Saturday, January 15, 2011

Corduroy

I recently adopted two cats from my local animal shelter. One was a rambunctious little kitten, the other was a two-year-old female Torbie for which I did not have a name at first. “No Name” was undeniably sweet, docile, and responsive to human attention. She also had a sadness in her eyes, as though she wanted desperately to be loved, but knew that she was unwanted. I don’t know exactly what it was about her, but I was drawn to her, and so I completed the paper work for adoption on January 1, 2011 – New Year’s Day.

On January 4, I took my new cats home. I had to isolate them both from my existing cat, just to ensure that they were healthy, and so that my existing cat would not be overwhelmed by his new roommates. “No Name” was staying in my bathroom. She was coughing and sneezing, so I took her to the vet the next day, and began treating her with antibiotics for the cold. Over the next several days, I began to bond with this animal as I cared for her. She allowed me to do anything – clean her ears, clean her eyes, administer medication – she especially loved to be wiped down with baby wipes (I did not want to give her a bath just yet). She never scratched, bit, or fought me. It was like she knew I loved her, and she trusted me.

I noticed this cat had large paws, and that she most likely was going to grow bigger. I spent that entire first week on the internet, trying to determine if she was at least part Norwegian Forest Cat. In a nutshell, she reminded me of a teddy bear. So I finally settled on a name for her: Corduroy.

Corduroy was a book I owned as a child. First published in 1968, the story follows a little teddy bear named Corduroy who sits amongst the other toys in a department store, hoping that someone will buy him and take him home. One day, a girl named Lisa sees Corduroy, and tells her mother she really wants the bear. Lisa’s mother tells her that they’ve already spent too much money, and besides, the bear is missing a button.

That night, Corduroy searches the entire department store, trying to find a button so he can fix his defect. He does find a button, but he is returned to the shelf before he can do anything about it. The next day, when the department store opens, Lisa returns to buy the bear with her own money, and Corduroy gets to go home, even though he still is missing a button.

As an adult, I am struck by the profound similarity between this simple children’s story and the gospel.As a child, and I remember being overcome with emotion when Corduroy was finally taken home. But as an adult, I am struck by the profound similarity between this simple children’s story and the gospel. Here is a teddy bear who is not perfect, and in order to increase his chances of being loved, he tries to “fix himself”, and he fails. In an unlikely twist, a little girl spends all she has in order to purchase the bear, brings him home, and sews a new button on for him, making him like new again. The story doesn’t tell us why Lisa chooses this bear. We never know why. She just elects to take him home, even in his imperfect condition. The story continues to have such a profound impact upon me, even as an adult. It was only natural I name my new cat after the bear in this story.

On January 9, Corduroy showed marked improvement. She was no longer sneezing and coughing, and she was anxious to get out of the bathroom for a change, so I took her outside and sat with her on my screened-in lanai. There we were, just the two of us: creature and caretaker, delighting in each other’s company. For two hours, Corduroy sat in my lap and purred, occasionally looking up into my eyes as if to say, “Thank you!” It was magnificent. I imagined it would only be a few more days before I could allow her to freely roam the house and see her stretched out on my living room furniture in all her feline glory.

But Corduroy's improvement was short lived. On the evening of January 11, her eyes were weighed down by mucous and her breathing became quite labored. I took her to the vet the following day and had her x-rayed. Her cold was gone, but her lungs were nearly filled with fluid, and she had a few nodules on her lungs as well. The x-ray also showed that she had a BB lodged in her back. “I don’t know if this cat is going to live,” the vet told me, but she gave Corduroy an injection to help open up her airways, and sent me home with even more aggressive antibiotics. Within five hours, Corduroy took a turn for the worse. She began to panic as she realized she could no longer breathe. I acted quickly, and headed for the overnight emergency clinic to have her euthanized, but I was too late. Corduroy died on January 12, 2011, only 8 days after I brought her into her new home. I bawled, listening to her cries as she struggled for oxygen, and the final gurgling sound she made as she drowned right there in my car.

As a former existentialist, I tend to focus on what I've lost. But as a Christian, I can easily take these thoughts captive to Christ, and rejoice in what I have, knowing it will all someday be taken from me. The old Jen would have focused on how terribly Corduroy suffered. The new Jen rejoices, knowing that for 8 glorious days, I was able to provide this animal with the one thing she probably wanted more than anything in the world: compassion. Corduroy died a terrible, frightening death, but she died knowing that she had been chosen. And for those 8 days she lived, she taught me a great deal about the gospel.

I highly recommend the book Corduroy, by Don Freeman, and believe it will be an important addition to your child’s library. If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can have it read to you here:

4 comments:

James said...

Jen, I am so sorry about Corduroy :(

Betsy Markman said...

I am so sorry that you lost Corduroy, but glad that you can have the joy of knowing what you gave her in her final days. I'm also thankful for the little glimpse of the Gospel in her story, and the reminder of a book that I, too, loved as a child.

Tom Gabbard said...

It is indeed sad and heartbreaking to lose one of these little "critters" that we so quickly become attached to! This present world is a place of many sorrows....but, I try to remind myself often that there is coming a day when all creation will partake of the benefits of the cross. There will be no more dying and sorrow.....the former things will not be remembered anymore!.....O Lord haste the day!!

Rebecca from Germany said...

Hi Jen, you wrote this unfortunate story with so much calmness, wisdom and biblical understanding that I can see the good work God has already done in you and which he will complete. One can see your faith is built on a rock and as a result you are a very beautiful person from the inside. God bless you, my sister in Christ, and may he comfort you in your mourning.