The guy who sells meat products at Fresh Market knew what Kevin was going to buy: several pounds of the inexpensive chicken thighs, which “the wife will cook for me”, and an equal amount of expensive chicken tenders “which are strictly for the cat”. They had a nice chuckle about it, “I hear ya!”, but it was true. While I did sometimes cook the pricier meat for my husband, in all honesty, Roland was always on the receiving end of the choicest cuts.
While Fresh Market guy might have thought I was playing favorites, Kevin knew I was in a state of desperation, and he kindly accommodated me. Roland had been suffering from hyperthyroidism for many years, and my whole world revolved around getting my beloved orange cat to eat. Adjusting medicine, buying special cat food, making emergency trips to the vet, hand-feeding chicken tenders cooked in bacon and warmed in the microwave for 7 seconds (!), smearing food on his paws so he would lick it off-I was like a madwoman in pursuit of the sweet moment when I would see my bone-thin feline consume calories.
Mom calculated today that Kevin and I lived this way for five years, coping with a what is apparently a common issue in older cats. Throughout this journey, Roland would be fine for months at a time, albeit very thin, clocking in at less than 4 pounds, eating small amounts consistently, in an extremely spoiled and finicky manner. Then he would suddenly go on a hunger strike, during which he acted restless and ate NOTHING, and became insatiably thirsty. It was painful to witness. In these moments, when even home-cooked Fresh Market chicken or juice from a can of tuna were rejected, I would find myself in the office of my very patient and caring vet, Dr. Scholer at Hilltop Animal Hospital.
Dr. Scholer and his team always worked me in to their schedule, and welcomed Roland as a beloved guest. If my frequent visits or incessant questions were vexing, Dr. S never once let it show. He was always on “Team Roland”, and approached my cat with a sincere concern and willingness to try whatever was needed to get him back on track. He even once met us at the office on a day it was closed because I was too squeamish to give Roland a shot myself. Over time we found a trifecta of fluids, vitamins and steroids to boost the appetite enough to get Roland up to speed.
I have had cats my entire life, but there have only been 2 others who won my entire heart as completely as Roland, and they were both orange tabbies, as well. Roland followed me everywhere, greeted me at the door, slept with me, told me in no certain terms what he wanted, and badgered me until he got his way. I refused to take trips longer than a couple of nights because I hated being away from him. Mom took super-good care of him during these times, and returning from vacations to see him safe and healthy when I returned was pure bliss.
In addition to being a beloved pet, Roland also had fans on the internet. Experiencing the joy of gift wrapping presents every Christmas while he supervised was the reason I labeled my hobby “Orange Cat Wraps” and after sharing pics of him with the gifts every year, he received rave reviews among my Facebook and Instagram friends.
But the absolute pinnacle of love, the ultimate moments of heart swelling, occurred when I came home at the end of the day and heard Kevin exclaiming to Roland from the other side of the door. “She’s back!” Kevin would cheerily tell our thin orange cat. “Come on, let’s go greet her, she’s here!” I would open the door, and my amazing husband and adorable cat were always right there, welcoming me home with love and hugs and kisses and meows.
Here is a “selfie” that Kevin and Roland took recently. They took selfies often when I was at work, and seeing them together brought me instant happiness. Kevin grew to love Roland in the past 13 years, and the feeling was mutual. Perhaps he knew that Kevin was the one ordering obscene amounts of canned cat food in his favorite flavor (whatever that might be at the time), or he appreciated that Kevin allowed me to turn the entire house into whatever Roland needed. Special beds? Sure! Turn on water in sink for cat to drink? No problem! Chair next to counter for cat to jump? Absolutely. Kevin never got angry when Roland made accidental messes on the floor, or complained about the amount of money spent on his food and care. Kevin, like Dr. S, was always “Team Roland”, and that unwavering support fills me with overwhelming gratitude.
Sadly and inevitably, the trifecta’s impact diminished after last week’s hunger strike, and we lost our struggle to find a new antidote. Roland passed away on Monday, and my week at work has been one of quiet despondence. Being very new at my job, there is not a single co-worker who knows of Roland’s death or what it means to me. Had I still been working at Lexus, this experience would have been completely different. My team there all knew about my cat and were Team Roland, for sure. I spoke of him constantly, told everyone when I had to leave to take him to see Dr. S, and showed pictures to anyone who would tolerate it. It’s certainly not a bad thing to grieve in silence, and I’m sure my new peeps would express sympathy if they knew, but I keep it in my heart every day until I get home, and then I walk in the door, and there is nothing. The profound silence wraps around me, and my only comfort is the gratitude I have for the extra time I had with Roland. I am also thankful for everyone who was encouraging during his illness and Orange Cat Wrap adventures. I was so blessed to enjoy 15 years with this adorable boss of the house, and to have so many loved ones on Team Roland. We will miss our orange cat.