The Spirit of a Callie Cat Christmas

Back in the fall of 2015, I was laid off. I’d been laid off before, so I was experienced with the “it’s not you, you’re great, but we’re just going in a different direction,” scenario. Regardless of how they sugarcoat the blow, it’s demoralizing, and it hurts, especially considering I was living from paycheck to paycheck, so any negative change in income was bad news. Like grief, one tends to process the pain in various stages, and for me, one of the ways that helped get me through the days as I struggled to look for new employment was taking early morning walks around the neighborhood to clear my head and start each day with a positive outlook.

The first time I spotted Callie on my morning walk, she was at this driveway.

Early on, less than a block away from my house, I met Callie. The name came to me for obvious reasons – she was a cat, calico, and female, and the feminine name just suited her pretty and petite frame. She was in the driveway of a neighbor’s house I was not acquainted with, and true to my nature, rather than walk by her as someone else might have, I crouched down and gently lowered my hand to the ground in friendship, softly calling her in a psss…psss noise that I used with my own cats to see if she’d come to me.

She looked at me for a second with her sea-foam colored eyes, licked her paw to casually wash her face, and meandered over to me. I slowly reached out, letting her familiarize herself with me, and she decided to let me pat her. It was a quick pat and then she plunked down to roll herself in the warm Florida heat of the black driveway pavement, happy for the morning hello. I continued my walk, careful that she was not following me and soon discovered in the days to come that our meeting wasn’t random and that she’d become part of my routine.

Callie heading my way to introduce herself.

Naturally, I began walking with treats tucked in my pocket so I could spoil my new friend and I looked forward to our special time which always included me petting her, followed by her rolling on the pavement, signaling she enjoyed my company. I didn’t know her history yet, but she appeared healthy and fed, evidenced by the two stainless steel bowls in front of the garage of the driveway she greeted me from and her soft, clean fur, so I assumed someone was taking care of her.

Callie was a very pretty girl, with soft, clean fur.

One morning while I was giving Callie her treats, a woman came out of the front door, startled to see me, a stranger, in her driveway, feeding what was probably her pet cat. I was apologetic, letting her know my intentions were friendly and that Callie had become part of my morning walk and she said she understood and was fine with it, informing me Callie was a stray neighborhood cat that she had taken under her care and been feeding for years.

I would have preferred her answer was that Callie was her cat – a primarily indoor pet – but I was grateful the cat was being cared for and I thanked her for her kindness. I found employment in March of 2016 and my days of morning walks ended. I’d occasionally walk on weekends, but I didn’t always see her. The bowls were still in front of the garage, so I surmised she was still around.

Last Christmas I was home with the day off and decided to take a walk before my family was to arrive to open gifts and celebrate the holiday. Instinctively, I grabbed some treats just incase my feline friend was around, and sure enough, there she was in the driveway. I called her like I always did, and she came to me, but this time something was different. Her walk was wobbly and when I saw her, my heart sank. Her fur, once so clean and bright was coated in dirt and matted and she had lost significant weight.

This was not the Callie I remembered, and I sadly knew her days were numbered. All I could think was, I need to help her, so I went home and armed myself with everything I could think of to provide her some comfort – fresh drinking water, cat food, and a bucket of warm water, along with a washcloth treated with a pet antiseptic to clean her fur. I knew when I was gently washing her face, it was risky. I did not know if she had contracted any contagious diseases on the streets and she could have very easily lashed out at me and a cut from her claws could be dangerous.

But she seemed grateful, letting me clean her up as best I could, and I rewarded her patience with some food. My neighbor came out of the house and I explained what I was doing, and I also explained my concern that Callie was not doing well. I was not trying to be judgmental or accusatory, a very fine line, because it was so painfully obvious Callie was in decline.

We chatted longer than normal, finally fully introducing ourselves after all this time. Her name was Mary and she and her husband, Bob, were on a limited income. Bob was unemployed, with serious health issues to boot. She was doing the best she could with Callie and being so close to the situation, I honestly don’t think she realized how much weight Callie had lost or the severity of her situation.

I knew Callie needed to see a vet, but it was a delicate situation – Mary’s income was limited, as was mine. I also knew that Callie’s age, coupled with her years of outdoor living was not in her favor for a good prognosis. But nobody wanted to see Callie suffer, and during our conversation, Mary’s neighbor came by who saw us chatting. She too had been feeding Callie over the years and was fond of her. It was decided we would all chip in so Callie could get checked out and I left feeling relieved that we had created a relationship of care and responsibility for Callie.

Mary made an appointment for the vet, which would be on Thursday, two days after Christmas, and by now she had my phone number and she was practically giving me minute-by-minute updates on Callie. I also made a habit of coming in the morning before work to wash Callie as well as after I got home from work to bring her extra food and to check out her eating habits. One night Callie even followed me back to my house, which was astounding to me. Dan and I put a box out for her in our garage, with a towel for padding in case she wanted to nap, but true to her nature, she was not a cat that wanted indoor confines of any sort and she hobbled herself back to what she considered her true home with Mary.

