached to a stick. He read that trick in an article about socializing shy older cats.
During dinner one night, Tre spotted Rosie creeping into the office. He snuck through the living room and up the stairs where he shut the extra bedroom’s door. That night Rosie resumed sleeping under Tre’s bed.
One morning when Tre replenished Rosie’s food and water, he caught her watching him intently. In that moment, something seemed to click in her feline mind. From then on, morning and night, she meowed at Tre to feed her. She watched his every move as he did so. During these times, he petted her, just a little. And she let him. Often she even purred.
Tre says Rosie plays with toys now. And chases her tail. Twice she brought him her favorite toy: a soft pink ball. Both times she yowled loudly, with her mouth full of toy, on her way to show Tre her catch.
Two months out, Tre now seems to be Rosie’s human.
So, Mom, this is me telling you I kept my promise to take care of your cat.
Well, your grandson did.