When Joan Price started feeding the stray cats around her apartment building years ago, she could have never imagined how much of a difference one of these cats would make at the end of her life.
Isis’ story starts like many stories about cats do. She lived outside as a stray, and a kind woman started to feed her and her family. After a series of issues with cat-hating neighbors, lucky Isis became an indoor cat — her caretaker officially adopting her after she’d been trapped and taken to the county shelter, where she’d certainly have been killed. She went over the next day, told the shelter staff members the story, filled out the paperwork, and brought Isis back home to live as an inside cat, on Valentine’s Day. From then on, Isis didn’t have to worry about being outside, mean people, or when her next meal would be.
Joan went through so much to save Isis and make sure she was safe, loved, and comfortable, and now Isis is repaying the favor in the most magical way. Joan is in hospice with cirrhosis, and her doctors say she has only a few months to live. She has only one family member, a cousin who lives several thousand miles away, and several friends she met through an online cat group who live throughout the country.
During the past year and a half, Isis watched more than a few times as paramedics came into the apartment and took her mom away after a bad fall or sickness. Joan always came back home, and the two of them would go back to cuddling in bed and sharing their incredible bond. Isis shared her pillow, and Joan kept a bag of chicken-flavored Temptations on her nightstand in case Isis wanted her “yummies” in the middle of the night.
After one particularly bad fall a couple of months ago that left Joan helpless on her bedroom floor for several days, Isis watched as the paramedics took her mom away again. But this time, she didn’t come back home. Joan went straight from the hospital to rehab, and straight from rehab to a hospice assisted-living facility.
During these three months, Joan continued to pay the rent on her one-bedroom apartment a few blocks from the beach in South Florida. She knew she wasn’t going back, but she did it so that Isis had a place to stay and didn’t have to go to the shelter. She knew that adult black cats do not have good chances there, and she couldn’t bear the thought of Isis not being safe and loved.
However, money was running out, and the kind maintenance man who had been going in daily to feed Isis and scoop her litter box couldn’t continue to do it indefinitely — and it wasn’t fair to Isis to be left alone all day every day. So Joan called as many local rescues as she could find a phone number for, looking for help with rehoming Isis.
That’s how I met her.
I work with many South Florida rescues and had seen a small post about a dying woman whose cat needed a home, but honestly continued to scroll past. It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s just that we see these posts so often that it’s hard to react to every single one. There was no picture, and very little info, so there wasn’t much to go on anyway.
But when a second rescue wrote me about the same woman and same cat a few hours later, I realized how much this woman was trying desperately to help her cat. Since I have a fairly large (and wonderful) social media following, the email asked if I could put the story out to maybe garner a little interest, and it included Joan’s name and phone number.
I called Joan to get a little more information and ask for a picture or two to share. I also wanted to confirm that this was a legitimate situation, that if we found the cat a home we’d have access to the apartment, and — quite honestly — whether the cat was still in the apartment. It wouldn’t be unheard of for someone to have taken Isis to the shelter, knowing Joan would never come home or truly know.
As it turned out, Joan was a gem. She sounded so sweet, and her only concern in the world was making sure her cat, who I then learned was named Isis, found a new loving home. She had come to peace with her own situation, but it was Isis that she could not stop worrying about. She hadn’t seen her all this time, could not go to visit her at her old apartment, and was told that Isis could not visit her there because people there were allergic to cats.
I told her I work with rescues and do cat transports, that we usually have pretty good luck finding adopters, especially in heart-wrenching cases like this, and that I wanted to help Isis. At first I don’t think she understood — she kept asking if I was the adopter. But then I believe she got it, and she gave me the maintenance man’s phone number. He’d get us photos and give us access to the apartment if we found Isis a new home.
Joan also said she had none of her own belongings with her. She said she wanted a couple of her shirts, some of her favorite leggings, the ashes of her past two cats, and the pictures of her with them. It wasn’t much, but these little things would make a big difference to her, I knew.
I posted a three-part plea for help on Facebook:
1. We just have to find Isis a new home!
2. If there is any way, I want to get Joan some of her things from her apartment.
3. If there’s any possible way, I’ll get Isis in to visit Joan so she can see her baby again!
That Facebook post, and all the comments that followed, brought out a remarkable group of people who wanted to do whatever they could to help Isis and Joan. Numerous people shared the post to help find Isis a home, and many others asked what they could do to help Joan.
Within a couple of days, a plan came into place. First, a kind friend of mine, Kim Droze, offered to meet the maintenance man at Joan’s apartment, collect a few of Joan’s things, and bring them to her at the hospice. Second, several people expressed interest in adopting Isis.
