portrait of jezzie
portrait of jezzie

portrait of jezzie

her bony tail brushes against my leg while she crawls towards the water bowl.
she slowly licks droplets of life. hi there, jez.

she turns to follow me over to the couch where a handful of love and affection is waiting for her. my hand rubs her back, feeling each narrow bone along the way. she aggressively nuzzles her head into the palm of my hand as to say show me you love me before its too late.

this is not the jezzie i know.

three years ago, i swooned tk into adopting our first pet together. i didn’t want a kitten at the time. no, that would not do. i wanted an elderly cat. one with a complex history, an unfortunate present and a promising future in our newlywed home.

i wanted to care for something that was uncared for.
i wanted to give hope to something that was hopeless.
i wanted to show a pet unconditional love.

| enter jezzie |

it was about five minutes after we said goodbye to her previous owners that we knew that jezzie was not the cat we i had dreamed of rescuing. she was a sassy older mollie with a beautiful ginger and brown coat and a large dose of attitude. she would not stoop below her status to be a lap cat. no, she was too pretentious for that. she would never let you hold her because that would mean she needed you. we had adopted the most independent hands-off pet i have met. and the independent inside of me both loved that and admired her for it. why won’t she just be a normal cat and snuggle with me!?!? i whined to tim. as the years went on, jezzie was still an enigma to me. i often wondered about her story. the story that started twelve years before me.

my hand grazed over her bones again. her breaths are shallow. she slowly raises her dark pupils to meet mine. i choke back tears. i know that her days are numbered. and somehow she knows it too. thus she snuggles closer.

what i do know about jezzie’s life is very little. i know that she was born in(?) or around(?) the firehouse in ripon. jezzie moved around northern california and soon found herself jumping from family to family. her previous owner resembled her experience as being an “army cat”. she was originally named “cleo” and her best friend/sister was named “patra”. but like most outdoor felines experience, patra fell victim to the nocturnal bullies of the world. her best friend was gone. she had to move on and live on her own. gradually along the way, she had a litter, or two. i am not sure. what i am sure of is that we were told she had a lot of boyfriends along the way. atta girl, jezzie. [it was also by this admission of being keen to boyfriends that we decided to rename her to jezebel].

that is about all we know.

but jezzie’s eyes speak a different story. i find myself thinking about the pain, the love, the owners, the mice, the parties, the bullies, the bitches, the homes, the moves, the litters, the homesickness she must feel for her kittens. she has had a hard life, i concluded. her mannerisms, her eyes, her purr confess to such a past. perhaps i am overly personifying. perhaps i am not personifying her enough.

i wanted to care for something that was uncared for.
i wanted to give hope to something that was hopeless.
i wanted to show a pet unconditional love.

she lets out a howl. are you okay, jez? you are almost free, baby girl.
the weight of my hand is too much for her feeble body to take. i pull the blanket over her lower body. she closes her eyes and lets out a sigh.

jezzie entered our world two months after we got married. i had recently moved to a new city, married tk, was experiencing an exceptional amount of external conflict that made me want to crawl up in a hole all day long and i was in the midst of transitioning my business from korea to america. and jezzie, in her own stand-offish way, was always there acknowledging my pain and giving me that sassy look that said, screw them, bethany. i used to be annoyed by her persistence to sit on my keyboard while i edited a wedding in photoshop [pre-lightroom days]. looking back, i think she sensed my frustration, saw my tears and was intentionally intervening on my behalf.

i have discussed the essence of an animal with a variety of different people in my life. the power of their love. their inquisitive dispositions. and most, if not all these people, have their own animal love stories. my dog got me through my parent’s divorce, my friend shared.after i lost my mom, my cat sat next to me everyday while i bawled, another said. recently in news, we have heard incredible stories of elephants that cry when freed from slavery, whales that mourn the loss of their baby, and of course, the cat that beat up the pit bull while protecting its human friend.

slowly, i back away from her sweet limp paws. i walk towards the kitchen to fetch her favorite treat, whipped cream. [call peta, i dont care. if a dying cat wants to lick the sweet morsel of sugary cream, that’s what she will get]. gradually her weak nose smells the foamy goodness coming towards her. she bows her head and welcomes the sweet drug. you are going to have all the whipped cream you want in heaven, jez, just you wait. and i promise they will have crocodile rock on repeat and one day elton john will be performing live. my heart sinks.

the world consists of jezzies. animals who have a story of their own. pain, love, mourning, heroism. and because of that their empathy extends beyond what human beings are incapable of extending. they are more capable of unconditional love than we are. after sharing the last three years of my life with jezzie, my first fur friend as an adult, i realize that i was wrong the entire time. i didn’t need something to care for.

i wanted something to care for me.
i wanted something to give me hope.
i wanted something to show me unconditional love.

and my dear sweet jezzie, with the nostalgic look in her eyes that told me that she herself has had her own pain, did just that. she cared for me, gave me hope and loved me unconditionally when everyone around me failed to. and now it is my turn to love her unconditionally and set her free.

you are free now, jezzie. you are free.
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“be thou comforted, little dog cat, thou too in resurrection shall have a little golden tail” – martin luther

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