Petunia the Persian has been through some pretty serious health struggles in her short life and had managed to beat a horrible disease called FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and everyone was so proud of her for doing so.
Her humans had bought her a wonderful cat tree and Petunia had been learning to jump to the top. Not blessed with the agility and fitness that most cats have, even getting to the top of her tree was a huge achievement even if it did take her several attempts to do it.
Petunia had a long-distance boyfriend which is my cat Kevin. Kevin had been obsessed with the beautiful little Persian cat and had taken to calling and messaging her every day to see how she was going. And before you laugh, yes – cats can do stuff like that and have active social lives like anyone else. You just have to believe in it, that’s all because once you start believing in your animals, anything is possible – just you ask my Kevin.
Anyway, one day Petunia hadn’t been feeling very well and had been suffering from breathlessness. She had been on the phone to her mates in WA and had told Oliver (the CEO of Raw Meow) all about it.
“You do know you need to go and see the vet don’t you Petunia?” Oliver said firmly and then added, “And you need to do this quickly.” Oliver is always the voice of reason and he just seems to know about stuff.
Petunia sighed and replied that a vet appointment had already been made by her human for later that day.
“Look, I had better go Oliver, I need to call Kevin and let him know.” Petunia sounded breathless.
“Ah yes, Kevin – good idea.” Oliver replied.
And as Petunia ended the call, she composed herself and found Kevin’s number on her mobile. A picture of Petunia and Kevin flashed up under his name. It was taken last Christmas when Kevin had a party at his house and Petunia had ended up joining them.
At Kevin’s House
Kevin and his canine brother Brutus were playing a game of cards. Kevin being a dab hand at card games, always manages to beat Brutus which makes Brutus cry and demand a rematch which of course he never wins.
“It’s your hand big fella but if you could hurry up because I know I am going to win so we may as well get it over with!” Kevin smirked at Brutus who was wearing a baseball cap back to front and a satin waistcoat. The silly dog had been told by his boxer friend Vader, that all serious gamblers wore satin waistcoats and baseball caps back to front and Brutus believed him as well.
Before Kevin had chance to say anything else, his mobile phone rang. Glancing down, he saw Petunia’s picture flash up on his phone.
“Petunia! How are you?” Kevin dropped the cards on the table and gestured to Brutus that the game was over leaving Brutus looking confused and asking if that meant that he had won. Brutus isn’t the smartest of dogs as you may have gathered but he does have a huge kind heart and that’s what counts.
Kevin’s grumpy voice softened when he spoke to Petunia, it always did because he liked her and even his friends Tuxedo Cat, Teddy and Oliver would laugh at him about it.
But whatever Petunia was saying to him, it certainly wasn’t making Kevin smile, in fact it was quite the opposite.
“You will be OK, won’t you Petunia?” Kevin stuttered down the phone. “Promise to let me know what happens?”
“Everything OK?” Brutus asked Kevin when he had finished on the phone.
“I hope so, I don’t know actually, I have a funny feeling.” Kevin frowned. Funny feelings are not alien to him as he is an anxious cat and gets upset at most things, but this feeling was different and Kevin didn’t like it one bit.
“Let’s take your mind off it. What do you fancy doing?” Brutus asked him.
“Can you just sit with me and we watch the birds for a bit?” Kevin said as he puffed air out of his cheeks.
“Sounds good to me.” Brutus replied simply and the two of them sat at the dining room window and watched a gang of raucous parrots have a parrot meeting in the palm tree outside.
Petunia had arrived at the vet and her breathing had deteriorated and the vet had told her humans that she had fluid on her heart. It was decided that she would stay in the vet hospital overnight to keep an eye on her.
With nothing but her thoughts for company, Petunia didn’t even have the energy to call Oliver or Kevin to let them know how she was. She hoped they would understand, she was sure that they would.
As she lay in her hospital cage, Petunia heard a little cough which made her startle. Looking up she saw a handsome ginger cat with a white bow tie on around his neck. He sat on a trolley outside Petunia’s cage and appeared to be making notes on a notepad.
“Excuse me, but who are you?” Petunia asked him politely.
“The name is Gordon and I have come to see if you are ready, you must be Petunia?” The cat smiled warmly and continued to write things down on the notepad.
“Ready? What for? I don’t understand?” Petunia frowned. Then as though it was all too much for her, she started coughing and couldn’t get her breath.
