Service Cats: The Life and Heart of Shad
Meowllo and welcome to another Service Cat Monday. We can’t talk ‘bout Service Cats or trainin’ without ‘memberin’ and refurrencin’ mommy’s original Service Cat, Shad. Shads’ life was cut short cuz of disease at 5 years old, and mommy blames herself cuz of da choices she made and da life Shad had to live. But in her short life, she knew true luv. Mommy adored her and did da bestest she could by her with da knowledge she had then. A lot has changed since then and peeps know a lot more today than back then. Unfurtunately feline medicine is still lacking, so purrlease support studies on feline health issues by donating or sharing da infurmation so others can. Okay, me took a little detour there, but feline health is a real passion fur us. Anyways, after our last Service Cats posty we got an email dat asked just what kind of tough life things mommy and Shad had been through together. So we asked ifin anypawdy else was innerested in learnin’ da backstory dat made Shad teach herself to help mommy, and several of you said yes. So mommy’s gonna take you back to another time, another life, one where she was young, stupid and “livin’ it up”. Purrlease ‘member, everypawdy makes mistakes, and don’t feel poorly towards our mommy. Ifin you’ve missed any of da postys in this series, click on da links at da end of this post.
Thank you baby. It really was a different time and I was a totally different person back then. I got Shad when she was 6 weeks old and a little ball of fluff. Our first year together was pretty normal and uneventful. By her second year, things would start to change, and not for the better. I apologize, but due to the life we lived, there are very few photos of Shad, and the ones we have aren’t very good.
Being the old fashioned Southern Belle I am, we picked up and moved to Georgia following a man. Said man was no good for nothin’, but I thought I was in love. And certainly passed my “married by” due date. I know a lot of you don’t understand that, but the older crowd will get it. Anyways, there we were in Georgia, and the man we were there for took a job in Florida. Needing to pay bills and eat, I took a bartending job in a local bar. I worked a few hours 3 to 4 times a week. The rest of my hours were spent playing with and spending time with Shad. I didn’t know anyone and we only saw the man when he came back to Georgia one weekend a month. By the second month, the “love” had worn off and I knew we’d made a mistake; but now we had no money to move.
When the man showed up and I tried to break up with him, he wasn’t at all happy. I knew he was pretty much an alcoholic, but what I didn’t know is that he had started taking drugs too. His response to my break up was to try to kill me. When the attack started I screamed for Shad to run and hide. I just wanted her to be okay and then I tried to get to the door to yell for neighbors. The man kept blocking the door and finally pushed a hutch over on me. I saw a quick flash of fur and then heard him screaming. Shad had jumped on his back and was biting his neck. I was able to get to the door and get the neighbors attention to call the police. By this time Shad had let go of the man and gone back into hiding.
Unfortunately the police didn’t arrest the man, but instead dropped him off at a motel in town. It was the weekend, and being a bartender, naturally I had to work that night. Before leaving I packed up Shad inside our small kitty carrier and took her with me. She laid in the carrier on the end of the bar while I worked. When we returned home a couple of hours later the man had broken in and stole my clothes, cut up my bed, put a hammer in the microwave and obviously had tried to find Shad. Thankfully she wasn’t there. But I knew we had to leave, I couldn’t take her to work with me every night. My boss had been understanding that night, but wasn’t likely to repeat it. A lady that had been a regular at the bar I worked at let us come and stay with her briefly till I could get some clothes and fix the tires that had been slashed on our car. We were together but in a room about the size of our car. I didn’t know it yet, but that was preparation for the months to come.
We left there and went to stay with my mothers’ second husbands’ aunt. She had an exotic zoo of sorts and needed some help with all the animals, and Shad and I needed a place to stay. Atlanta, here we come. We stayed there a few months confined to a small bedroom together once again. Shad wasn’t allowed to roam the house because of the other animals that belonged to the “aunty”. During this time Shad and I grew even closer. We were all each other had. And strangely enough, we were getting used to living in small spaces. And then the day came when we had to leave there.
Shad on our bed in Georgia
with a pot bellied pig I raised.
And yes, the pig shared our room.
We packed up our car and headed out. I had always wanted to be a singer, so off to Nashville we went. We had enough money for a couple of nights in a motel and I had hopes of finding a bartending job or singing gig immediately so that I could continue to make money to support us. Well, almost everybody in Nashville wants to be a star, so without the right connections, money, or just that “right place, right time”, you become another of many. I put in applications everywhere. We didn’t have much money so when Shad ran out of food, we started eating at White Castle. Back then you could get 2 burgers for a dollar. I would give Shad the meat and and I ate the buns. For anybody who doesn’t know about White Castle, there burgers are the size of biscuits. And for those familiar with them, yes, I scraped off all the onions.
Anyways, there was a dive bar next to the motel we stayed in our first night there. The owner didn’t think he had enough business to actually hire a bartender, but he would let me work for tips alone and let Shad stay in the office while I worked. By now we either made enough money for a night in a motel or we slept and lived in our car. Sometimes I would sit in with a house band or enter a karaoke contest and make a little extra money, but not often. Most of the customers at the dive bar were transient workers and staying in motels themselves. There was a nice couple who would come in everyday and the wife talked the bar owner into letting her use the bars kitchen to prepare home cooked meals for all these men away from families and home.
