Grandpa Mason

Grandpa Mason and one of his kittens.

Ah, Thanksgiving Day. That’s the day newspapers have editorials telling people how much they have to be thankful for. While we do have plenty to be thankful for, the trouble with such editorials is you can only write so much without starting to sound trite. No one needs trite.

I could tell the story of the first Thanksgiving. That’s the one about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. However, I understand that’s a no-no now, as the Pilgrims are now bad guys because they were colonizers and approved of genocide. I might get myself in trouble if I talked about that.

Instead of that, I’ll retell a story that says there is still kindness and wonderful things in this world. Some of those things come with four feet. I’m going to retell the remarkable story of a feral cat named Grandpa Mason.

Mason was the name given to a feral cat who was captured in October 2016 as part of a trap-neuter-release program in Vancouver, B.C. The group that caught him, Tiny Kittens, could see he was about the oldest feral cat they’d ever seen. They figured he was at least 10 or 11 years old, and his many battle scars showed how hard he had fought to survive that long. He was very fierce around humans.

Mason had some health issues that the group took care of, including abscessed teeth and a growth on the underside of his right front paw. He was also neutered, and the group was preparing to return him to the wild. Then, they got bad news:  the veterinarian they were working with said Mason had terminal kidney disease.

The Tiny Kittens people realized returning Mason to the wild would be cruel, as he would be in terrible pain and likely wouldn’t last the winter. At the same time, his fierceness meant he was not a candidate for adoption. The vet said humane euthanasia was a viable option.

One couple, led by Shelly Roche, vetoed that idea. They thought Mason deserved a chance to spend his final days in comfort after his hard life. So, they stabilized his kidneys with medications and took him into their home.

At first, Mason hated living in a home. Soon, he began to adjust. He liked having a nice comfy bed to sleep in, and he didn’t mind not having to forage or hunt for food.

The couple soon saw that Mason was exploring their home at night when they were asleep. Judging from how some objects had been moved around, he was finding ways of getting into kitty mischief. He was also having fun with the cat toys they put out for him.

The cat toys were a real ice breaker. Mason wouldn’t let the couple pet him, but through cat toys and play time, they could interact with him. He was very happy and excited when they would play with him. They wondered if he’d ever had a chance to just have fun and enjoy being a cat.

Then, something happened that changed everything. It gave Mason a purpose for life, and it would make him an Internet star:  the couple brought home a pair of foster kittens.

These were kittens who were orphans and were too young to be on their own. They needed someone to raise them and socialize them until they were old enough to be adopted.

Almost no sooner had they taken the kittens out of their carrier and set them on the floor than they spotted Mason. Recognizing him as another cat, they toddled over to him. Shelly said what happened next blew her away.

After a few moments of mutual sniffing, Mason let the kittens into his space and let them climb all over him. He then started playing with them. Then, they all curled up together in Mason’s bed for a nap.

It seems that Mason, this tough old feral cat, loved kittens. He loved to play with them, he loved to snuggle with them and give them baths, he loved being with them and being there for them.

Shelly said Mason always knew when they brought in some new foster kittens, and he’d get all excited and couldn’t wait to meet them.

It was more than just fun and games. Mason seemed to know these kittens had no mothers, and took up the role of a surrogate parent. He taught them how to be cats, and did things for them that only another cat could do.

Given his age, that’s how he got the nickname Grandpa Mason.

Mason even became friendlier to humans, at least the humans around him. He reached the point where he liked being petted, although, of course, he never let on he liked it.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. In September 2019, Mason’s kidneys gave out for good. Rather than see him in pain, the couple decided to have him euthanized.

On Sept. 19, 2019, not even four weeks before the third anniversary of his capture, Mason slipped his mortal coil and crossed the rainbow bridge to his eternal home. He did it at home, surrounded by his humans and the kittens he loved and who loved him. He’s now in the care of the angels, where he will never be cold, homeless, hungry or in pain again.

There is a lot to learn from Mason’s story. The couple would’ve been justified in having him euthanized when they learned he was sick. However, if they had done that, he would not have enriched their lives the way he did during the time he lived with them.

Who would’ve guessed this tough, fierce, sick, old feral cat could show the world so much about love and caring? Who would’ve guessed he would bring so much joy to the people who knew him?

If there was hope for Grandpa Mason, maybe there’s hope for all of us. Maybe we need more people in this world who are like Mason, especially those who walk around on two feet.

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