“Hmm, that’s not good. You certainly sound and look as though you are ready!” Gordon nodded approvingly, “Shall we go now? Come on, time is ticking!”
“Go where? I can’t go anywhere. I am poorly and my human will be seeing me tomorrow and I can’t possibly miss that!” Petunia said with a husky meow as she tried to take a deep breath.
Gordon looked at Petunia’s hospital cage and as if by magic, the door opened all by itself. The big handsome ginger cat winked at Petunia, “Trust me – come on and hold my paw, nothing to be afraid of, I promise!”
As a frail and weakened Petunia stood up with the help of Gordon, she touched his paw as he had requested. Looking at Gordon for further reassurance, Petunia felt herself go dizzy and the last thing she remembered, was Gordon saying “Come along, that’s my girl!”
The New Arrival
A large white greyhound stood at some huge iron gates. He looked jolly important as he checked a list on his clipboard. He wore a bright purple leather and velvet collar with a brass name tag attached to the collar with ‘Bowie’ engraved on it.
A handsome young tabby cat with a white vest and four white socks, weaved in and out of the greyhound’s long legs, occasionally rubbing his head on him. With his tail held high in the air twitching, the cat kept kneading the grass with his front paws as though he were making biscuits.
“Are there many left to come?” The tabby cat asked Bowie the greyhound.
Bowie smiled, “Just one left. The others came this morning. You can go and tell everyone to get ready for the last one if you don’t mind?”
The tabby gave a paws-up gesture and ran through the gates to do his favourite part of the job – announce all the new arrivals.
Bowie yawned and did one of those greyhound stretches which looks like a play-bow when they stick their bums in the air. Letting out a quick and unexpected fart, Bowie coughed “Excuse me!” and quickly checked to see that nobody had heard him.
Suddenly he could hear the sounds of someone arriving. Composing himself, he stood up and straightened his collar and made sure that he was neat and tidy.
“Hi Bowie, this is Petunia. She is the final one due in today!” Gordon gave Bowie a friendly head-boop to greet him.
“I don’t understand, where am I?” Petunia cried as she leaned on to Gordon for support.
Taking a deep breath, Bowie bent down so that the little cat could see him better. “Hello Petunia, welcome to Rainbow Bridge. My name is Bowie the greyhound and I am the gatekeeper of The Bridge.”
“I am at Rainbow Bridge? But what about my human’s? What about my friends and Kevin?” Petunia cried.
It took a few minutes for Bowie and Gordon to explain to her that her body had run out of time and it was no longer possible for her spirit to live in it. He explained how we all have a certain amount of time with our humans – it may or may not be for as long as we would like, but whatever the amount of time spent with them, is precious and always for a good reason.
But when it is time to go to Rainbow Bridge, that is when you leave all your pain and illness behind and get a new lease of life. A life where you can eat what you like, chase birds and butterflies yet never hurt them. A life where nothing hurts ever again and occasionally, you can take a peak to see what your beloved humans are doing and be able to keep an eye on them until the next pet arrives.
“Do you understand Petunia?” Bowie asked her gently.
“I think so….” Petunia sniffed and wiped her eyes.
“Right then, ready to go through the gates?” Gordon asked her.
“I can’t breathe very well, I not sure if I can to be honest.” Petunia sounded doubtful.
“Try it, you might surprise yourself. I know I did when I went through myself a few years back!” Gordon encouraged her.
Petunia mustered up all of her energy and with a little help from Bowie’s super long greyhound snout, she managed to get up as Gordon and Bowie helped her to get through the gates.
Once she had passed through them, she gasped at what she saw. Cats everywhere, playing with toys, climbing on trees, running through tunnels, chasing rabbits and butterflies and having the time of their lives. It really did look beautiful and the temptation to investigate was almost too strong for Petunia to resist.
“What do I tell Kevin? He won’t understand why I haven’t come back. I know the vet will tell my human, but who tells Kevin?” Petunia panicked.
“You leave Kevin to me, I can sort him out!” Gordon gave a firm nod, “Now go and meet your new friends, it looks like they are waiting for you to join them for dinner.”
Petunia watched as the group of cats smiled at her and pointed to an abundance of delicious food including sardines, pilchards, salmon, prawns and steak. She had never seen so much food in all her life.
“Are you sure I can do it? Will I be OK?” Petunia asked him.
“Positive and you will be just fine!” Gordon replied and watched Petunia slowly start to walk to where the cats were waiting for her and with each step she took, her breathing got better until not being able to breath, was merely a distant memory.
