Lucky was not our cat. He belonged to a neighbor a couple doors down. But the owner was out of town a lot and he had two other cats, so Lucky hung around our place a lot. My sons and I had recently lost a cat and they welcomed Lucky with open arms. I was neutral.
I met his owners for the first time when I discovered a nasty-looking gash on Lucky’s face. I’d left a post-it message on their door saying he was hurt, when there was no answer to my knock. They came over later to get him and thanked me.
Lucky continued to abandon his home for ours, preferring to be an only-cat maybe, and he began to grow on me. He was a handsome, beefy, light-colored cat with a dignified, laid-back manner. I’d gotten in the habit of throwing him a few scraps while I was cooking, or letting him lick my plate– against my better judgment.
I decided he didn’t belong in my small kitchen, where it’d be too easy to trip over him, so, with the help of a bright blue squirt bottle, I trained him to stay out. One squirt on the butt and out he went to wait by the kitchen entrance with a hopeful expression on his face.
Sometimes he swiped at my leg as I went by, or scratched the sofa when he wanted out. Bad manners. Both of which earned him a scolding.
But despite these transgressions I continued tolerating him in my house. My live-at-home son, Matt, had no such resistance to him. Lucky was his bosom buddy and Matt would emerge from his room and scout around outside for him, returning with Lucky sitting firmly on his forearm with his paws around Matt’s shoulder. My older son, Tim, occasionally came by the house and he had a soft spot for Lucky, too, often curling up with this teddy bear of a cat.
And I had a friend who was also crazy about Lucky, picking him up and giving him little butterfly kisses whenever he came by to visit. Lucky seemed to invite affection.
Little by little, I warmed to this laconic cat, talking to him and continuing to throw him a scrap or two. His cuteness, sitting by the kitchen, toes glued to the dividing line between kitchen and dining room had its effect. He got to me.
One day my son moved out, as most sons eventually do, and I was left with Lucky. He started joining me in my easy chair on long summer evenings, kneading me with his paws and purring, while I curled up with a book or watched TV. It didn’t take long to get used to it; I enjoyed his company more than I wanted to admit.
My friend of the butterfly kisses came over one week-end and asked if Lucky was old, noticing that he staggered a little getting off the sofa. I said I didn’t know his age. The next day Lucky seemed worse and I walked down to his owners to let them know. There was no answer. I asked another neighbor if he knew when Lucky’s owners would be back; he didn’t. But he had their phone number and said he’d call them.
The next day, Lucky was still staggering and I thought he might have a virus that was affecting his balance. That evening after being cozied up with him in my easy chair, I brought out an old cat bed and plopped it on the front porch for him to spend the night in. He stepped into it and curled up, looking comfortable. I told him good-night and went to bed, ready to take him to the vets the next day if his owners didn’t show up.
The next morning, Lucky was nowhere to be found and I was afraid he’d gone off to hide somewhere, the way sick animals do. I emailed my sons to let them know Lucky was ailing and went off to work. When I got home, still no Lucky.
I asked my neighbor if he’d gotten in touch with Lucky’s owner. He said he hadn’t and we all looked around for Lucky.
After a futile search, I went inside. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. My neighbor had called Lucky’s owner, who was still out of town. He said his sister had come by to feed his cats, saw that Lucky wasn’t well and took him to the vets. He had leukemia. It was pretty far along and she had him put down. I thanked my neighbor, my eyes filling with tears, and went inside.
Rest in peace, Lucky.