In May 2012, I was on my way to cash my first check at my new job. As my boyfriend at the time and I rolled up to a red light, we had the windows down. We heard a strange noise that we thought was his truck. We pulled off to the side, narrowly missing the cardboard box on the shoulder. We stopped and the box thudded. It occurred to me almost instantly that the truck was not the source of the noise, but two yowling kittens in that box.
We picked them up and brought them home with us. It was apparent immediately that they were unhealthy and barely old enough to be away from their mother. Thankfully, the new job I had was at a veterinary office. I knew signs of dehydration, starvation, and injury. Neither kitten was injured, but we had one male and one female solid black kittens. Both of them were severely dehydrated and we put down a bowl of water for them. Ten minutes later, we had to put a second bowl down because they had finished the first.
It wasn’t until then that it dawned on us; we had no supplies for cats. Adding to that, my boyfriend’s mom hated cats. We returned to town in a second attempt to cash my check and get some food and supplies for the cats.
The First Step Into Our Hearts
We didn’t think we would be keeping the pair, but we didn’t want to keep calling them “the girl one” and “the boy one.” They were named Troy and Leda. We got them color coded collars to identify them from a distance, with bells so we did not trip over them at night. The first night, Troy climbed onto my boyfriend’s chest, curled up, licked his chin and went to sleep. They stayed like that for three hours. Leda curled up on whatever lap she could find, even the cat-hating mother.
After a few days, even his mom warmed up to them, coming into the bedroom to pet them and feed them treats while I was at work. Both kittens litter trained in just a few days, and picked up climbing whoever had the food bowls. We did not much care for the latter, but it was cute from a distance, so we tolerated it hoping it was something they grew out of.
Leda Told Us Something Was Wrong
After a couple of weeks, we had given up trying to find homes for Troy and Leda. I made them appointments at the vet’s office for the following Monday and Tuesday, as we noticed Troy had not gained as much weight as Leda had and also had not grown like Leda had. He stayed stunted, and his fur thinned. We were also in the process of moving, so attention was everywhere and we failed to notice that Troy had stopped eating. Leda had eaten his food instead.
The night before Troy’s appointment, we were moving stuff to the new house an hour away. We came back after taking a load out there and I went to check on the cats. Leda bolted out of the bedroom crying and running to the side of the bed. I thought she was hungry, but she had food. Just as I turned to check their water, I saw Troy under the bed, laying on his side. Leda ran back to me, and back to her brother, crying for help.
She sat beside us on the bed while I picked him up and checked his heartbeat. I was not a vet tech, just a groomer, but I had learned some things while working in the practice. His heartbeat was slow and his breathing was labored. We tried to get him to eat or drink, but he was too weak to open his mouth.
Everything Happened All at Once
We lost Troy that night. We buried him beneath the tree in the backyard, at the only place he had known as home. Leda looked for him at the new house, realizing she was the only cat after several days. I maintained my job for all of a few days before the car’s engine blew and I couldn’t make the hour commute. After all of that, on top of everything else, the boyfriend and I split up.
The circumstances were ugly, and the depression was deep. Leda stayed with me in the basement as my only company most of the time while I tried to find a place to live. The anxiety of not knowing where I was going to go, and how to bring Leda with me got bad enough that I started to have panic attacks.
A Reason to Breathe
One of the panic attacks made me believe I was having a heart attack one night. Leda jumped on the couch with me, as I gasped for breath unable to call for help. She laid beside my face, licking my cheek and brushing her tail across my face as one would run their hand down someone’s face. I reached up to pet her and she slid beneath my hand, taking the work out of petting her.
After several minutes, Leda sat down and looked at me with a look that all but said “you are okay” and I realized I had calmed down. My breathing had returned to normal, and the tingling feeling in my fingers was gone. I cried and held her with her purring into my neck until we fell asleep.
I awoke in the middle of the night to Leda licking my face and swatting at my eyebrows and forehead. I was short of breath when I awoke, but that was not new, as I suffer from sleep apnea. It dawned on me that Leda had woken me up when I started to have trouble breathing.
Two Years Later
Leda just turned two on her estimated birthday of March 15. She moved into an apartment with my new boyfriend, whom I married last June, and myself. She still wakes me up when my sleep apnea gets the better of me. She even had a small fit when I had a respiratory infection a few months ago and refused to leave my side, even for the bathroom, until that cleared up. She has a new sister, Orchid, who is also a rescue, but that is a story for another day.