Thistle The Cat Lucked Out

Kate Bracy
Crow’s Feet
Published in
6 min readOct 29, 2022

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Compassionate Enterprise in the Next Generation (Crow’s Feet Writing Prompt #6)

My granddaughter has started a business: Eleanore’s Pet Care Place. She promises excellent care for the dear, fur-covered family members of our island neighbors. So far she has two customers — me and my neighbor, Mary.

Young blonde girl holding box of Girl Scout cookies and gesturing
Eleanore in screen shot from her Girl Scout cookie video, demonstrating this year’s choices

It was Girl Scout cookies that inspired this venture. Eleanore set “400 boxes” as her goal. Her mom and I exchanged dubious looks, but cheered her on. After all, she stood to win a Girl Scout hoodie if she succeeded, and who doesn’t need one of those? Four hundred and eighty-three boxes later, she is sporting aforementioned hoodie. And a businesswoman was born!

She is 9 years old. (Eight when she started the business, but that is only interesting in her someday corporate bio…) She and her best friend Maddie make up the board of the pet care enterprise. (I kid you not. They have board meetings and make business decisions. More on that in a moment.)

So, when my neighbor asked me if I could check in on her aging terrier and his cat companion while she was away, I referred her to Eleanore’s Pet Care Place and texted her a picture of the flyer.

Hand-drawn flyer for Eleanore’s Pet Care Place, with a circle and pictures of various animals. The lizard is labeled.
Eleanore’s Flyer (Note the lizard, labeled for clarity)

“Perfect!” she said. We arranged for Eleanore to stop in and learn the ins and outs of caring for Sammy the little senior pup, and Thistle, his blonde feline housemate.

In the introductory session, I watched Eleanore pay close attention as Mary taught her how to care for Sammy. This included feeding, changing the wee-wee pads in his enclosure (poor old incontinent Sammy — I felt his pain), giving him his medicine for congestive heart failure, and how to take him for his limited walks, so he could sniff the grass and leave ‘pee-mail’ for the neighboring canines. Eleanore took it all in. Made notes in her “Pet Care” notebook, and petted and sweet-talked little Sammy.

Thistle was another matter. She did not make an appearance at the orientation event, but Mary pointed out where Eleanore could find the food, how to tend the litter using the “Litter Genie,” and where all the cat toys were — not that Thistle was likely to engage with them, she said. Eleanore listened closely. Made more notes. She reassured Mary that she loved cats.

I looked skeptically at little gray-muzzled Sammy. I wondered if he would make it through Mary’s 5-day holiday. I kept my reservations to myself. This was Eleanore’s show. Cross that rainbow bridge when you get to it.

Two days later, the day before departure, Mary called me.

“Kate. I have sad news.”

“Oh?”

“It’s Sammy. He had a really bad night last night. Terrible, actually. So I took him in to the vet this morning. There was really nothing more they could do. They had to put him down.”

“Mary! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m okay. Fine really. But I’m worried about Eleanore. This… Well, I’m worried about Eleanore.”

“Right. Well, she is coming today after school. I’ll break the news, and we will stop over. Would that be okay?”

“Yes. Perfect. Thank you.”

I met Eleanore at the bus that day. I explained that there was some bad news. I told her what happened to Sammy.

She was quiet for a moment, nodding her head solemnly.

I said, “I thought we might go over to Mary’s and see how she is doing. What do you think?”

She agreed.

We climbed Mary’s porch, and I stole a glance at Eleanore. She looked very composed. Mary answered the door and invited us in.

Mary explained what had happened to Sammy. I noticed that all signs of Sammy’s presence had been taken away. No more wee wee pads, no dog food bowl. No leash.

Eleanore was quiet while Mary told her story. She nodded in sympathy. Mary was watching Eleanore’s face for signs of distress. There were none. Just “MmmHmms” of deep understanding.

When Mary was finished, Eleanore took the floor.

“It’s really sad when you lose your pet. Our family has had a lot of pets who passed away.” And then Eleanore held us captive for a solid seven minutes with the tales of all the family pets who had “passed away” in her lifetime.

There was poor old Molly, the naughty black lab, whom her daddy loved, but Molly was very old — thirteen — and had been in a terrible car accident when she was young. Eleanore recounted that Molly had lived a long, happy life and finally they had had to let her go because she was “just hurting too much.”

And there was little Bella the westiepoo — also at an advanced age — who had been saved once by Molly from being carried away by a coyote, and had later been given mouth-to-snout resuscitation by Eleanore’s paramedic daddy when she almost drowned. Bella, too, had gone on to live a good life, although she did walk funny and forget things after the near-drowning incident. (Eleanore owned that her mom was not all that heartbroken when Bella passed, because now she could replace the pee-soaked carpet that had been the toilet of choice for years.)

There were the two mini-hamsters that her brother’s cat had “hunted” in her bedroom — “I screamed so loud when I saw that cat under my bed!!!” Too, there was the bunny that passed away under the sofa — no cause of death was ever identified. Several goldfish and her brother’s pet rat, Sir Ratikins. She understood how sad it was to lose your pet, she assured Mary.

At one point during Eleanore’s mournful listing of events, Mary shot me a look that said “And I was worried about her??” And I looked back with a “She knows her stuff” expression.

Eleanore rounded out her recounting of pet losses with the information that she was now taking care of her senior pet rat, Squeekers. “Rats usually live to be about 2 years old,” she reminded us, “And he has already had a cancer tumor.”

I interjected that the family had had a meeting as to whether to let Squeekers undergo cancer surgery since he was almost 2 at the time. But they had all voted “yes” and, $700 later, Squeekers had returned home post-op, where Eleanore nursed him back to health. Mary’s eyebrows went up at that information.

Eleanore finished up with, “Squeekers just turned 3! He is pretty old for a rat, and we are making him as comfortable as we can. We are just going to love him up until his time comes.” She looked calmly at Mary when she was done.

“I see that you have a lot of experience with this,” Mary said, “And I’m glad you’ll be able to take care of Thistle while I’m gone.”

Eavesdropping from the staircase was Thistle herself, who came over to rub against Eleanore’s leg. Mary and I smiled at each other as Eleanore picked up one of the cat toys and started playing with Thistle.

Young blonde girl using large glove to pet orange tabby cat
Eleanore petting Thistle with the ‘grooming glove.”

Mary paid Eleanore handsomely for caring for Thistle. Eleanore, in turn, drew a nice “Thank you” card for Mary, and made cookies, both of which she delivered the following week. (Comcast and Verizon could learn a thing or two from Eleanore about valuing customers.)

Eleanore subsequently went to the board and requested that some of the money be spent to purchase a new hammock for Squeekers, to give him a comfy place to sleep, given his senior infirmities. The board reluctantly voted yes, in deference to the fact that so far Eleanore was the only one bringing capital into the organization.

Two black and white rats cuddling in hammock
Squeekers (lower rat) cuddling in hammock with his brother, Sir Ratikins, who was taken from us too soon.

After the hammock purchase, I called my daughter, Eleanore’s mom.

“Honey, when the time comes that I’m frail and certain decisions have to be made for me — ”

“Mom, I don’t want to talk about this,” she interrupted.

“No, this is important to me. When that time comes, and you are worried about my mind or my comfort, I want Eleanore put in charge.”

Laughing, the woman who has taught Eleanore everything she knows said, “Okay, Mom. We’ll make sure Eleanore is the lead.”

“Thanks, Sweetie.”

I see a cozy hammock in my future.

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