For our ten-year wedding anniversary celebration, my husband and I decided to vacation in Maui. Jim has traveled to the Hawaiian Islands before, and raved about their abundance of nature. This adventure sounded like the perfect plan, and quickly won my vote. I had never been, and was ready to immerse myself in Mother Nature and all things aquatic and land-based that she would provide.
A few days into our excursions, we decided to snorkel at a beach that came highly recommended by the locals. They shared with great enthusiasm that green sea turtles frequented the coral reef, and it was a sure bet that we would be able to observe them eating and resting nearby.
We could have spent 24 hours in the water. With so much beauty swimming around us, it was hard to make the choice to haul out and rest on land. I decided to deck myself on the sand by our beach gear to hydrate while Jim kept on snorkeling. He knew to wave my way should more sea turtles appear and captivate us with their behavior antics. Observing an herbivore grazing underwater while they easily navigate some serious waves makes for a perfect day.
As I rested for a few moments, my mind wandered in a few different directions. My thoughts bounced around among various topics, such as work, the stunning scenery around us, whether there might tiger sharks nearby (a sea turtle predator in these waters), wishing I could breathe underwater, and how much I missed our dog and cat back home. It was the last thought that became a perfect transition for what occurred next.
I glanced north along the beach, and quickly caught a glimpse of a handsome blonde nearby. Gorgeous wavy hair and the relaxed body language of a local. And he was looking over his shoulder my way. Be still my heart! My initial inclination was to remain at a distance and assess whether he was paired up with anyone. Perhaps he didn’t want to be bothered. Over the next few moments, I played coy. Yeah… I flirted, too. Offered a few smiles and random eye contact for short duration. My hope was he would saunter my way and make the first move. No such luck.
He continued to sit alone, occasionally looking south in my direction. I couldn’t take it any more, and had enough of these games. I needed to meet this stunning stranger. I approached slowly, and made sure he could see me from the side. I knelt down at a distance to initiate a dialogue. He quickly stood up, jogged a few feet my way, and proceeded to lick my face and neck. It’s a good thing I married a man that is secure in our relationship. Because this furry fella had me at hello!
My new friend was wearing a flat collar. I didn’t feel that we had quite the relationship yet for me to reach toward his neck in order to read what was noted on the tags.
After a few minutes of wiggling on both our parts, my admiration continued, but his adoration quickly turned elsewhere. He bounded up the beach as a human friend appeared with a fresh cup of water. How nice! Apparently we were both resting simultaneously on the sand for hydration purposes.
I followed my canine beach crush, and gushed about how sweet this yellow Labrador was.
“Oh, thank you! He belongs to my friend who is visually impaired. He’s a seeing-eye dog. I pick him up three times a week for our play dates here on this beach.” he replied.
“How nice of you!” I said. “I’ve been keeping him company while you grabbed some fresh water. Such a charmer! I miss our dog and cat right now while we are traveling. I’m Laura. What’s his name?”
“His name is Calvin, and he is eight years old. I’m Toby, and I used to help take care of my friend’s previous Labrador. Calvin is a wonderful dog. Did you say you have a cat?”
We both went on about our cats while taking turns tossing Calvin’s tennis ball into the water. I shared that we have a 20-year old Russian Blue cat named Nocella, who is receiving weekly subcutaneous fluids for supportive health care.
“Wait, you have a 20-year old cat?” he asked.
“Yes!” I replied. “We lost our other cat, Willow, last year at 18 years of age. Broke my heart. Nocella has raised three Rhodesian Ridgebacks. She is tough as nails, and runs our home.”
It was then that Toby fell silent. He glanced out toward Calvin, who was playing in the ocean, and quietly commented that he just found out the day before that he and his wife are euthanizing one of his dear cats this Friday.
“Bailey is around 16 years of age and is very sick. She is under veterinary care, and our vet has been amazing.” he said.
Toby’s eyes welled up while he cleared his throat. He apologized for the sudden show of emotion, and said he had no idea where it was coming from.
“Cats make for excellent friends, Toby. You are coming to a hard decision that involves a family member you love. I’m so sorry.”
My husband then surfaced from the water, and I quickly introduced him to my new friends on the beach.
“There’s my wife, always near the animals!” Jim exclaimed.
Toby went on to say that he missed a few play dates to be with Bailey at the veterinary clinic the past week, and brought Calvin out today to help recharge his batteries. That seeing his wagging tail while running toward the car made his day a little less difficult. We learned that he and his wife rescued Bailey on the island many years ago, after he saw her tossed out of a car that quickly sped away.
“She was meant to be ours. We love all of our cats.” he said.
Jim and Toby went on to chat about their love of animals, the Cubs’ World Series win (we are from Chicago), and much more that I didn’t hear because I was off playing with Calvin on the beach. He had us laughing with his tennis ball antics: I would toss the ball in the water and then we’d swim in to retrieve it together. Calvin had us wrapped around his paws.
It was after about 15 minutes that the significance of the day’s events dawned on me. This was serendipitous. We were meant to meet that day on the beach. Perhaps we were there to help mend a new friend’s broken heart? Perhaps they were there to provide us comfort while being away from our aging cat.
We frequently hear the saying that we never know details of the daily struggles others endure. But what we can rely on is the understanding, support, and compassionate ear animal lovers provide when we know it’s time to say goodbye.
It was time for us to leave Toby and Calvin due to dinner plans with a friend. As we hugged and said our goodbyes, Toby called out to us:
“Think of us on Friday.”
Toby and Bailey will be in our thoughts and hearts this Friday, November 11. Our beloved dogs and cats will be there to show her the way over the Rainbow Bridge.
2016 Copyright: Laura Monaco Torelli