Welcome to Simon's Rainbow Bridge Memorial Residency
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Memories of Simon
Simon came into our lives in the summer of 2003. I adopted him from a pet caretaker in Calvert County when he was four months old. During my visit, I initially picked up and held the wrong cat--Simon's younger brother. Then I picked up the cat who would become my long-time companion, my good friend, Mr. Simon. At first I was hesitant, because I didn't want to separate Simon from his brother, but the caretaker said Simon's brother would need constant professional care and would never be up for adoption (he ended up being adopted by the caretaker herself).

When I brought Simon, a proud athletic long-haired gray cat, to his new home in Chesapeake Beach, my wife and I were tasked with introducing Simon to his new feline roommate, a big ball of orange and white love named Sugarfoot. We tried the usual techniques for slowly getting them used to each other's scents, but eventually there had to be "that" meeting. So one day we opened the door for their face-to-face. Simon bolted one way and Sugarfoot the other. We were off to a less than stellar start. Then a few hours later, we tried again. This time, they sniffed each other before running in opposite directions. Baby steps, right? The next day, we tried again, and that time a sniff became a longer sniff and soon a friendship was born. Over the next five and a half years, they would hunt, fish, explore, play and cause general mayhem together. Each day they would walk the same path through the backyard to get to the bushes where they did most of their exploring; over time they had created a perfect diagonal path through the grass in our backyard.

In our first year together, there was a tropical depression that brought the waters of the Chesapeake literally to within a few feet of our back door. When the winds died down after three days of hunkering inside and hoping the bones of the house would house would hold up, Simon and Sugarfoot went out back and started fishing. They never actually snagged a fish to the best of my recollection, but I'm sure they scared a good number of them. They enjoyed their time together in Chesapeake Beach, in the summers laying out on the deck (made easily accessible by the cat door my dad made for them)--when they weren't off exploring somewhere, of course--and then hunkering down with us in the winters. There was no such thing as scratching their bellies enough.

Their deep bond ended--physically, at least--in late October 2008 (October 29), when Sugarfoot passed away suddenly. He had a heart condition named hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but had been doing well on his medications until that night. A month later, Simon and I packed up and moved in with my wife, Donna, in Waldorf. It was the start to a new chapter in our lives. Simon had handled Sugarfoot's passing without spiraling into a depression, but I could tell he was lonely at times. In Waldorf, he would never know loneliness again. There he would come to know another cat, Billie, and two dogs, Sam and Peter. Billie, who believed the whole house belonged to her and her alone as far as pets were concerned, wanted nothing to do with Simon and insisted on hissing at him if he got too close; over time she would learn to tolerate him and in their last few years together, she stopped with the hissing fits. They would never become buds, but that was okay, because Simon found dog buds in Sam and Peter.

Simon's first introduction to a dog was to Sam, a golden retriever who had a similar personality to Simon's. Things didn't get off to the best start, though. The first time Simon saw Sam, he climbed on top of the kitchen cabinets and stared with huge bulging eyes at the forty-five pounds of orange canine trotting around the house. Fast forward a month, and they were sleeping back-to-back on the same bed. That was Simon, just so agreeable. Only once did I ever see him get mad in the nineteen years I had the joy and honor of being with him, and that was only for a second when I accidentally grabbed his tail instead of his leg to keep him inside for the night; a second later he was purring and rubbing up against my leg. About that purr, it was world class. He could have calmed a storm with it.

A few years later a family tragedy brought another dog, Peter, a black schipperke, to our home. Peter and Sam were good friends from the start, even in Peter had a bit of a Napoleonic complex at the beginning of their relationship (Sam was a good twenty pounds heavier than Peter in those days). As he had when he first saw Sam, Simon panicked at the sight of this new, more assertive dog in the house, but as with Sam, within a month, Peter and Simon were sleeping together on the couch and rubbing each other's heads and getting along grandly. Three of the pets in our house were buds, and the other, Billie, was happy to have and be the lord of "her own space" (which she happily shares with me now).

In 2018, we had to say goodbye to Sam, who was diagnosed with cancer and had to shortly thereafter be put to sleep because he could no longer eat. After Sam's passing, Simon and Peter's bond seemed to deepen. They frequently began sleeping on the couch together and when one was petted, the other came over and demanded the same treatment. In the spare bedroom, where Sam and Simon often laid together back-to-back, Simon and Peter began lying together in the same position.

The pets and people in Simon's life had changed again and again, but always he came out with new friends. He was just to easy to love (the squirrels, snakes, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, and mice in the yard might disagree with this, but I'm not going to let them read my tribute).