I asked another great friend of mine, Leslie Wynne, whether she would foster Isis. This way, we could get her out of that lonely apartment and around people again while we worked with my favorite local group, Good Karma Pet Rescue, to go through adoption applications and make sure we found Isis the best home. Leslie said yes. I headed to Joan’s apartment that very weekend to get Isis.
The cat was petrified, understandably so, and very nervous. She hadn’t been around people for almost two months, and she had no idea what was happening. The maintenance man and I had to fish her out from inside the mattress box spring, then from inside a recliner (did you know recliners have insides?), and then from behind the couch. I finally got her safely tucked into a carrier, and off we went to Leslie’s place.
Then, after about a week, I got the hospice facility to let Isis visit.
When I told Joan, she was so happy, and we arranged a visit. Leslie brought Isis, and I came with a photographer friend, Stephanie Sonju, so we could capture their reunion and also give Joan some pictures of her and Isis together.
It was a most heartwarming, beautiful, loving, and sad visit. Isis clung to Joan like nothing I’d ever seen and lay with her for several hours, Joan petting her the whole time. She just burrowed in her mom, obviously so in love with her and happy to see her, and I’m quite sure she would have stayed like that for days if she could have.
I had also learned of a few more of Joan’s favorite things, and we brought them for her as well — raspberry cheesecake bars, cinnamon raisin rice pudding, and frozen tiramisu. The hospice offers meals, but Joan has no way to get these special treats for herself. Since then, I can’t even count how many boxes of cheesecake bars she’s demolished, tubs of rice pudding she’s eaten, or cups of tiramisu that she’s devoured. It’s good to see her happy and eating well.
Joan’s whole outlook and attitude changed. Her caretaker said she’d never seen her smile until then, her doctor said she seemed like a different person, and her social worker noticed her upbeat change in demeanor as well.
As for Isis, we did find her a home with a lovely woman in Michigan and a generous person who’d fly her up there first-class. But when we realized that she could continue to visit Joan, it only made sense to try and keep her more local. So we’ll be looking for a very special forever home in South Florida with someone who is willing to bring her to visit Joan at least once a week while Joan is still with us. This way Isis can start settling into her new home, and Joan and Isis can still benefit from each other’s company.
The story doesn’t end there. I created a Facebook group from that original post that has grown to more than 750 people who all want to help Isis and Joan, follow their story, and cheer them on. Joan calls me her fairy godmother, and there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing her happy because of all the things we’re doing for her.
We started a campaign to send her Christmas cards, and she received more than 250 of them — some coming from as far as Malaysia and New Zealand. We decorated her room for Christmas, sent her flowers (twice), put money in her Amazon account so she could buy Kindle books, and got her a plush stand so she wouldn’t have to hold the reader up with her weak arms.
A generous member donated an iPod Touch so we could download some of Joan’s favorite music (she missed her CDs at home), and we bought her purple (her favorite color) headphones to listen.
We arranged for Leslie’s hair stylist to come to Joan and give her the haircut she’d needed for two and a half years. She looked gorgeous afterward. We brought her blankies, slippers, lounge pants, and her favorite toothpaste.
Another group member, who owns the Royal Bobbleheads, had his artist create a custom Isis bobblehead — with a purple base (of course) and yellow forsythias (her favorite flower) painted on it.
A member called BZTAT, an artist who specializes in pet portraits, made a framed custom digital portrait of Isis for Joan to hang in her room and enclosed a print copy for Leslie and Isis’ future family as well.
We’ve also done things for the other residents in the house. One group member ordered a poinsettia plant for every resident of the home so they’d each have something special to smile about during the holidays. Several people sent them Christmas cards. On a recent weekend we put together a live music and pizza party. We ordered lunch and a friend of mine, Tom Bourbon, played guitar and sang. Seeing everyone happy and smiling and enjoying themselves was just beautiful.
For Joan, I started a fundraiser page to create a “Joan Fund” for whatever she needs. In just a few days, people had donated $1,500. With that money, we’ve purchased her several other things — and we continue to surprise her.
Isis, of course, is also getting showered with love, gifts, and kindness. She has a drawer in Joan’s room dedicated to her new toys. She’s received a purple (of course) cat napper blankie and bags of her favorite Temptation treats.
Isis continues to visit Joan at least once a week to curl up as close as possible and turn on her rumbling purrs. Joan and Isis lay together soaking up every minute they can together.
I hope the story continues for many months to come. Since I met Joan, her doctor has said he believes she has more time, especially given how great she’s feeling. Her pain seems to be increasing, and we’ll eventually have to say goodbye, but in the meantime I am so glad we met. Joan has shown me, and many others, what true selfless love is, and I’m inspired by her bubbly, positive spirit and upbeat attitude. It’s been an amazing couple of months.
And it all started because of one little black cat.