Writing my column each week allows me to engage in two things that I am passionate about: writing and animals. I love to further educate myself and share valuable information with my readers about a variety of topics. I enjoy telling you about the adventures I have with my own personal pets: the endless joy, the occasional frustration, and lastly, the heartbreaking sorrow, which I know my animal-loving readers have experienced and understand.

This past week, two days before my birthday, I had to say goodbye to my beloved cat, Mink. Today, I would like to share the story of this wonderful kitty’s life.

It started with my searching for a cat for possible therapy work. Obviously, many cats do not like traveling in the car, going to new environments, and meeting new people. It takes a very special temperament for a cat to possess all of these qualities. There are breed-specific dispositions that are usually present, and I became especially interested in the Exotic Cat, with its beauty and personality being very appealing.

The Exotic Cat breed originated breeding a domestic short hair with a Persian. The plush, shorter coat that does not mat, with that adorable Persian face, became a huge favorite of cat lovers and became known as the “lazy man’s Persian,” since the breed does not have the high-maintenance coat of the Persian. Some kittens, however, do inherit the Persian fur, in its entirety. Mink was one of those kittens. He had a little body, and mega, mega fur.

Exotics have a quiet, endearing nature. Their voices are seldom heard. The Exotic is an ideal breed that produces a quiet, sweet, peaceful and loyal companion. They are easy going and not much seems to disturb them. In general, they are extremely affectionate.

I found a young adult male Exotic cat in Hershey that I arranged to meet. I had seen his picture online and was told he was friendly and laid back. He was black and white, a favorite color combination of mine.

When I visited this kitty, we did not really connect. He remained in the room but was very aloof, preferring to casually observe me from afar. During my visit, however, there was a little kitten chasing a cat toy from room to room. This little guy had inherited the Persian coat and was an adorable little furball. He carried his fuzzy tail draped across his left hip. For me, it was love at first sight. And Mink came home with me.

Characteristic of his breed, Mink was always calm and unflappable. I have a picture of my Aussie, Ty, sitting on one side of the baby gate looking down at this new addition, and this tiny fluff ball courageously sitting on the other side of the gate, staring up at Ty. Never did Mink hiss once at the dogs, and he got along great with my other two cats.

My full and part-time jobs did not allow me the time to train for therapy work and actively participate in visits as much as I would like, but I continued to do them sporadically. But Mink had a special calling that I did not anticipate. After one of our therapy dog visits to Timber Ridge, the director asked a member of our group if they knew of a cat that could visit the facility. One of the patients residing there had no family, was very lonely, and previously had rescued cats before becoming ill. The group contacted me, and I immediately knew I had just the cat for the job – Mink!

I did not even have to teach Mink to walk on a harness. It was just one more thing he calmly accepted. On our first visit, I put Mink on the floor and he strolled down the hallway, huge bushy tail draped over his hip. Mink was white, with a gray tail, a spot of gray on one hip, and a gray spot in the middle of his head. Nursing home staff and residents had to come out to admire and interact with this magnificent little creature. When I entered the rescue lady’s room and gently placed Mink on her bed, her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She was delighted and elated. Mink lay at her side, softly purring, as she stroked his back and told me about the many cats she had loved and rescued.

Needless to say, this woman and I became fast friends. Two animal lovers, how could we not? I loved to hear her stories and share my own. I went as often as time would allow, most times with Mink but sometimes alone right after work. Our visits continued for a little over a year, until she passed away. Mink and I were privileged to have known her. I am so glad that Mink brought joy into her life until the end. And I am very grateful to the director of the facility who brought us together.

About seven years ago, Mink got calcifications in his bladder. I came home from work and found him in a very bad way. I immediately rushed him to the vet, where I was told what was wrong and that Mink needed surgery immediately because he was septic. It was touch and go for awhile, and Mink was hospitalized for a week. His bladder had become so stretched from the stones that it had to be manually depressed to pass urine. The procedure was painful, and Mink would cry in pain. But never once did he ever try to bite or scratch. The vet remarked to me what a wonderful cat he was to work with and handle. His sweet and gentle demeanor would never allow Mink to be otherwise, even when he was very ill.

Mink went on a special diet and had a healthy and happy life for years, until he developed a chronic inflammatory colon disease. Mink began to have severe and repeated bouts of diarrhea and stopped using his litter box. At this time, it became all-consuming to care for Mink and attempt to control the horrible symptoms of the disease. His diet was changed, and he was put on probiotics. Although the litter box continued to be a problem (behavioral due to association of pain), Mink was bright, happy, and had a good appetite. As long as Mink had a quality of life I would deal with the rest.

But last week, as I began my morning routine, Mink was noticeably different. He went through the motions of the feeding regime, but was very slow-moving. And then, for the first time, he refused to eat and was not drinking. Mink had lost more weight, and I knew he was not absorbing the nutrients from his food. We were losing the battle. I would never watch him suffer and had to let him go. As sick as he was, on the vet’s table he arched his back when I scratched his favorite spot and gently rubbed on my chin as I bent across the table. I caressed Mink’s face and felt a soft purr inside his throat. Sweet and gentle to the end. This was so hard, and I cannot even remember my drive home.

Mink was only 12 years old. He would hear my car and jump onto his kitty condo in the front window to greet me. Now when I pull up to my house, Mink’s absence is devastating, and I cry.

We all love and miss you, Mink. RIP, my angel.

Dog bless.