I'm grateful to be a veterinarian. I’m blessed to participate in the lives of wonderful people caring for animals that can't care for themselves. To me, helping humans and animals is an honor, privilege, and what I was meant to do. Over the past two decades, I’ve witnessed innumerable heartwarming tales such as the one I’d like to share with you here. I'm eternally indebted to the pet parents eager to trust me with these stories and adventures. While the names and certain details have been changed, the joy and inspiration remain true.
This story recounts how an unexpected feline reveals the true meaning of Christmas to someone desperate to impress, rather than connect, with her family. Beyond the brightly-wrapped presents, colorful lights, and carefully planned dinner parties, Christmas is about the joy of loved ones and helping others. I hope you find a little Christmas joy in this short narrative inspired by true events.
This was going to be the best Christmas ever, Sally thought to herself as she admired her impressive tree. She surveyed her house, noting the care and precise placement of every ornament, stocking, napkin and candle. It was truly a holiday masterpiece. No one would ever accuse her of failing a family festivity. This Christmas celebration would be talked about for ages.
She quickly changed, freshened her makeup and put on Uncle Matt’s “Favorite Fifties Christmas Hits” playlist. She took a deep breath as she answered the door for her first guest.
Over the next hour, her far-flung relatives arrived. There was Aunt Betty all the way from Queens, five (or six?) cousins from Alabama and a sharply-dressed, but unfamiliar, young Army officer whose name she couldn’t recall. As the party grew, Sally swelled with pride. Everything was perfect. Her family milled around whispering to each other, obviously observing how impeccable everything was. Peace, quiet and order – what more could anyone wish for? And at that very moment, her Christmas would change forever.
A loud banging from outside startled the subdued crowd. Every eye turned as Sally opened the door. No sooner had she turned the knob than the entrance was flung open by an elderly couple struggling with a large plastic box.
“Hurry! Help us get her inside! We’re late!”
Sally’s mind raced to recollect who these people were, why they were so loud and what could possibly be the hurry?
The couple shuffled in and were immediately surrounded by the party guests. Quickly, calmly and without uttering a word, the two whirred into action. Bolts were unscrewed, materials retrieved from bags and each grabbed a side of the big red box. As the top was lifted, necks craned to see what the fuss was about. Inside lay a wiry, grayed cat curled beside an equally ragged penguin doll. All Sally could think was what kind of Christmas gift was this?
“Everyone, meet our cat, Mable. She’s 15 and her kidneys are failing. We have to give her special fluids twice a day to keep her going.”
Ooo’s and ahh’s whispered from the onlookers accented by nods and clasped hands in prayer. Sally couldn’t believe what was happening. This cat was crashing her Christmas. As the couple opened a frighteningly large needle, Sally felt faint. She managed a feeble, “Cocktails, anyone?” before fleeing the scene.
Fifteen minutes later, the elderly woman found Sally in the spare bedroom. “Dear, I’m so sorry to cause such a commotion. You probably don’t remember me, but I’m your father’s, God rest his soul, second cousin from Florida. Mable means the world to us and the vet said this was probably her last Christmas. We didn’t want to miss your big party and couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her with a stranger.”
Sally stared up in disbelief. She rose to her feet and stumbled out to meet her guests. To her surprise, the orderly occasion had been transformed into a mob circling Mable. People were handling the horrific medical devices, stroking the decrepit feline and carrying on in a most uncivilized and boisterous manner. Laughter, hugging and good cheer had inexplicably arrived with Mable. Sally straightened herself and strode over to the cat.
Sally had never been a cat lover. A bad college roommate with less than hygienic litterbox habits – the human, not the cat – had soured her on house kitties. What happened as Sally peered over a shoulder to glare at Mable can only be described as a Christmas miracle. As Sally gazed into the cat’s eyes, she was overcome with love, joy and gratitude. Sally would later describe that magical moment as experiencing the sacred spiritual bond between animals and humans. Everyone in the room felt it, too.
Sally invited the tired threesome to stay at her house the following week. Sally learned to administer fluids, give medications and comfort a dying soul. Mable died six days after Christmas, just before the New Year. That year Sally embarked on a lifelong journey of rescuing terminally ill cats and providing care and comfort during their final days. Years later, the family still talks warmly about Mable’s last days and the lasting impact she had. Mable may have crashed Christmas, but sometimes we need a little breaking so we can build something better.