One afternoon as I walked home from school a tiny mew came from my shadow. I looked behind me and found the skinniest saddest little gray cat I’d ever seen. I knelt down and scratched his head. He cried and cried and rubbed his skinny frame all over me so happy for attention and love. So I told him to follow me home, and he did. My parents weren’t home yet, so I took it upon myself to feed the little guy from the store of food we kept for Sam. I called him “Gray” and he followed me all over the place for a few weeks.
My mother met him and he rolled all over the ground letting her rub his belly and play. We tried for awhile to hide the fact that we were feeding this “Little Gray Thing” from Dad but, as Dad’s usually do, I was caught in the act of giving food to the stray kitty.
For a time being we tried to see if any of the kids in my class had been missing a cat. One girl in my class said she was, in fact, missing her gray cat. So I told her to come by my house some time and see if it was hers. A few days later she was walking down the street and saw me holding my little Gray and came running over. She looked at the cat and said, “Have you seen my gray cat?”
“No,” I said. “I have not.”
Don’t judge! You would have done the same thing. Had that gray cat been hers she would have known. And if that gray cat had been in a loving home he wouldn’t have been as skinny and sad as he was when I found him.
It took a long time for my Dad to come around and let us take in the cat. The weather was starting to turn and it was getting colder and colder each night. One night after Dad and I went to bed, my mom went outside to the porch with a blanket and Gray hopped right into her lap and slept. She said she cried.
The next morning she told my dad that it was high time I had a cat of my own. That seemed to settle it. So off to the vet we went with our new friend to get him all checked out. He had already been fixed, he got his shots and finally we were able to bring him inside for the first time. We named him Shadow.
Sam, already a very senior kitty at this time, was not okay with this new development. Since Shadow was already a full grown kitty of about two years he quickly learned to just let our old man alone. Sam growled at him, hissed at him and pretty much ignored his new brother most days. They never played, they never fought, they just avoided one another.
Shadow would go outside for days at a time. I remember he was missing for almost two weeks. We were terribly worried about him. I remember watching Homeward Bound and crying when he finally came home. A little mew and a little gray face peeked over the door and I ran to him. When my parents came home from work they were very pleased to see our little Shadow had come home.
When I was thirteen, we brought home our Ami, a golden retriever puppy. She wanted so badly to be friends with Shadow, but much like Sam when Shadow came home, he wanted nothing to do with our puppy. They grew up together and over time they learned to not only tolerate one another by love each other. They never really snuggled, even though they flirted with the idea, but they would nap near each other.
Shadow was the cat that defied all logic. After I moved away to college he got sick and ended up needing pills for the rest of his kitty life. He lost a great deal of weight, he was so skinny it made us sad, but he ate like there was no tomorrow. He would eat so much we didn’t know how he could be so skinny. He grew older and scruffier over time. But he was still active. He went outside and spent his elderly days napping on benches, or in the grass. In the winter he would contently watch the birds from the window. He would stop eating for a day or two, then his appetite would return and he would eat two full cans a food in a sitting.
Shadow outlived his sister dog, and for many weeks sat by her water dish in the yard looking for her. And yet, for two years after Ami was gone he continued to live. He would sleep most of the day, but every once in a while he would prowl the yard and keep the neighborhood cats at bay. My mother recounted a story to me of hearing two cats growling at one another as she and Dad enjoyed a beer on the porch. She said a streak of white and orange ran passed followed quickly by a flash of gray. It took them a moment to realize that old Shadow, in his geriatric phase was the gray cat chasing the young spry cat off his yard. Even when he was super old he still found the energy to track down a bunny.
Shadow passed quietly with my mother and father at home giving him kisses and loves. He too is buried in the back yard next to his brother cat and his sister dog. Since then my parents have not adopted any more pets. They are enjoying their retirement and living vicariously through me and my two boys. There will come a time when there is another dog in my life, but that will have to wait for now. And there will come a blog about my Ami Girl as well. But that will have to wait until next week.