Best friends

Rick Ryckeley

Hallmark-type stories from a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away have, for years, made up the bulk of this column. This was not by design; it was just truly a magical time that my three brothers, The Sister, and I spent growing up on Flamingo.

Sprinkled in have also been other stories about The Wife, the two most darling granddaughters on this planet, and my general observations of life. Since 2001, with each weekly story, I’ve either tried to make you laugh, cry, or maybe leave you looking at a subject in ways you never would have before. This story is different, and there’s no way around it. This story is of great loss.

Have you ever met that certain somebody and, from the very start, knew they were the one? The one put on this Earth just for you? Someone who’d keep you company, listen to your problems, give comfort in times of hardship, love you unconditionally and end up being the best friend you ever had. Seventeen years ago I did. Our story starts with a chance meeting in a small, dimly lit room. She did all the talking — I just listened. It was a meeting that almost didn’t happen.

An early morning thunderstorm raged as the animal control officer pulled into the parking lot of the county shelter. Hurrying to get inside and out of the pounding rain, the animal control officer paused, just for a moment. Had she actually heard a baby crying?

As a jagged flash of lightning tore open the blackened sky, she started a frantic search as the crying intensified trying to drown out the rain. “Was the baby inside the dumpster?” she wondered. Upon investigation what she found even surprised her.

Discarded like a piece of unwanted trash behind the dumpster, unshielded from the elements and no bigger than the palm of her hand, a baby tabby cat was crying for help. All alone, it was a miracle she somehow had survived. The second miracle happened a week later — a chance meeting with a firefighter who had hated cats all his life.

That afternoon, The Wife and I visited the shelter to look at dogs. We were thinking about adopting another one so our lab would have somebody to play with. Inside the shelter, half a dozen cages flanked either side of a long narrow room. At the end was the small room housing stray cats. After looking at all the dogs, The Wife wanted to see the cats. Begrudgingly, I went with her.

Turning the corner, I saw the baby tabby alone in a cage. Once the door was opened, she climbed up my arm, sat on the top of my head and started to knead. I immediately fell in love with the “talkative” little cat.

The officer who found her stated she was alone because she hadn’t gotten along with the other cats. She had no friends. From the very start, the talkative cat and I had something in common.

The Wife said we couldn’t just adopt a single cat. So one by one she placed a cat in the same cage with the tabby, and one by one, the tabby hissed at each of them. The last cat was sick and slated to be put down within a week if she didn’t get any better. Still, The Wife wanted to give that baby a try.

All black with a white tuff on the center of her chest, she just laid there when placed in the cage. Suddenly, the tabby stopped talking and started to groom her. It was decided. We had to get both. Precious and the talkative Cat Cat came home with us and soon became the best of friends.

With instructions, The Wife nursed the black cat back to health by feeding her with an eyedropper, giving her antibiotics, and lots of love.

Cat Cat had learned in order to be noticed, she had to talk — and talk loudly. When we entered or left the room, she talked. She talked to be groomed, fed, when we went to bed or when she thought it was time for us to get up. At the end of a long day of talking, she would knead herself to sleep while lying on my chest.

This was her routine until two weeks ago when we took her in for a checkup. She had stopped eating. The veterinarian said cats hang on to life longer than they should because they know how much their humans need them. But now the humane thing to do was to put her down so she wouldn’t suffer any longer.

It was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do. Leaving the office that day I didn’t think things could get any worse. Unfortunately, I was terribly wrong.

Two weeks later, we lost Precious. The vet said 17 years is a long time for cats to live. It was just her time. Me? I think she died of a broken heart. Losing her lifelong friend was just too much for the sweet cat to bear.

Our two granddaughters want us to adopt another kitten, puppy, or perhaps both from the local animal shelter. Me? It’s just too soon – the loss too great. The energy in our house has changed. The silence is deafening.

Still, if I listen carefully, I can hear our mouthy little tabby cat talking and her sweet sister purring a welcoming hello.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]