Most of us who have pets in our lives share all of the good things that come with responsible ownership - the love, the companionship, the "I'm so happy you're home!" tail-waggin', the devotion, the purrs.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
Most of us who have pets in our lives share all of the good things that come with responsible ownership - the love, the companionship, the "I'm so happy you're home!" tail-waggin', the devotion, the purrs.
Then, there's the other side - the goodbye...the "see you later.”
I have never been fond of goodbyes of any kind. I would say most feel the same. The final chapter. The end of the journey. The last page in a beautiful book. Such was this day on March 30th - the day my "just a cat" Old Fella died.
This cat was from Ann Arbor, Michigan - once with a luxurious silver-gray fur coat, with deep, green eyes, "vampire fangs" (his best feature) and magnificent strong ears God made just for ear-rubs. And, in the beginning of the final chapter of 18 years of a long life, Old Fella was rescued from the streets of south Cumberland and came to my house to be loved and doted on every single day.
He had what makes us rich indeed - a family that loved him at first sight. It was of no consequence that when he was rescued, he was sick, felt like skin and bones, was flea-infested, hungry and thirsty - lonely even. What mattered was that he deserved better. He deserved veterinary care, he deserved a safe, loving home. He deserved quality of life. He deserved a happy ever after.
When the day came, he left this world exactly where he deserved to be - in his "final chapter" home where he knew those who loved him more than ice cream would hold him until the end. I was with my mom when she passed on and made her journey to heaven, and now for the second time in my life, God found it fit that I be with Old Fella as he took his last breath. I am forever thankful.
In life, there are always blessings no matter the circumstances. When we are grieving, or when we are sorrowful and sad, I thank God that I have always been able to see the blessings. Sometimes, though, God has had to smack me in the forehead to see them, but they were there all along.
My blessings that surrounded Old Fella since July of last year were the hundreds and hundreds of people who followed his journey. These were the people who helped with his extensive veterinary expenses (over $4,000). These were the people who sent encouraging messages when Old Fella had to be admitted to the hospital on four different occasions. These were the people who came to meet my "just a cat" at his party. These are the people who rejoiced at good news of healing and cried mountains of tears when he died in my arms.
These are the people who blessed my life, and still do every single day. I love them all.
As for the hundreds of messages I have received following Old Fella's death, I have selected some here for you to read. I wish I could have shared them all, as each one carried me through some dark hours.
Lorrie Trabing - "Not everyone can understand love for an animal. Close to the same time you were going thru this, I was sleeping on the floor next to our precious cat 'Pretty' who was dying. It was expected but I thought I'd die of a broken heart. She and my husband were inseparable. We were both with her until her last breath. He had prepared her grave long before her death and still hasn't revealed to me where it is. It's his secret to keep."
Pam Robertson - "Anyone who comments that it's just a cat, has missed out on one of the greatest loves that one can have. To see that sweet face after a bad day, to hear that purr, and to feel that baby curl up beside you. It's just heavenly. To watch your children and grandchildren learn to love animals is priceless. Animals don't want much, but they give so much!"
Sue Shackelford - "Sending comforting prayers, Trish. I love you, Old Fella, and will keep your beautiful spirit in my heart."
Bridget Brooks - "I wrote a piece for myself and maybe others, wasn’t sure at the time. It was when I first learned that Old Fella was very sick, had been taken to the vet and probably would not pull through this struggle. I prayed and cried, then I wrote.  It felt the time was so raw with sadness, lightly veiled by hope. So far away, it seemed all I could do was write my feelings to ease my sadness.
"Old Fella - I worry about this sweet boy as if he’s mine. He’s on my mind night and day though I’ve never even met him in person. He’s so much more than just a cat. Maybe we romanticized his story over this past year or so. We’ve imagined what his life has been over the years, a big scruffy tough boy out on the streets fending for himself. So many cats are left to do this because of uncaring humans who don’t spay or neuter.  Humans not caring for those cats that have no family, not taking the few minutes for notifying rescuers, feeding, providing warm cover even outside. 
“O.F. was once cared for and loved by someone many years ago, far away. How he ended up here we leave to our imaginations. So many possibilities, good or bad circumstances for the person who loved him first. Maybe they returned to hometown Cumberland, and had to leave their cat behind with friend or family when they started an exciting first career job, but had to move far away.  Maybe if parents kept kitty, they aged as he did and either passed away or could no longer care for him, keep him inside. So many ideas, so many maybes.