Thankfully she invited Shad and I to eat as well. So for breakfast Shad would have White Castle burgers and for dinner she got some of whatever meat the nice lady made; they had a small dog back in their motel room and understood my attachment to Shad. Those men also ended up being really nice to us and on weekends when they went home, they would give us a key to their rooms so we could have a bed to sleep in from Friday night to Sunday morning. Their company paid for the rooms by the month, so the guys could leave their things when they did get to go home. Finally, I got a job at Opryland during days and at a nice motel bar at night. We just knew things were going to start looking up. Snow was everywhere and I knew Shad was growing tired of White Castle; so I was really glad that soon we could move back into a motel and then maybe an apartment and we could buy decent cat food again.
And then I got news that my mother had some health issues and needed help. I quit my jobs and headed back to Texas to help her out. Once there I got a job and did what I could. By now, Shad and I had been so close for so long that she suffered from severe separation anxiety and would sit at the door and cry for me the whole time I was gone. My mother, whose health had gotten better, told me that Shad and I could live with her if I went back to college and got a degree; so that’s what I did. I quit my job and registered for college. It would also allow me more time to spend with Shad, who by this time had developed some additional quirks. If you think cats don’t understand, you’re wrong. Obviously being poor and living in our car had made an impression on Shad. She became a thief. Anytime there was money left on a table or dresser, Shad would take it and hide it. Anyways, before the first semester started my mother left the state with her job and left me with an apartment, bills and no job. Thankfully I was able to get a job fairly quickly, that worked around my school schedule. Once again, Shad and I were completely alone and relying on each other to make it. We were pretty much inseparable by this point. I kind of believed Shad was the only one I could rely on.
And then, the accident happened. My life had now changed forever. I was no longer able to work, so I was back to spending most of my time with Shad. Other than the 12 hours a week of school and doctors’ appointments, Shad and I were never apart. She had saved me from an abusive and deadly man. She had loved me, given me strength and a reason to live when we were so poor we had nothing but a car and litterbox. And soon she would save me all over again. Her love and devotion kept me going and gave me a reason to get up in the mornings. I loved and adored her like no other. I had never known love like that before. She never tried to escape the car, or motel rooms. She seemed to always be content and happy to just be where ever I was. We moved one more time during her life so I could finish up at a university. By now, Shad was a full blown ADA recognized Service Cat. You can read those stories here or by clicking Meet Shad on our menu. But to me, she was still just my baby.
She got sick and died all in the span of a week. I felt totally lost and abandoned. Ashamed and guilty. My constant companion of 5 years was suddenly no longer there. She had spent her life loving and taking care of me with no thought to herself or her kitty fears and I had totally let her down. Shad taught me more about love and compassion than I could ever convey, but I try. I know some of you may be thinking I should have given her up instead of making her live in a car and eat burgers. That thought never crossed my mind. She was my baby, and just because life throws you a curve ball doesn’t mean you dump your “children” off on someone else. When I was 18 and then 19 I had done that temporarily. My mother gave my baby away. Something I found out after the fact. And again, thinking she realized what my kitty meant to me, and that it was only temporary, but alas, he was let outside in the hopes he would run off. He died in a storm on her back porch. I wasn’t told he was even outside until he was dead. Trust me, I learned my lesson. Being a “mother” is forever, and it’s your responsibility, not someone else’s. So by the time I grew up and ventured into pet ownership again and got Shad, the thought of leaving her with anyone, or giving her away was out of the question.
You don’t have to go through these things to develop a strong bond with your kitty. We have given you the tips needed in our Training Foundation posts (links below). We don’t know who all will read this post, so I want to say, Please remember before you adopt/buy a pet, it’s for LIFE!!! It’s Forever!!! No matter what, they are your responsibility. There isn’t a shelter for 2 legged children and most people seem to understand that they can’t just get rid of their kids when times are tough or they’re inconvenient. Why can’t they get it with their furry family members? Anyways, I do hope this helps you to understand how the bond developed between Shad and I that would cause her to even think about helping me the way she did. Cats are very emotional and loving animals. They are far smarter than we think they are. They are indeed able to reason more than just human equals full food bowl. Please leave your training questions in the comments section below. And thank you all for loving my girls. I am in no way perfect, and God knows I’ve made mistakes, all I ask is that you not hold any contempt for me against my girls.
Well, fank you mommy fur tellin’ peeps ‘bout Shad. We know you luvved her very much and she luvved you too. We kitties are very smart. And who can say no to a furry purrer? Anyways, right now we don’t have any questions fur next weeks posty, so feel furee to ask one. Mommy hasn’t started Raena on wheelchair trainin’ yet cuz she’s still a little spastic and mommy wants to make sure she’s all healed up from her spay. Raena is an extra sensitive kitty so mommy says trainin’ will be a little different fur her, but dat’s not new. Da same methods we’ve posted will be used. Gotta go get ready fur a stroll now, Tomorrow’s me’s birthday.
Do you (your pets) sleep in the bed with you?
Have you ever gone to work with your human?/Have you ever taken your pet to work with you?
Would you go (take your pet) to work with you(?)r human?