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Rick Ryckeley's picture

By midnight the last glass was finally placed in the dishwasher and all the wrapping paper thrown away. The excitement of Christmas had been replaced by a whole-body weariness that only comes from the holidays. Entertaining of family and little ones are extremely rewarding, but also extremely draining.
With pj’s on and all the lights off, it was time for a long overdue appointment with bed. A good night sleep was definitely in order.

But such was not to be the case at our house. Sleep would be elusive, and peacefulness would not be found that night or any night since.
She was coming – and our lives were about to be changed forever.
The origin of the noise that awoke us that night didn’t have its origin from the winter rainstorm raging outside. Nor was it from bare limbs raking across our windowpanes like bony fingers.

In fact, it didn’t come from outside at all. The sound emanated from our black cat. Something had frightened her, and she was sounding a warning.
A stranger was lurking right outside our front door.
Armed with a bat, I bumped and tripped my way through the darkness to the front windows, carefully pulled drapes back, and peered out. What I saw disarmed me completely. There, on our front porch, she stood shivering. Wet from head to foot, hair matted by the rain, she turned and looked over at me. Her penetrating gaze went straight through to my heart, and I simply knew. No matter what the cost, we had to help.

The Wife and I opened the door and assured her it was safe to come inside. We took her in, dried her off, and watched as she ate hungrily. As if it was her first good meal in weeks. She only paused long enough to look up at us with big yellow eyes full of thankfulness. The baby kitten was a stray.
After eating and drinking her fill, the little kitten curled up on our front porch and purred herself to sleep on top of a makeshift bed of towels. Her coat, a patchwork of orange, brown, and white made her name obvious to us. That night after Christmas we welcomed Patches into our family.

Patches remains an outdoor cat; sometimes she even brings friends back with her — A big orange long-haired we call Marmalade and a short-haired gray called Cinder.
We set out food and water for all and watch with delight with Little One as they eat. Even though she’s only 7 months old, it’s not too young for Little One to learn about kindness and the rewards of being charitable can bring.

Patches comes and goes at will, but she no longer has to wander around during the night in the rain. There is a dry place to call home. No longer is she cold. The Wife bought a bed and placed it on our front porch where Patches now sleeps.

Hunger for her is now a thing of the past. As long as Patches comes by, we will feed her. Unfortunately, such is not the same for the many others left out there in the cold to fend for themselves.
This year above all others, The Wife and I urge you to take in and give comfort to a stray. Whether they come in the four-legged variety or just two.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]


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