Goalie was an ordinary cat.
Nothing made him stand out in the crowd of countless other animals that find their way to a shelter every year. He had outgrown that cute kitten stage that so many of us find irresistible. He was plain grey, and had no special markings. And he wasn’t particularly playful.
No one would blame anyone for overlooking him. In a bakery of specialty breads, wedding cakes and gourmet cookies, Goalie was a loaf of plain-white bread available at every convenience store across the nation.
Shelter workers knew someone owned him at some point because someone declawed him, but no one came looking for him. He was abandoned, tossed aside to the corner like a worn-out couch that wasn’t good enough to donate to Goodwill, a similar narrative told by many animals that find their way to shelters every day.
But something about Goalie spoke to us that day 12 years ago as he rested in the cold steel of his cage amid a sea of other animals. We picked him up, and could feel his soft purr rumbling just below his fur.
He found his way into our heart in the few moments we held him. We had to have him, and were not deterred by the fact that someone already expressed an interest in adopting him.
We put our name on a waiting list, and went away for a long weekend to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. We cut the weekend a little short, though, when the shelter called to tell us the first person backed out.
Goalie was to become ours. We raced back, brought him home, and promptly renamed him Obi (short, of course, for Obi-Wan Kenobi). He stood in stark contrast to our other cat, Princess (as in Leia), who was your stereotypically aloof cat.
Whereas Obi would sit on any lap in the house, Princess would only let us love her at arm’s length. Their introduction to each other went smoothly, and before long he became the yin to her yang. They fit each other perfectly.
Celeste was born a year or so later, and Obi looked out for her like an older brother. She had colic for the first three months of her life, and we tried many times to leave her in her room to cry it out. He would meow loudly at the bottom of the stairs as though to say, “Hey guys! Don’t you hear that? Celeste needs you! Get up there NOW!”
And so it went for the next 10 or so years, even with the addition of Gavin to our family, two household moves, and the death of Princess. Obi was a constant companion, always in need of lap on which to sit.
Then one day about a year ago, we noticed a small bump on Obi’s chin. He continued to eat and groom himself normally, so we thought little of it but decided to ask the vet during his annual checkup several months away.
By the time of his appointment, the small bump was large enough for the vet to notice without me pointing it out. He ruled out an abscess, drew some blood for testing, and prescribed antibiotics to see how it responded.
Two weeks passed with no change. We tried a different antibiotic, but still nothing changed. The vet could only offer one other option: surgery. But the costs were increasing quickly on top what I already agreed to pay.
As much as it pained me, I couldn’t go any further. I had to let the tumor, or whatever was growing on Obi’s chin, run its course. It could only end in his death.
The vet understood, and gave me the name of a 24-hour animal hospital in case Obi took a sharp turn outside of his office hours. The bump grew in the succeeding months, and yet Obi’s demeanor changed little. He still wanted to sit on a lap wherever he could find one, only now he would leave a drop or two of drool behind.
I knew the end was near, but I didn’t know when. He sat on my belly the night of April 14, and I wiped away his drool throughout the evening, a normal Saturday night in the Allanach household.
He woke up the next morning in great pain. He hid in unusual places, and hissed anytime anyone came near him. The end had come. Obi’s lap-sitting days were over. He would not die quietly and painlessly in his sleep, as I prayed he would throughout the preceding months.
I brought him to the emergency vet that morning. The doctor quickly assessed him, and agreed he was beyond help. I said a final farewell to the cat who became so much more than the animal we first saw in the shelter.
While Goalie may have been an ordinary cat, Obi became part of our family the moment we felt his soft purr that April day 12 years ago, and we loved him throughout his life.
So long, Obster. Say hi to Princess for me.