The Joy of Paul

Paul the cat came into our lives about eight months after I moved in with my then boyfriend (now husband), DS, in 2001.

Paul Portrait

Beautiful Paul cat

DS had bought a home that I shared with him and we decided to adopt a cat or two.

DS, me, and his daughter, AMS, all went to the local pound where we spent hours looking at the available cats. AMS found a black female cat that was missing her tail and connected with her immediately. The cat was two-years-old and AS decided that was the one for her. She named her Bailey and we still have her with us.

I also chose a cat, but he was sick (a respiratory infection, I think…not sure), and because we were adopting two cats, they wouldn’t let us adopt the sick one along with the healthy one. We had been there for a long time and decided to leave with just Bailey.

A week later, Bailey was STILL hiding under the futon upstairs in DS’s office. I was frustrated. “What’s the point of having a cat if you never see it?” I asked DS. “I’m going to go adopt another one.”

122802Paul on stairs photo by Shannon O'Brien

Young Paul in Florida

This time I went by myself because DS had to work, and AMS had returned to her mom’s house. The visit took hours (again), as I looked at them all, and tried to decide which one connected with me. Finally, I had decided on three cats located in the display cases at the front of the building.

Two of the cats were quite gorgeous–exotic looking fur and beautiful faces. The third was Paul who looked quite average compared to the other two. Just a big, black and white cat who was waving his paw in my face.

Young Paul

Goofy, beloved cat

I asked an attendant if I could see the three cats (one at a time of course). I picked up the first one, and he immediately started fussing and trying to get out of my arms. He didn’t want to be held. The second one did the same thing. Finally, we opened Paul’s cage and the attendant handed him to me, and Paul fell back in my arms like a baby, totally trusting. He was calm and sweet and wanted to be held.

I told the attendant he was the one for me; we put him back in the cage and started filling out paperwork. I distinctly remember watching a volunteer go get him once my paperwork was finished, and when she opened the cage door, he was sitting there and she leaned her forehead in and he put his forehead against hers. It was so sweet.

They put him in his cardboard travel box and I put him in my car and drove him home.


Hiding in the plants at our Florida home

I think DS was already home when I returned, and I brought the box in and let Paul out. DS thought he was a gorgeous cat, but was surprised by his size. He was 17 lbs. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that that was big for a cat.

As we’re sitting there with Paul, Bailey starts creeping down the stairs to see what’s going on and proceeds to lose her shit when she sees Paul. There is much hissing and growling, but Paul backed down pretty quickly (he’s a lover, not a fighter), and they became friends soon after.


The early years with Bailey and Paul in Florida.

Bailey and Paul

The later years with Bailey and Paul in Illinois.

All was well, and we watched as Paul checked out the room. He walked over to DS’s black leather couch and started using it as a scratching post. The cat had been in the house for 30 minutes or so, and this was his first action (after hissing at Bailey). We chastised him and he moved on to attacking the toys that Bailey had left alone all week. Then he started climbing the couch again.

“That cat’s crazy,” DS says. “I don’t think he’s meant to be inside. You should take him back.” He said Paul had to be kept in the laundry room until then, away from the rest of the house.

DS and I have rarely fought in our fifteen-year relationship, but this was one of our first fights and it was a doozy.

I’m fairly committed to the idea that once I’ve brought an animal home from the pound/rescue, there is NO WAY I’m returning it. That’s why I don’t make those decisions lightly. I will do what I need to do to make it work.

Me and Paul

A girl and her cat

So, that night there was much screaming and crying on my part, demanding that Paul stay, that I’ve made a promise to him, that I would move out with him before I take him back to the pound. On and on and on…I cried myself to sleep. I don’t remember DS fighting back much, but he must have because I remember going on and on. Maybe I was just trying to wear him down.

The next morning I woke up, eyes swollen from crying the night before. DS was already downstairs. I walked down and there was Paul, sitting in the living room, looking at me. “He’s on supervised visitation,” DS said and I knew he was softening and Paul would get to stay. We took him and Bailey to be declawed; that was our compromise. (Though now I’m better educated on that procedure and will not put our future cats through such an experience. Nail trimming only.)

