Our grey and white tabby kitten, Jenny, wanted outside, but she knew she wasn’t allowed out without her harness and leash. My husband, Bruce. and I were talking and just not paying attention to her pleas to go out on that sunny afternoon.
After thinking it over, she marched to the door, pulled the leash off the doorknob to the floor, lay down and rolled over several times until the leash was wrapped around her. Then she meowed for our attention. Hey, I took care of it. Got the leash on, so how about one of you two with the opposable thumbs opening the back door for me?
We laughed and shook our heads in amazement at the cleverness of our girl, then both jumped up to fasten the harness around her and let her out into the sunshine. And we never made her wait again, which—quite obviously—was her point.
Jenny continued to impress us with her deductive reasoning, grasp of human vocabulary, and intelligence as she grew up. She learned to open doorknobs but, thankfully for our safety, not deadbolts. She knew the usual kitty words like “treats”, but quickly grasped both words and intentions. She knew when we were about to get up to go to bed, and raced to the stairs while we were still sitting, then turned to issue an order to follow her. Bruce tested her on many words, and her responses were always appropriate for their meaning. He seemed to learn her language, too, meowing in various inflections as she delightedly answered him until he finally grew tired of the game.
Living in Nashville, we played a lot of music around the house. In fact, Jenny was a wedding gift from singer Jim Glaser and his then-girlfriend , author Cathie Pelletier, who had given us pick of the litter from a mom kitty they’d recently rescued. We decided Jenny was our A & R baby and should’ve been signing acts to record labels or choosing their next singles. It was particularly obvious when we played Patsy Cline records. Jenny was ecstatic during the hits, waving her tail langorously and even rapturously singing along with the great Patsy. When a lesser cut was played, though, she turned to us with a confused look on her pretty face, then loudly demanding, What the heck is that? Play another one right now!
Bruce wrote songs and played guitar and harmonica himself. He did incredibly accurate impressions of politicians and entertainers, including his hero, Bob Dylan. Jenny, of course, was always by his side when he performed at home. Heartbreakingly, Bruce passed away from lung cancer decades too young. Jenny was devastated, sleeping with his pajamas for months and crying for him when I was out of the room. One day, quite a while after his loss, she was downstairs when Dylan started singing on t.v. She raced upstairs right away, searching for Bruce. That’s how great he’d been—and how fine her memory was. I never could play his music again as long as she was alive because she was so upset that he wasn’t here.
She did maintain her strong connection to him, though, and I soon realized her psychic powers. I would walk into a room, see a toy start swinging from a motionless door, then watch her run across the room toward the toy. After batting the toy a couple times, she’d lie on her back and roll around, just as she had when Bruce rubbed her tummy. I was so happy she could see him, though I wanted desperately to share the experiences.(Well, maybe not the toy-batting and tummy-rubbing, but seeing him again, definitely.) At night, her eyes would seem to follow an invisible presence around the room, and I figured he was tucking us safely into bed. But I still didn’t see him (smelled his cologne and cigarette smoke—though no one had smoked in our house for the five months he’d been gone—,heard his voice once, and had lot of promised and undeniable signs from him, though). I kept praying to see him, hear his voice, and feel him hug me, even if it was for just one more time.
Finally, about three o’clock one glorious morning, Jenny boisterously awakened me by jumping on me, loudly meowing, and standing on my chest until I was completely awake—the first and only time she ever did that. Then, at the same time as I smelled the cigarette smoke from his side of the bed, she rolled over by my side and acted like he was petting her. I still didn’t see him, but felt his presence strongly.
I thanked him for coming, walked into the bathroom (with the smoke smell following me) and shortly back into the bedroom, lay down, closed my eyes, then saw something through my just-closed eyelids. I knew it was Bruce, so I wasn’t scared, but still didn’t think I’d see him when I opened my eyes. But I did see him, perfectly healthy-looking, with all his hair back and just the right weight. In his normal, sexy, broadcaster-type voice, he asked if I was awake, then leaned over and hugged me. Then he disappeared into the proverbial thin air, leaving me happier than I’d been in longer than I could remember. My prayers had been answered, and it was Jenny who’d made sure I hadn’t missed out on this wondrous experience.
Jenny was with me for another year, giving me a reason to stay alive without my Bruce. He had promised to be with me when anything happened to her, and he again kept his promise. As she as passing away in our bedroom, I smelled the familiar cigarette smoke odor next to me—and noticed she was staring at that very spot in great concentration. She soon was gone, but—as heartbreaking as it was—I knew she was in the arms of her doting dad, the very place she’d longed to be for nearly a year-and-a-half.
I wasn’t ready for my Jenny to leave, but I knew she’d stayed until I could feel strong enough to go on without her. And, later, she came through with Bruce at several of a medium’s sessions so they could reassure me they were together. But that’s a story for another time.