This is the love story as told to me by Marcia Botha, mama of Zorro, the British Shorthair cross from Ballito, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Tell me about the first time you met Zorro, when and where was it?
I found my beloved Zorro in March 2013 in an advert under British Shorthairs in a cat magazine I used to write welfare articles for. He’d been advertised looking for a home for a year! I contacted Annita Hendriks who ran The Cat Samaritan shelter advertising him. She sent a photo of him and it was my husband who said, “We have to help him!” Off we went to meet him and there he was, this beautiful, black, stocky boy, distinctly British Shorthair build with green eyes like great big crystals.
How did you feel and what made you feel that way?
I love black kitties, so I was immediately smitten, of course. I’ll never forget how he sauntered over to me. I’ll never forget that walk. Dignified, with purpose. That purpose being to get to mummy as quickly as possible!
Thinking back, how would you describe Zorro’s personality?
Zorro was five years old when I adopted him. He’d been through three or four different homes. We were honoured to be his last. I could never believe that people would give up such an incredible animal who was so affectionate and devoted to me and so utterly perfect. I pinned it down to possibly because he was asthmatic and too much trouble for some folks to be bothered with. He had a constant cough and difficulty breathing. What the vet initially thought was a heart tumor on his x-rays turned out to be a section of unused lung tissue as a result of his asthma and a second opinion had him fitted with a human asthma pump and baby breathing apparatus to connect the pump to fit onto his face. I gave him doses from that pump twice daily or when he needed it and he was almost good as new.
He was gentle, patient, devoted, and crazy about feet! My boy’s face would light up when he saw me. He would come when I called his name. He would literally run to me. He cuddled with me every night of his life with me, summer, and winter. I’ll never forget the first time he crawled under the covers and put his head on my pillow, his neck on my arm, and fell asleep. I could have exploded with joy! I turned to my husband and gasped, “This one snuggles!” It’s one of the best days of my life.
He was my therapy cat. We needed each other. I looked after his health and he looked after my depression. He sensed it and wouldn’t leave my side on my dark days. He just knew. And he was always there.
How would Zorro describe your personality?
He would tell you that I adored him. My husband would always say, with a concerned frown, “You love that cat too much, babe.” Zorro would tell you that he was mummy’s favourite even though I tried not to have favourites, that I lit up from my severe chemical depression when we were together, that I would literally have died for him. He would tell you that I was prone to anxiety but calmed when he was there. He would say Mummy was creative and he loved to be with me when I painted or refurbished vintage furniture.
What did you learn from Zorro?
Love. Pure love. That I could be loved. That best friends do exist. That giving unconditionally in a heartbeat goes without saying when it’s the true love of your life. And breaking, utterly breaking apart happens for the same reason.
What are the top three things you always want to remember about your love?
1. Our love blinks and late morning snuggles.
2. How he smelt like biscuits or grass or rain when I buried my nose in his soft fur.
3. How his infinite, unconditional love and amazing little personality and just being filled my days with perfect sunshine.
When did Zorro earn his wings?
Zorro earned his wings on Friday 11th January 2019 (Friday remains a significant day to this day – I light a candle to my boy every Friday morning at my desk with his photo)
When did you join Paws? Do you remember how you found Paws?
I joined Paws on February 3rd, 2019. A friend, Annah Kimpton, who is in the group, told me about Paws.
What has or is helping you to the other side of grief? What advice would you share with someone who recently started grieving?
Prayer. Sharing my story and heartbreak on Paws and meeting others who are also grieving and who “get it” and know that you don’t just “get over it”. Being touched by the wonderful responses from others when I post the hundredth picture of my Zorro or mention another anniversary of time milestones since he passed. I still buy him yellow flowers almost every week (yellow for friendship). I have his photos everywhere that I kiss good morning and say good night to. I have a garden devoted to him that I get barefoot in while I tend to it lovingly in honour of his memory, planning colours and plants, and little characteristic pieces of décor to celebrate him. And I sit there in the shade with a cup of tea and think about him.
My little heart mender, Baloo, has been a great help, too. He’s a pure British Shorthair so he has so many of the same personality traits as my Zorro. He could never be my Zorro, and I don’t expect him to, but he shows me, love, in his own endearing ways.
I read a book by Rachel Joyce where a mother had lost her son and she spoke of grief as a huge, gaping hole. She spoke of how, when her grieving began, she kept falling into that great big, awful hole. It simply couldn’t be avoided. But as time passed it was as though she learned to begin stepping around the hole. The hole never went away but she stopped falling into it as she slowly healed.
Where are you now in your grief?
It’s been a year and around 8 months. I can look at pictures of my boy and talk about him without bursting into tears every time and I can smile at beautiful memories of him. There’s still a tearing ache when I look at his photos and sometimes I have to stop but that’s how true love works, right?
Using your spiritual and intuitive mind, if I could get a message to Zorro from you, what would you want to say? What would you want to let Zorro know?
My beautiful, beloved boy, mummy luffs him so much! Mummy looks forward to the day she gets to see him and hold him and snuggle him again. I need you so much when I get tired and sad. Mummy misses him. (it sounds grammatically odd, but that’s just how I used to talk to my best friend)
And if I could get a message from you to Zorro what would you like to know?
Are you getting snuggles? Have you met mummy’s other babies and are you all happy together with Jesus until I get there one day? That hope holds me up, my Boy, seeing you again for eternity.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Paws Pack about Zorro?
He was one in a hundred quadrillion! I am truly blessed to have had six of the best years of my life with him. My thanks to Annita Hendriks (on the group as well) for persevering with that ad for him for a year or I would never have met the love of my life. My boy was one of the few cats I’ve had who came when I called. Zorro would rather have snuggled in bed with Mummy than rushed off to have breakfast! He was my shadow. Working from home meant we got to spend so much more time together. He was my soul cat.