“Are we done for the day?” Bowie asked Gordon.
“Not quite, I have a quick visit to make. Save me some prawns – I’ll be back shortly.” Gordon said and gave a mock salute to Bowie before disappearing.
While Bowie shut the gates for the evening, Petunia played with her new friends. There was no shortness of breath, no pain or low energy and for the first time in her life, she could not only jump high but she could climb to the top of the tallest tree with the agility of a cheetah.
Kevin was in his bedroom. He had felt unsettled since hearing that Petunia was unwell and when he felt like that, he was just best with his own company.
Curled up on the top of his cat tree, he stared out of the window trying to think about what to do. It was an awful feeling of being helpless and even his friend Oliver couldn’t placate him.
Kevin sighed and blinked a few times and yawned. Then opening his eyes, he saw something that nearly caused him to fall off his cat tree as he noticed a big ginger cat sat in his basket like he owned it.
“How the bloody hell did you get in here? Who are you?” Kevin shouted. He looked out of the window and saw Brutus chasing some magpies, “Brutus help me, there is a cat in my room!” Kevin screeched. Except that Brutus could not hear him or even realise that he was there and no matter how much Kevin scrabbled at the window, he seemed invisible to Brutus in the garden.
“You don’t remember me do you?” The ginger cat laughed and then picked up a tatty old blue crackle mouse from Kevin’s toy box. “This mouse was my favourite when I lived in here and this grey basket is just as comfy as I remember it!” Gordon started to noisily suckle on the old toy mouse and blissfully closed his eyes for a few minutes.
“But I don’t get it…..” Kevin cried, And that is MY mouse you are sucking on!”
Gordon suddenly remembered where he was and opened his eyes. Dropping the now soggy toy mouse on the floor, he explained to Kevin, “My name is Gordon and this was my house before it was yours and when I went to Rainbow Bridge, I guided you to this family because I knew you would be looked after. That is how it works you see, when a human loses one pet, that pet guides the next one and the right one into their lives.”
Kevin frowned but after a few minutes, he smiled in recognition, “Gordon – Oh my God, I remember you now! My humans spoke of you all the time. What are you doing here?” Kevin jumped off his cat tree on to the ground and sat opposite Gordon.
“I have a message for you and it’s about Petunia…”
Kevin started to cry as the realisation of why Gordon was here dawned on him. “No, I don’t want to hear it! I know what you are going to say, please don’t!” Shutting his eyes and shaking his head in protest, Kevin thought that if he stopped Gordon from saying it, then it hadn’t happened.
Gordon sat with Kevin for some time as he explained to the distraught cat about how Petunia had finished her time here with her humans and had to go for a new lease of health and life at Rainbow Bridge. He went on to tell Kevin how Petunia could now climb the highest of trees and eat all the fish and meat that she wanted. Because she had been through so much in her short life and being at such a marvellous place like Rainbow Bridge is what she deserved. And knowing all of that, made it a bit easier for Kevin to accept.
Kevin didn’t remember at what point Gordon left him and he didn’t remember falling asleep, nor how long he had been asleep for. But when he did wake up, he was in his grey basket. It was dark in his room and there was no evidence of Gordon ever having been there.
Opening his eyes and blinking a few times, he wondered if he had dreamt the whole thing.
Deciding that he was hungry and it was time for his tea, he got out of his basket and took a long stretch and as he did, he felt something wet underneath his paws. “Ugh, did I vomit and not realise it?” Kevin looked down to see what he had trodden in and saw that it was the blue mouse that Gordon had removed from the toy box and had been suckling on earlier.
“It was real, I didn’t imagine it after all!” Kevin thought to himself, then left his room to find Brutus.
A beautiful white Persian was holding court to a group of cats. Curled up under a tree in various positions, the cats all chatted and helped themselves to the picnic of fish and steak on the sharing plate on the grass. A small kitten bicycled furiously with his hind legs on a toy rabbit while another chased his tail in between eating small pieces of steak.
“Tell us again Petunia about how your humans loved you so much?” An elderly Maine Coon asked her as the other cats clapped their paws together in excitement.
And so Petunia began to tell them the stories of her humans, her life, her friends and about her boyfriend – a ginger cat called Kevin.
Dedicated to Petunia – a small cat with a huge character
Published with the kind permission of Petunia’s human – Julia Sowula
Samantha Rose – Copyright (C) December 2020