As a new resident to Laguna Beach back in 2004, I would often do a double take whenever I drove past a little blue and white cottage nestled at the base of the Canyon. Winding my way along Laguna Canyon Road, I would slow down to catch a glimpse of cats lounging by the windows or roaming the enclosed patio. A sign by the side of the road read: The Blue Bell Foundation for Cats. Was it a home for wayward cats—or even better, a home for crazy cat ladies and their cats?
Fast forward to 2013 after my cat lady curiosity got the best of me, I took a tour of the cat cottage and learned that Blue Bell is a sanctuary for cats whose human companions can no longer care for them, such as when they pass away, a common circumstance for most of the kitties who come to live there. After my tour and spending time with Trixie, Domino and Teddy, a few among the 50 feline residents, I completed a volunteer application.
On my first day as a cat cuddler, I went into the small kitchen off the foyer to wash my hands when a gray ball of fluff standing by my feet caught my attention. I looked down to see giant yellow eyes gazing up at me through pastel gray and peach toned fur. A silent meow came out of her mouth as though she wanted to say, “Welcome!” but it didn’t quite make it past her whiskers.
“This is Abbey,” said Stephanie, the cat caregiver as she picked up Abbey and gently handed her to me. Abbey snuggled into the crook of my neck, resting her paws on my shoulder. I was instantly smitten with what appeared to be a kitten, although Abbey was not a youngster at the age of 19.
Every Friday that I spent time with Abbey I became more enamored. How could I not fall for a sweet-faced Persian who purposefully marched over to the glass door separating the foyer from the main room when she saw me arrive? I couldn’t complete the sign-in sheet fast enough. Abbey would paw at the door until I opened it then greeted me with a soft, raspy meow. I would tell her about my week as I carried her around. I would eventually put her down so I could visit with the others, but got “evil eye” from Abbey across the room until I walked back over to sit next to her. She would settle in next to me, content to have me all to herself once again.
One day I had to be on a conference call with a client during the same time as my volunteer shift. I had two choices: a) not go to Blue Bell, or, b) go, and take my work with me. Of course, I opted for the latter. Abbey, I learned that day was quite industrious as she assisted me in organizing my notes after the call.
About two years into my volunteer gig, Abbey’s health began to decline and she required more veterinary care. She would bounce back, yet I could see her slowing down. One particular visit I helped the cat caretaker shave a small matt off of Abbey’s tummy, which she tolerated with stoic patience. After we were done, I kissed Abbey’s head, and said good-bye.
That was the last time I saw Abbey. The following Friday morning, her time had come to leave us.
I have new feline friends at Blue Bell and adore them all. But, as with certain people, we make special, strong connections with certain animals. Among the strongest of my animal connections was with Abbey.
In memory of Abbey, 1994 – May 29, 2015