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The White Shadow
March 12, 2008
It started when I got off the school bus one day and saw a small calico cat. She immediately ran up to me begging for attention. I carried her home with me. Although I knew what my parents reaction would be, I still brought her inside and gave her food. She wasn’t as interested in the food as she was with the water. I could tell she was still a kitten, and wondered how anyone could let such an affectionate and beautiful cat stay homeless. My parents reacted differently than I guessed. While not allowing her inside the house, we continued to provide her food and water. Our garage has become her home. I had to name her, no matter how often I was told “I would get too attached.” I was looking for inspiration for a name, when my neighbor noticed how she follows me. She called her my shadow. That was a good enough sign for me, her name would be “Shadow.”
Shadow became a reliable friend to me instantly. We spent a lot of time together during the summer. Most of it walking along the railroad tracks behind our house. I used to stroll these tracks myself, but now there was no way I could go without my shadow. I didn’t want to anyway. It became a new routine, and was what I looked forward to during those long summer days. Getting away from it all was nice, just me and Shadow. The days with a cool, even breeze were best, but the hot ones were equally satisfying when I found the shade from an old elm tree.
I wasn’t the only one getting attached. My mom was too, which didn’t come as a surprise. What was mostly unexpected was the bond my dad had begun forming with Shadow. Still, no one could surpass the amount of love her and I shared for each other. Nothing and no one could take her from me now. I was happy, didn’t I deserve that?
We made the decision to get her a check-up. The conversation went like this: “So how is she?” my mom asked our solemn, yet brilliant veterinarian.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but Shadow has acquired feline leukemia, also known as FeLV. It is a retrovirus that infects the cells in the cat. It is not uncommon, and your cat could live up to two or three years with this disease. On the other hand, she may only have a couple of months.” Our hearts sank deeper and deeper the more he explained.
My mom still needed more and asked, “But how did this happen? Isn’t there anything we can do? Is she going to be suffering? What should we do?”
He sighed and answered in a soft, comforting voice, “All you can do now is give her your unconditional love, and enjoy what time you have left. She doesn’t know what’s happening, and won’t, unless you act differently around her, so please try to go about everything the same as you would normally. Once again, I am very sorry.”
We took her home that afternoon not knowing what to do, say, or even think. The only thing I could be sure of was that we would be spending much more time together. Mostly walking the tracks to be alone.
Our very next trip out we discovered a creek I had never noticed before. Shadow was the one who heard the trickling water in the distance. Whenever she perks her ears up, you know something interesting is about to happen. It was a thrill venturing out to a new place, as I followed Shadow’s lead. I won’t say it was easy getting to and from the creek, but it was completely worth it. To have a place all to ourselves, and to imagine and wonder who had been there before us. Who did they come with? Why? It was the most peaceful place I think I had ever been, and the timing was perfect.
We visited our creek every chance we got, and my parents didn’t bother me about getting home in time for dinner anymore. They understood what was happening and what I was going through. I tried to avoid thinking about the inevitable the most I could. I tried, tried, tried.
I could avoid it no longer, her condition was worsening. She hardly ate, began having bladder problems, and her overall attitude was changing. We walked less and less until we were barely going once a week. I left her alone more, even though it hurt me. It was better for her. I snuck out occasionally and walked alone, but not to the creek. The creek was only for her and me. Not just me. Not just her. Both of us. I was pained all of the time, and cried every time we walked.
Shadow’s health was decreasing more quickly. I’d have to create a new word to describe what I was feeling, because I have not yet found, or heard one that is capable. An obvious feeling is sad. That was clear. Perhaps angry, too. I kept wondering, why did it happen to me? Why her? We were both good, we didn’t do anything wrong, certainly Shadow hasn’t. She couldn’t be punished for my mistakes. Guilt. That’s it, I was guilty. I felt helpless, and I think I wanted to put the blame on someone, so it could make sense. I knew no one was at fault though, which made it all that much harder to understand.
I had to start carrying Shadow on the tracks, it was the only way we could go anymore. I didn’t do it often, but I was still spending more time with her. We would sit together outside the house and just watch the world go by. It was very peaceful in our world, and I never wanted to leave. I knew that was impossible.
I had trouble acting normal around Shadow, but it didn’t really matter anymore because she could sense exactly what I was thinking. Some people say that animals don’t have feelings and they don’t have the ability to care. I used to be one of those people. Shadow convinced me she had feelings. She never wanted to be away from me and she would stare into my eyes as if to cheer me up, like a human would.
June 23rd was the day that we took our last walk on the tracks. I took her to the creek and went farther than we had ever gone before. I tried to hold myself together, but couldn't any longer. While we sat next to our creek, i cried, and she stared at me with her big, innocent eyes. That made it worse. I was helpless. We were out there for the longest time, but no one minded. At one point, the world we were watching just stopped. Everything went silent for a full minute as I looked out into the quiet. When I looked back at Shadow, she wasn’t looking back anymore.
After a few moments, or maybe hours, I buried her right then and there. It seemed the right time and the right place. It began getting dark. As I was moving the last bit of dirt, a single tear fell toward her grave. A sudden gleam of light hit it and flashed a beautiful color of white. I still felt my Shadow was there.
July 14, 2008
I’m still trying to deal with her death. I have never had anyone I love so much die. I know she is still with me though. My parents have since given me a new kitten, she is my “White Shadow.” I think it suits her perfectly. Shadow is still with me, but in a different form, the form of White Shadow. They are similar in so many ways. It may sound crazy at first, but when you learn the whole story, it makes more sense than anything else. White is said to symbolize angels, that which is sacred, pure, and peaceful. It is a phenomenon how everything seems to come together and makes sense. You can’t get to that level of clarity, though, without first running into some disorder and confusion, because otherwise you could not fully appreciate the brilliance of it.