"Whatever his history, we have seen a strong willed, spirited, loving cat. An Old Fella who, once he adjusted to being indoors, took to being loved on, being sung to, being fed whatever he liked, being treated by a caring, dedicated vet and team who helped him regain a balanced health at his old age. Nothing can be done about his past, maybe poor diet and tough street life ravaged his health over years. But we don’t even know when he became an orphan let out on the street. The cat with whom Trish fell in love was a once strong beautiful cat who needed some basic care and TLC.  Obviously he was strong of spirit because, as she learned he was nearly 18 years old! Who wouldn’t fall in love with that boy! We all have!!
"I think of him throughout these days and tears come to my eyes, for Trish and her family, but mostly for O.F.  Like an old man, old woman who is drawing near to their end days, they reminisce about their life. They are apprehensive even fearful about what’s immediately ahead, pain, discomfort, procedures that are uncomfortable. Yet they still have that spirit that does not want to stop living, loving, stop exploring, experiencing, even still learning anew. As each of us will someday face, it is bittersweet for human or animal.
"I thank God that Old Fella came into Trish’s life and by extension into all of our lives. That unknowingly, just by being himself, he reawakened a very special compassion, empathy, love in hundreds of people who have joined his story, near and far. I pray that he be comfortable, peaceful, feel loved, as I would wish for all living beings at the end of their days. But my heart aches that we are probably nearing that end, and we may have to say farewell for now to this strong beautiful loving Old Fella."
Michael Nicholson - "This passage of scripture has been on my mind a lot lately since Old Fella crossed over. It puts and end to the misconception that animals are just animals, and they have no spirit or feelings. It acknowledges that animals do have spirits, which pet owners have already known. Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 in the New Living Translation describes it best.
"Then I realized that God allows people to continue in their sinful ways so He can test them. This way, they can see for themselves that they are no better than animals. For humans and animals both breathe the same air, and both die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place-the dust from which they came from and to which they must return. For who can prove that the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing for people than to be happy in their work. That is why they are here. No one will bring them back from death to enjoy life in the future.
"I truly believe in life after death in Heaven through Jesus Christ our Savior, and that our beloved pets will be there to meet us! All praise and Glory to God!"
Sharon Herriott - It took me a while to read, because you know I could not stop crying. He was wonderful for being Just A Cat...as you know he was so much more. The stories of Old Fella were therapeutic for most of us. Thank you for letting us be a part of his journey."
Kathy Swart - "Beautiful ! Crying again as I read about Old Fella and his life, the life and love the two of you shared. Thank you, Trish, for the stories that you have shared with us about Old Fella. I'm glad that he came into your life when you needed it most and touched your heart in a special way - providing you with an endless, unconditional love."
Sandi Shank - "Your book may be titled,  'Just a Cat', but Old Fella was much, much more than that.  He brought a community together in love."
Anna Roberts - "JUST A CAT, I THINK NOT"
Tracy Johnson - "I am so very sorry, Trish. I loved every story you’ve shared with us. It was meant to be for you to rescue him and give him a beautiful life. Rest in peace, sweet Old Fella."
Jim Kennedy - "I cannot find the footing to determine who is finer..you or Old Fella. Which of you is more loving or tender? Who is greater in gratitude and grace? Maybe the fact that I'll know not makes it all the more valuable...since it can't be measured. THANK YOU BOTH. You have helped me as well as each other."
Brenda Patton - "I loved your fine feline fella. I feel sad he was only here with his loving Mum such a short time, but, I know in my heart Trish that you gave him the finest life he never thought was possible. You gave him everything wrapped up and combined. Thank you for letting me be part of your selfless, loving, journey."
Elayne Warren - "You know. He wanted to be home with you. All the meds and procedures in the hospital were just enough to make him comfortable in his bed, his sunspot, and your arms.  They really are better at saying goodbye than we are."
Virginia Lewis - "Ah, Old Fella. What a life. From homeless and hopeless to social media star in a year. Your journey touched so many. Godspeed. Thanks to your Mum for sharing you with us.  Peace and love, Trish. Oh, what a cat!"
There are two projects in the works: 1) an exclusive, limited edition Old Fella Cookbook ($17), with over 300 recipes, photos and a condensed version of his journey. All proceeds from the cookbook sale benefit Whiskers, Inc. Deadline for orders and payments is April 30 (only 200 copies will be sold and autographed); 2) A book written by me and illustrated by Angie Fulton, soon to be available on Amazon, Kindle, AudibleBooks and bookstores across the country. "Just A Cat" advance orders can be messaged to me on Facebook or email at tmorgan0305@gmail.com.
And, to all who love the smallest of creatures, may God's blessings be bountiful...even in an old forgotten corner of nowhere.