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Gandalf the Grey, The Colour of Shadows. Oil Painting by Julie LoTauro

A Cat For All Seasons …

Gandalf the Grey

It is September, and on September 17, 2022 it will be exactly one year since we had to send our beloved Russian Blue cat, Gandalf the Grey, over the Rainbow Bridge.

It was not unexpected. Gandalf had long suffered from pancreatitis, and had recently been diagnosed as having stage 3 liver disease. We knew that we would have to be ready.

Defying the odds, Gandalf managed to hang on, in pretty good shape for 2 years. At the very end, he suffered three strokes over a period of 6 months.

I was present for all three. The first one was very disturbing, but did not have a lasting effect. He was sitting on the end of the bed, waiting for me to brush him. Suddenly he sat up very stiff and stared unseeingly ahead. This lasted for a minute and I was unable to get a response from him during this time. I described what had happened and our vet said that it was mostly likely a mini stroke.

The second one happened one night on the bed. He was lying across my legs (as usual), and I came awake because he suddenly sat up, very straight and just stared without moving, and without responding to me. He came out of it after about a minute, but the next day I noticed that one of his front legs wasn’t working right.

The last one, on September 16, also happened on the bed. I was asleep, Gandalf was as always, parked across my legs, but suddenly sat bolt upright and held that for about a minute, then lay back down. The next morning it was clear that he had lost most of his mobility. Once I realized what had happened, I had to gently pick him up so that he could head off and have his breakfast. He was so wobbly and uncoordinated and clearly stressed, but struggled to get to his food. He tried to head for his litter box but couldn’t quite make it. He also couldn’t get up into his favorite window and was clearly miserable. I had to pick up and place him there. We spent some Big Cats together time in the window, and he was purring, but couldn’t get comfortable since his legs were no longer cooperating.

It was time. I called the vet right away.

Because of Covid, our vet was not doing any family appointments in house, but they offered to take us into their back garden and, there in the sun, at the picnic table, we said our goodbyes. He went out enjoying a treat and purring up a storm with us close by and patting him, and our sweet vet tech and our lovely vet close-by, offering support and love.

Vet tech A. pats and chats with Gandalf while his sedative shot kicks in. Photo by Dr. Gitte Fenger
Bruce and I spend our last moments with our buddy Gandalf. who is watching for another treat from A. Photo by Dr. Gitte Fenger

Gandalf came to us February 21, 2012. We adopted him from the local animal shelter. He had come to them because his elderly caregiver had been taken to a nursing home and the family did not wish to keep Gandalf. He was 8 years old.

Gandalf, at the shelter, trying to climb into my arms. Photo by Louise Peacock

When we got him home, we took him into the library, which had become the “adoption cat interim space”, let him out of the carrier and gave him a kitty litter box and his cushion which had come with him from his previous home. As recommended, we placed a child gate across the doorway and allowed the other two fur kids (Tessa the dog and Taffy, the cat) to observe the new guy through the gate.

Tessa was mildly curious but got bored quickly. Taffy ventured out and stared, then hissed, then ran into my partners office (her space) and onto the cat tower. There she remained, looking huffy.

Gandalf was only mildly interested. Once they had left, he proceeded to check out his new space, deemed it satisfactory, then he asked to come out. I put Tessa into my partners’ office with one of her beds, placed the child gate across his door and let Gandalf come out.

Gandalf wandered around the rooms a bit, peered at the other two through the child gate, did not react to Taffy hissing, then followed me into my office and settled down on the carpet behind my chair. And there he stayed until dinner time.

Gandlf establishes himself behind my chair. Photo by Louise Peacock

Then he followed me downstairs and was quickly integrated into the pet feeding routine and our own food preps.

That night we settled Gandalf into the library, placing the child gate across the doorway, and headed to bed. Tessa headed for her bed on the floor at the foot of our bed, and we turned out the lights.

Soon, we heard loud rattling and Gandalf began to meow. Next there was a crash as he scaled the child gate and headed directly into our room. He stopped near Tessa, gave her a sniff, then hopped onto our bed and marched up between us, He settled himself comfortably behind our heads and went to sleep purring happily. He did not move until we got up early the next morning.

And that was his first night at our home.

Gandalf establishes his ownership of our bed. Photo by Louise Peacock

From the start, Gandalf was the Ambassador, the Peacemaker. He was never mean, just big. I think that quietly assertive would describe him best.

It wasn’t hard for him to make friends with Tessa who was a very timid, but friendly dog.

Tessa. Friendly but very timid. Photo by Louise Peacock

Taffy however was quite hostile and not really open to being friends. She was still grieving for Dilly, and seemed to feel that Gandalf was a usurper. Gandalf, however, quietly stuck to his guns and persisted with her until she accepted him. This process took place over a few months. That’s what I mean about quietly assertive.

March. Gandalf takes up more than half the shelf. Taffy looks on resentfully.
April. Gandalf is still hogging the shelf and Taffy continues to look somewhat resentful. Photo by Louise Peacock

Unfortunately, I did not take photos of the two of them between April and December, so you cannot see the gradual progression, but by the time December arrived, they had reached a mutual agreement, and were sharing the window shelf amicably.

Jump to December. They now occupy equal space on the shelf and are snuggled, with Gandalf using his tail as a scarf for Taffy. Photo by Louise Peacock

Taffy was now happy to snuggle with Gandalf and was also happy when he decided to clean and groom her.

Touching paws. Photo by Louise Peacock
Gandalf does an ear cleaning on Taffy. Photo by Louise Peacock.
Taffy and Gandalf, sharing a chair. July 2013. Photo by Louise Peacock

Gandalf was jealous of any attention I paid to Taffy. He could be sleeping peacefully several rooms away, but if I was patting or brushing Taffy, Gandalf would silently appear, jump onto whatever Taffy was on, and firmly place himself between us.

He liked to be with us. Particularly, he liked to be with me. I was his chosen Big Cat.

Gandalf the Grey. R.I.P. 2004–2021

Note: There are tons more photos, but as of Sept 16 — Medium seems to be unable to accept photos, so I will have to add them after publication. ;-(



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Louise Peacock

Louise Peacock is a writer, garden designer, Reiki practitioner, singer-songwriter & animal activist. Favorite insult “Eat cake & choke” On Medium since 2016.