Son’s memory lives on through Roger the Shelter cat

by Martha Anne Tudor

There’s a lot of talk in animal shelters about cats and dogs needing rescue. But we all know theirs aren’t the only lives saved through adoption. The power of animals to connect with humans in transforming and powerful ways is well-known by anyone who’s spent time with them.

The adoption last month of a cat named Roger, however, was especially moving and significant.

Hundreds of homeless animals come through the Aiken County Animal Shelter’s doors every month. Like every other animal there, Roger was hoping this wasn’t the end of the line – that someone would want him and give him a future.

Roger had never known life outside the shelter. He was born there last spring. A striking gray tabby with white patches, no one understood why he got passed by for several weeks. He was sweet, cuddly, and everything a kitty should be.

So shelter volunteers decided to feature Roger in a Facebook post, hoping that, with time, his plight might catch someone’s attention. It took only 50 minutes for Daniel Thomas Perry Jr.’s mom, Wendy Wahl, to see Roger’s post from her home in Key Largo.

She sent the post to Daniel, a 30-year-old known as much for this athleticism as his intelligence. He was a certified scuba instructor and technical diver who’d captained private yachts in Florida and the Bahamas. Daniel loved travel, languages and cyber technology, and enjoyed playing computer games he’d written. He’d recently begun school in Augusta to learn more about programming. He lived alone but wanted a pet.

When Daniel saw Roger’s post, he fell in love and canceled his weekend travel plans so he could go adopt him.

Wendy got this text shortly after Daniel brought Roger home:

“He is soft like the finest silk, loves belly rubs, tummy kisses, answers to his name and follows you around and sticks to you like glue. I am in love with this beautiful kitty. He has stolen my heart.”

That was a Tuesday. Daniel communicated with Wendy a lot the next three days, sharing pictures and videos of Roger, and getting advice about cats. Wendy ordered a cat-tree to be delivered.

“He’s perfect.” Daniel texted her. “I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

But that Saturday night, Daniel was found dead in his home, Roger by his side. There are no answers yet as to cause of death, but Wendy reached through unimaginable grief to tell a shelter volunteer the vital role Roger had in Daniel’s last days and to say Roger would have a home the rest of his life.

“Daniel loved that cat, and because of Roger, Daniel didn’t die alone,” said Wendy, who’s now given Roger a middle name – Thomas – like her son’s.

“It brings me comfort that Roger was with Daniel and loved him through his transition from this life. It makes Roger very dear to my heart that he served such a special purpose.”

Roger Thomas was listed as a survivor in Daniel’s obituary.