A Holiday Rescue

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For the last year it had been her house, and if asked, she would say it would be hers for another twenty or more. That is if she was in the mood to answer. After all, one never knows the mood of a cat.

Rays of warmth from the morning sun streaming in the curtainless window acted as nature’s alarm clock, pulling her from a deep slumber. Stretching all four legs at the same time, paws reached out for invisible balls but found none.

No matter. Time to play would be plentiful throughout the day and night – especially at night. After all, this was her house. And in her house, she could do anything she wanted … at any time. Stretching now completed (officially ending the first of many naps throughout the day), the next order of business was the lingering yawn – one she had perfected into a display of razor-sharp, pearly white teeth.

She owed her teeth’s good condition to the many hard cat treats she made her human caregivers toss her way throughout the day. Treats were rewards for the feats of incredible acrobatics she performed. Such little effort for such wonderful goodness.

Another long stretch, then the black cat with the small white tuft on her chest slowly and gracefully walked towards the already full food bowl, making sure to give a cursory circle and rub of her silky black hair around the welcoming bare legs of one of her humans.

She chose to make the humans feel like they were in charge – even though she knew they weren’t. She purred contentedly at the silliness of such a thought. Of course, she was in charge; after all it had been her house since her arrival and that would never change. Or would it?

Very soon the life of the black cat with the small white tuft on her chest would never be the same again. Change was coming that very afternoon: it would no longer be just her house anymore.

The cat carrier with the front opened was placed on the living room carpet. The sound emanating from inside was unmistakable: a high pitched “meoooow.” The constant meowing continued as she watched the gray and black tabby cat, no bigger than the hand of one of her humans, emerging from the open door of the carrier.

Padding over to investigate, she was amazed at the fragility of the little one. Instinctively, she realized that she too must have once been a rescue needing to be looked after. She provided her immediate acceptance in the form of grooming licks, then guided the new addition of the family over to share her sunbeam.

They were sisters in this world, but from a different mother. They had been given up by families who didn’t want them, only to be adopted by a family who desperately did. It was a common bond that would never be broken.

The two cats couldn’t have been more different in their looks or personalities. The tabby with the coarse gray and black hair never stopped talking throughout the day. She talked when she wanted food, when any of the humans walked by, and even in her sleep. And when she really wanted attention, the tabby shook and screamed until she got what she wanted. Often, what she wanted was for her humans to sit down so she could curl up in a nice warm lap and go to sleep.

The black cat with the little white tuft on its chest rarely spoke. But when she did, it was a single elegant meow – never followed by another. When not on their humans’ laps, the two could be found either performing gravity-defying acrobatics or following sunbeams around the house and holding them down so they could cuddle and nap together in the warmth.

At nighttime, they’d find their humans’ bed and sleep at their feet, protecting them from what lurks in the dark world of night. For the next year the two adopted cats who had found a new family were happy and content. But neither could have realized how their lives would change at the start of their second year with the arrival of another.

Early one Saturday morning, an infant carrier was placed down on the living room floor. It was very different from the one that brought the gray and black tabby to her, but a similar non-stop screaming emanated from it. Their humans had brought a smaller human home to keep them company.

If asked, the black cat would have said she was amused that there was finally something in the house that could scream louder than the tabby. And if asked, the tabby would have shared she wasn’t amused at such a characterization. But both soon grew to love their little human as they would also love her younger sister brought home the following year.

For the next eighteen years, the two cats kept watch over their humans during the day and night. Nighttime found the tabby snuggling up to the little blond human and the black cat doing the same at the feet of the red-headed sister.

Then, one night, the two cats went to put their small humans to bed and found that they had gone. Where, they didn’t know. It took a little while. After all, cats don’t like change, but eventually the two found their way back to the feet of their older humans — once again keeping them safe during the night by sleeping at the end of their bed.

The cats, two sisters from different mothers, would live for another two years. Sadly, early one afternoon while holding down a particular active sunbeam, the black cat passed away. For the next three weeks, the tabby wandered around the house looking for her life-long friend until she too left this world behind. If asked, her humans would say she died from a broken heart.

A few years later, with their college days behind them, both girls moved into separate homes in separate cities. After settling in, the first item they brought to their new homes was a cat carrier they sat down on the living room floor. Inside of each carrier was one black cat and one tabby cat. And just like the ones they grew up with, the cats were adopted.

It was over twenty years ago this week that The Wife and I visited our local animal shelter. We adopted one very small black cat that The Wife had to nurse back to health and a year later a very loud tabby cat. They’re the cats from the story above.

So, Dear Reader, I leave you with these two questions. With the holidays nearing, the weather turning much colder, and animal shelters in this town soon to be full, how about taking the kids and visit your local animal shelter for one of the best gifts of all? An animal rescue.

And if you adopt a cat, why not adopt two? After all, cats get lonely during the day. They need another cat to play with until their humans come back home. And, of course, one cat just isn’t enough to hold down all those sunbeams.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]