Betty Bowers nuzzled his last goodbyes in the loving arms of his mom, Stacey, before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Everyone present agreed that he had been a good boy—one of the best boys—his whole tiny life.
In the summer of 2007, on break from college and working part-time at Eubanks Veterinary Clinic in Levy, Stacey discovered a tiny, rambunctious, long-haired tabby kitten in one of the cages in the back. As the story goes, the little critter had been found in a ditch with its unlucky siblings who weren’t able to be rescued. This little kitten had a cloudy eye, a respiratory infection, a crooked tail and a funny mole in its side that an X-ray later revealed to be a BB. Whenever Stacey opened the cage to check on it, the kitten, so eager for love, would take a brave, flying leap onto her chest and she’d wrap her arms around it. Stacey fell in love with the kitten, named Natalie by the kind soul who had recovered it from the ditch, and began the short struggle with her mother to keep the kitten even though Stacey was going back to college out of state in just a few weeks.
The kitten seemed to enjoy car rides at first, being swept home to win over its grandma Sue’s heart while Stacey took lunch breaks from work at the vet clinic. Sue is a sucker for cats, and after only a few visits agreed that the kitten needed some extra love and would stay with her until Stacey finished college. Stacey waited until after Sue had agreed to keep the kitten to reveal how many times it had gotten motion sickness in the car—once inside her purse.
During one car ride, Stacey jokingly asked the kitten what it would like to be named, because Natalie was far too long and precious a name in her opinion, just as Ram Jam’s version of “Black Betty” came on the radio, and Stacey took it as an omen. She’s always been a bit embarrassed about the origin of Betty the cat’s name, but the name stuck and would come to mean so much to her over time. Stacey went to PetSmart and picked out a pink rhinestone collar and an engraved name tag for Betty. A few weeks later, the vet revealed Betty to be a boy, but the name was a done deal.
At the beginning of the summer, Stacey’s heart had been broken for the first time by a boy, and she was taking it incredibly hard. By the end of the summer, a new boy—with four legs, a bad eye and a girl’s name—came along and fixed everything.
During the two and a half years while Betty lived with Sue and his grandpa Jeff, he was a wild child. He was a high jumper, and would perch on your shoulder like a furry parrot. He was a busybody and got into everything. He was accidentally destructive and once smashed a flatscreen tv; all televisions had to be screwed down going forward. He knew intrinsically how to fetch, and preferred you to throw plastic-wrapped soft peppermints for him to bring back to you. He loved little stuffed toys, especially from McDonald’s Happy Meals, the green lizard being his favorite. His uncle Steven called Betty’s toys his “doodads” and loved to play with him. Betty was wiry and skinny, and he puked all of the time on everything, but his family loved him anyway.
When Stacey graduated college, she took Betty against his will briefly to Shreveport, which he hated endlessly. For several months he rebelled, even running away once and hiding under a busted toilet in the neighbor’s junkyard. He was especially upset when a chubby, feral , calico kitten came into the house and never left. He never really came around to his sister Pearl, but they learned to coexist after several months of vicious wrestling that resulted in swollen toes and gooey eyes.
Stacey took Betty and Pearl home to Arkansas when she finally landed a full-time job there. For several years they bounced from rent house to apartment to rent house and met more than their fair share of mom’s new boyfriends. Betty never met a stranger and was friendly to everyone who was friendly to him, but when he knew it was time for his mom to have a fresh start, he would get a little passive-aggressive, sometimes even resorting to peeing in a boy’s laundry if he overstayed Betty’s welcome. From the start, Betty was always there for his mom when her heart got broken. When she met a boy named Collin in 2015, Betty never protested. Collin grew to love Betty about as much as Stacey did, and Betty loved him back. Eventually Betty stopped sleeping with Stacey at night and migrated permanently to Collin’s side of the bed.
When Stacey started making jewelry in 2013, she lovingly named her little venture Bang-Up Betty after her best friend. People always asked Stacey when they saw her out selling her jewelry if her name was Betty, and she smiled and told them the story of her boy cat named Betty. People loved the story of Betty, and he had his picture featured in a handful of magazines. Once a tv station even stopped by Stacey’s workshop to feature Betty on the evening news. Stacey’s not sure how she’s going to answer the question “Are you Betty?” going forward; she’s expecting it to hurt quite a bit for a long time.
Until his very last days, Betty loved to sit in the window in Stacey’s workshop overlooking the flowerbed, right in front of her desk while she worked. He loved to soak up the warm sun and get the occasional petting while he napped. Stacey knew for several weeks that Betty might not be around much longer. His health, never very good, was quickly declining. When Betty was ready to say goodbye, Stacey planted him in the flowerbed under the window where he loved to sit. He will always be her delicate little flower.