We’ve both been so grateful to have that fat, silly cat in our lives. I call him my first dog–he came when called; he loved sitting on laps and being cuddled. He was completely unperturbed by any dog that entered our household. When we adopted Rigby, a 10-year-old pomeranian mix, he was ambivalent, and would lounge on a dining room chair, swatting at her backend. She was oblivious.

Paul and Rigby

Rigby and Paul

I had guinea pigs and recently found a video of one of them running around our living room floor; Paul looks intrigued, but jumps out of the way whenever the pig runs in his direction.

When he first met Sgt. Pepper, the youngest dog I had adopted up to that point, I thought for sure her energy would freak him out. Pepper skipped into the living room of our rental house in Illinois, and Paul sat on the floor completely unmoved. Bailey, on the other hand, ran for her life.

Begging for food 1

Sgt. Pepper and Paul begging for food. Pepper was approaching the end of her life here; she had cancer, which is why she’s so swollen.

And it’s been the same story with Jojo and Lucy. If he were younger, I think he’d enjoy wrestling with them–especially Lucy, who is smaller, and who seems to love Paul.


Always wanting to sleep on the newest blanket available

In Florida, he’d sunbathe and chase lizards on our porch, and he was always begging for food from the table. At Christmas, we would wrap up catnip in paper and he would unwrap it with his teeth, excited to get at the contents.

Spence and all the critters

Critters snuggling with DS. (Minus Bailey who is not a snuggler)

I remember sitting in the living room in the Florida house one day and Paul came running through at high speed. He had a piece of yarn hanging from his mouth. I didn’t think much of it until he kept running–back and forth. DS finally grabbed him and it turned out he’d swallowed half the yarn. He was panicking. DS pulled it out of his mouth and a crisis was averted.

Paul Window Blinds

Paul on my desk. He broke the blinds by going in and out of them so much.

He’s kept us company for 15 years. Making us laugh. Driving us crazy. (We had to rethink his feeding schedule when we realized he would cry (loudly) in our bedroom in the morning until we got up to feed him. We changed it to evening feedings for wet food.) Comforting us. Bringing us joy.

We learned he had cancer a few years ago. It’s a type of lymphoma, I believe. It has a high mortality rate, and one time in 2013, we thought we were going to lose him. His vet gave him a dose of medicine. “This might help him for a week. It might help for a month. We’ll see how it goes,” the vet said. Here we are, three years later and only now has his health declined more.

Paper Reading

Reading the paper

He’d been pawing at his mouth a lot over the last couple months, and when we took him in to be looked at, his gums were inflamed and some teeth needed to be pulled. Not an inexpensive procedure, but after some thought, I’d decided I would pay it if it would help him be comfortable for a little longer. Age has caught up with him. His fur isn’t like it was, and he’s down to 11 lbs. But he’s still as hungry as ever, so I thought that was a good sign.


Critter butts

Me and critters

Nothing better than relaxing with the critters.

I dropped him off for the dental, but the vet called me later to say she did an x-ray and it looked like cancer was in the jaw bone. When I first told my mom about Paul’s mouth problems, cancer was her first guess due to the experience one of her friend’s had with her dog’s teeth (and because Paul is living with cancer already). She was right.

Sleeping with Jojo

Snoozing with Jojo


Chilling with Lucy

It’s painful saying goodbye to such a good and devoted friend. He’s 17-years-old. He’s brought us happiness for 15 years. He has been such a joy. It’s sad letting him go, but what more can I ask from this furry little creature than for the delight he’s already given to all of us for so many years (though we always want more years). And what more can a friend do but find a way to ease that furry companion’s pain, and hold him in her arms, and thank him for being part of her life.

Family Portrait

Paul recently pushing his way between me and DS when we were next to each other on the couch. He’s brought us such laughter.


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