I don’t like sad stories, but the time has come when I have to write this one. If you remember I mentioned Sissy before. Sissy, rusty colored, green eyed, and short haired, was first seen wandering the streets of South Carolina one hot summer day when a kind-hearted woman took her into her house and called animal control. Sissy was hungry, frazzled, and frightened. Animal control placed her in a high kill shelter. While there, she was scanned for a microchip and contacted my daughter, Sophia, of Cat Crew Rescue, when it was learned the cat was originally from New Jersey. The microchip saved her life. An all-volunteer rescue outfit called Imagine Home arranged for a chain of drivers, each person driving approximately one hour, to take Sissy from one place to another until, eventually, she arrived in New Jersey and into the hands of Sophia. Sophia called to ask if I’d take a homeless, love-starved, older cat. When Bill and I saw the helpless, frightened, feline who had been traumatized by so many misadventures and the long trip to New Jersey we accepted and she was brought to my house.
Having had cats since I was a year old, I knew how to prepare a welcome for the female we named Sissy because she was reticent and shy. It took a while before she settled into our home, where there was food, water, comfy sofas, and rooms to explore, along with warmth in the winter, coolness in the summer, and nothing to cause her anxieties.
Sissy morphed into an entirely different being, immediately and happily adapting to her new surroundings. She meowed whenever she was hungry and ate like it might be her last supper. Whenever I’d open the doors that led outdoors she’d cringe away, probably reminding her of her homeless, lonely, hungry days. She was playful, but mostly, she’d prefer being curled up besides someone on the sofa watching TV or on the roomy bed where a plush comforter beckoned. She would revel sitting at the windows watching the birds at the bird feeder.
But, she was friendly to only those she recognized.
Recently, however, Sophia brought to my house another cat, a pretty, well mannered, four year old cat named Lucy, mostly white with just a couple of gray spots here and there. She had lived in a three-room apartment with an elderly woman who had decided she didn’t want a pet anymore. Sweet, playful, curious, Lucy studied us carefully before deciding she liked us. She made herself at home, easily, and loved exploring every nook and cranny of this roomy house. There isn’t a closet, cabinet, drawer, shelf, or enclosure she hasn’t discovered, scented, and investigated. No matter how much time goes by, she’d pry into those places as if it’s the first time she’d seen it.
But, the only deterrent to her lovely personality was that she didn’t like Sissy. She had never been with another cat, while Sissy had a sister somewhere. Sissy wanted to accept Lucy but Lucy wanted no part of her. She’d hiss and raise her claws at poor, shy Sissy. So, sensing no friendship was forthcoming, she accommodated her by staying away. They’d pass one another when they were going in a certain direction but Lucy hissed as a reminder that she hadn’t changed her mind. Sissy kept her distance. Then, a few days ago, Sissy was acting very differently. Her appetite lessened, she’d cough and sputter and began to salivate. I called Sophia, who took her to the vet. The news was bad, cancer of the mouth. She didn’t have long, just a few days.
She lived to almost 14, a perfectly respectable age for a cat. Bill and I wanted more time with her, naturally, but we felt gratitude that we could give her those few good, comfortable years. She knew she was loved. Even in those last days, she struggled up on the sofa, sat beside me and as I stroked her, and she’d purr, contentedly, despite how she must have felt. She’s no longer with us. When I am outdoors in this summery weather, I look around and try to visualize how Sissy must have felt when she was lost and desperate. I hope Lucy will be appreciative and thankful for the kingdom she now rules in solitude. Yet, I wonder if she doesn’t look around and ask herself, “Hey! Where’s that ol’ red rug?” It would be just like her.