DELHI TWP. – Jon Glazier’s cat Einstein often hides under beds and behind chairs to avoid strangers. Don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a hiss or a growl when you meet him.
But when Glazier, a 38-year-old single father who’s battling stage 3 testicular cancer, needs company after yet another round of chemotherapy Einstein is his constant comfort.
“He doesn’t really like any other people except for me,” Glazier said of the three-year old brown, striped pet. “But he doesn’t leave my side. Wherever I go, whatever I do, he’s there for me.”
Einstein has been Glazier’s sidekick through cancer for the last three years, his companion through the exhausting and painful recovery from chemotherapy.
But the two were separated recently — Einstein moving in with an animal advocate because Glazier couldn’t have pets in his new apartment.
The kindness of a few community members brought them back together.
‘We wanted to do anything we could’
Glazier and his son Jeffery, 10, brought Einstein home from Eaton County Animal Control when the cat was just four weeks old.
“From the moment that we saw him he clung to us,” he said. The bond was immediate, lasting. Einstein was a member of the family.
Then last month Glazier needed to make a sudden move to a new apartment in Delhi Township.
Glazier’s a contract worker with the state and can’t afford health insurance so his budget is limited. The only apartment he found maintained a strict, no-pet policy.
That’s when Grand Ledge resident Heather Wiedenhoeft, an animal advocate and rescuer, got a call from him. The two knew one another through Wiedenhoeft’s boyfriend Ron Bruining. They both volunteer at the Capital Area Humane Society.
Wiedenhoeft, a critical care nurse at Sparrow Hospital, didn’t know Glazier was sick. He hadn’t shared his condition with very many people.
Can you take Einstein, he asked?
“I could hear his voice start cracking over the phone when he asked me,” she said. “I knew he was a huge animal lover.”
The gravity of his situation didn’t dawn on her though until she met him to pick up the cat just a few days before Thanksgiving.
“When I took the cat from him I could see the tears in his eyes,” said Wiedenhoeft. “He didn’t say much. He’s a quiet man, very quiet, and that may be why he was hesitant to explain.”
Still, his demeanor moved her, and she left in tears herself.
“I was bawling the whole way home,” Wiedenhoeft said.
Later that night Glazier contacted her and Bruining to check on Einstein, who had been hiding under her bed since his arrival. He told her about his health and about his relationship with Einstein.
Glazier will be on chemotherapy indefinitely, likely for the remainder of his life.
Cancer treatments come every other week, when Jeffery is with his mom, he told her. Einstein spends those days with him, a support system he’s come to depend on.
“That’s when we both decided we needed to do whatever we could to get his cat back to him,” she said. “We wouldn’t let anything happen to the cat, and we’d keep him safe if that wasn’t a possibility, but we wanted to do anything we could.”
Bruining tracked down contact information for his landlord, and Wiedenhoeft sent him an email that night.
“I understand you have a strict no pet policy but I am asking for your consideration in a not so ordinary case,” she wrote. “I’m not sure if you know much about Jonathan’s situation. He is an amazing single father. Unfortunately, this man, who would give the shirt off his back to help someone else, may have been too humble to tell you the reason his cat is so important to him.”
Time to make an exception
Jerry Ericks of Mason has owned the apartment Glazier’s renting for 25 years. He had learned years before that pets can equal trouble for a property owner.
“I had some really bad experiences with people who had pets,” he said. “I said never again years ago.”
That all changed when he read Wiedenhoeft’s plea.
Ericks said he had no idea Glazier was battling cancer and the letter instantly changed his mind. It was time, he said, to make an exception.
“With the situation he has, you know, sometimes you’ve got to void your rules and go with what’s right,” he said. “You’ve got to care about people. I said, ‘Just take the cat to him.’ I just felt, with this man, that it was the right thing to do.”
“There were no questions asked,” Wiedenhoeft said. “He immediately took it in his heart to have compassion for Jon.”
The night before Thanksgiving, Wiedenhoeft and Bruining called Glazier.
Your landlord changed his mind, they said. Einstein can come home.
“I broke down,” Glazier said. “I wept.”
On Thanksgiving morning, Glazier and Jeffery drove to Grand Ledge. Einstein had been under a bed since Wiedenhoeft had picked him up and refused to come out until his owner stepped in the house.
“He immediately came out for Jon,” Wiedenhoeft said. “That made it so special.”
Glazier said the cat’s return has been a blessing. He’s settled back into old habits, sitting with his owner when he’s needed most.
The kindness of friends and his landlord is humbling, Glazier said.
“I don’t really know what to say. There’s nothing I can do to thank them enough.”
Wiedenhoeft and Bruining have since started an on-line fundraising effort to help give Glazier and his son a happy holiday. She said ‘thank yous’ aren’t even necessary.
“Working in a critical care unit I take care of sick people all day, every day and it’s so hard for me to see someone not have the support system they need,” she said.
“A lot of people don’t realize that support systems can come from so many different things for different people. In his case it was his cat, and it broke me up inside to think that he could be going through so much and not have that in his life. It broke my heart to think about it.”
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