Callie eating food in our driveway. Her declining condition was painfully obvious to me.

Friday Mary called me with the results. Callie had anemia and could potentially need a blood transfusion. The vet gave Mary some medication for Callie to take before any official prognosis could be made and while Mary seemed joyful and relieved (Callie was eating MUCH better after the vet visit and the medications) I was a bit more realistic and truly at this point, just wanted Callie to feel loved and comfortable for as long as she had. I didn’t inform Mary of my reservations, instead just appreciating the bond that had been forming between her and me in our shared love of Callie.

I continued to drop by several times a day, always making certain to let Callie know how adored she was. She always came over to see me, wobbly walk and all and enjoyed the attention I gave her. On January 3rd I saw her in the evening when I came home from work. She seemed as fine as she could be, and when I left, I told her I’d see her in the morning. On the morning of the 4th, I was running late – I was at Walgreens picking up a prescription when I got the call from Mary. Callie had passed away over the night, underneath Mary’s car, one of Callie’s favorite napping spots.

I broke down in tears, as did Mary. This cat, a cat I barely knew in the scheme of things had found such a special spot in my heart and I was crushed, more so than I could have imagined. She brought neighbors together in peace and love and had left an indelible mark in us all.

I came by after work to give Mary a hug and to talk our feelings out. I know Mary was feeling enormously conflicted and worried she had not done enough. Deep down, perhaps she did not, but I could not berate someone who had taken care of this cat for years out of the goodness of her heart. This was not the time for judgment, but a time to celebrate the happy moments Callie had given us. And in my mind, giving Callie dignity and love in her final days was the best gift of all. She passed quietly, on her terms, in what was the only home she knew.

We shared stories of Callie and she and Bob had found a place in their backyard garden to lay Callie to rest, which she showed me. She also ordered a special marker for Callie and when it arrived a few days later, I came by and we held a service for Callie. To this day it’s still hard for me to walk down the street, missing my dear feline friend so much. But she was the spirit of what Christmas is meant to and for that, I will be forever grateful for the time we were blessed with her. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my dear friends and family. Treasure the moments you are given and be kind to one another. 

R.I.P. Callie, my sweet Christmas spirit angel cat.

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  1. Jo Singer says:

    A beautiful love story.

    Much love to you and your family. <3

    Jo, Marty, Aki, and Edgar Allen Poe.

  2. Marilyn Cuchel says:

    Happy Holidays Deb and Dan. loved the xmas cat story but the picture of Harley made my day I loved that cat !!!!! love deenie Cuchel

  3. Angel Callie was the bridge to you and your neighbors; she brought love!
    Wishing you all the very best.
    Merry Christmas!

  4. Chirpy Cats says:

    What a sweet story, brought tears to my eyes. Indeed, as you say just shows how when you come together without judgement, just trying to save the life of another living being can bring people together. I’m sure Callie felt loved during the last leg of her time on earth.
    Bless your kind heart and Merry Christmas!

  5. Brian Frum says:

    Such a sad story to share on a happy day.

  6. Callie has now touched all of our hearts, thank you for sharing her with us.

  7. Stephanie B says:

    Love this story. Would have loved to have known Mary and Callie❤

  8. meowmeowmans says:

    What a beautiful story. Happy Meowlidays to you, sweet friends. Sending you love and purrs, today and always.

  9. jmuhj says:

    Thanks to all who cared for and about Callie. We all work toward the time when there will be no stories like this, because every cat and kitten will be spayed/neutered and adopted for life, safely indoors and comfortable, and well provided for. Enjoy your holidays and all the best to all of your family members!

  10. caren says:

    special and sweet story. Meowy Christmas to all of you!

  11. Ellen Pilch says:

    Such a sad story, poor Callie. I am glad she knew love though. XO

  12. Mary McNeil says:

    Angel Callie – she will always be with you and Mary. We have several calico angels ourselves,

  13. What an amazing, beautiful story. Have you considered a book about Callie?

  14. Cathy Keisha says:

    Callie was beautiful with beautiful coloring. Sending Love on this Christmas Day.

  15. Community cats belong to us all, and while Callie may have seemed to suffer, she may have been cleaner and dryer inside a home, but no less loved or cherished, and with probably the same prognosis. How wonderful she brought the three of you together, no doubt you weren’t the only three feeding her, if even only treats, and each of you gave to her what you could. She took a bit of each of you, and left a bit of herself with each of you, so that your lives are forever entwined. Her loss is sad, but the love all of you shared is a joy. Thanks for sharing Callie’s story.

  16. Andrea Dorn says:

    By sharing your story of Callie you’ve kept her alive in our hearts.

  17. Callie lived her life the way she wanted. It is a bittersweet story but she was cared for.