About four months ago Simon and Billie had their annual senior wellness exam. (For the past three years Simon had also been getting an annual echo for his heart because of his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (the same disease Sugarfoot had), which fortunately remained stable over the years.) The exam showed mild kidney disease for Simon, but at Simon's age his veterinarian wasn't surprised. No medications or dietary changes were recommended. Three and a half months after his exam, Simon was taken to the groomers. Upon his return, we were startled to see how small he was. He'd lost muscle and the bones in his ribcage, hips and spine were pronounced. I took him back to the vet, where the news wasn't good: end-stage kidney disease. He was given fluids and when he returned home he seemed for a while to be a bit better. His appetite remained good until the end, but over the course of a few weeks, he was able to eat less and less. Over the past two days, he started sleeping in strange places, and as with my childhood cat, Tiger, who lived to be twenty three and also had kidney disease, I knew this to be a bad sign.

Today, I had to make the indescribably hard call to end Simon's suffering. Unable to eat, and even before that, unable to absorb nutrients, he was starving. That he was still able to walk and jump on the couch and bed were minor miracles, and I'm grateful he did have some outside time over the past week, but the decline in other ways was becoming more noticeable almost by the hour. I would have given him my kidneys if that would have kept him alive. I would have given anything for him to have had more quality time, but there was nothing anyone could do. The choice was either to let him starve or to end his suffering. As I write this now, I don't know if I made the right call. He might have passed tonight in his sleep painlessly. He might also have suffered a heart attack or stroke or some other catastrophe and been in great pain in the moments before his death. I will always wonder if I did the right thing.

But I want this tribute to be about his life, not his death. Simon was a deep, caring, spiritually calm soul who only wanted to give affection to those he loved. He was also an amazingly athletic cat and he could go from sleeping on your lap motionlessly for two hours, the picture of chill, to running around each room in the house in thirty seconds flat like a Tasmanian devil, and then running outside and climbing a tree like a squirrel. I will miss his purr, how he cleaned my beard with his tongue, lap time, his sad meow when he wanted thirds for dinner, his super long cat stretches, his playful terrorizing of the dogs that once scared the living daylights out of him, his big green eyes, his sleep that saw him chasing mice in his dreams, his Jordan-esque leaps, his cuddling up with the dogs on the couch. Most of all, I will just miss him.

My friend, until we see you again (and we will!), enjoy your new life running once more with Sugarfoot and swatting at Sam's nose (no claws, though!) and, please, do send us a sign from time to time. We will be looking for them. For now, you will live on in our hearts, our minds, and in our best of dreams.

1/10/2021:

My friend,

It's hard to believe in just two days that it will be three weeks already since you passed. Your ashes were returned home yesterday, and now you are with Sam and Sugarfoot once again--here and in your better world. Having your ashes returned was hard to bear, but I'm glad you are with me again.

My father is in hospice now and I've been out of the state for a few days spending time with him. When I returned home today, I got a taste, however small, of what our reuniting will be like; I had a glimmer of joy. I miss you every day, my friend. Be well, and continue to look for me, for us, for one day we'll be there with you. In the meantime, thank you for visiting me in my dreams. I understood three of the messages you sent me in those dreams; the fourth I am still trying to comprehend, but just that I see you again in them is what matters most. I look everyday for signs outside the dream world, too, that you're okay. I will look for them always.

JR

1/19/2021:

It's hard to believe, my good friend, that it's been almost a month since you left us. I had so many dreams about you the first few weeks after you left, and so few since. You were a one-in-a-million gift, and for you I will be forever grateful. Please come back to my dreams. Please show me a sign you're okay. We're glad you're no longer suffering, but I miss you every day. I picture you stretched out on the couch, in the kitchen meowing for a treat, in the man cave, sleeping on my lap while I play my video games, out in the yard, chasing any creature brave enough to venture there. You were a great hunter outside, and the sweetest soul inside. You were a special cat, and I know you knew that.

Until we meet again, my friend, take care in your new home and enjoy the blessings there of friendships renewed with Sam and Sugarfoot, and with all of your new friends there, as well (maybe some from this very site).

I love you, bud.

Your Dad

1/21/2021:

It's been 30 days since you left us, but I want you to know that you're never going to be gone, my friend. You will be in my memories every day, and always in my heart. Wherever you are, please know that. We're doing okay down here; well, we're hanging in there. My dad took ill shortly after you left us, just days after. His last act before he became so ill he could no longer communicate well was to tell me he understood how much I hurt that you had to leave us. He is a tough old marine but I'll forget how hard it was on him the day we lost Tiger. Tiger was with me my childhood and all the way through college. You were with me after that through my early middle age years. I like to think the two of you, along with Sam and Sugarfoot, are having only great joy while you await us. Please do wait for us, but please also enjoy your new home until we get there.

Until we see each other again, frolic in those lush fields of forever, don't let Sugarfoot muscle you out of the way at the food dish, sleep back-to-back Sam when you your take naps, and get to know Tiger; he is a good guy and you two will get along great.

Love,

Dad

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