Last week I affirmed my belief that dogs are man’s best friend, while casting a second-place vote for cats. Some would reverse that ranking. It all depends on who finds a path to your heart. A cat named Lucy traveled that road with some friends of mine.
Kay Bowen Cason and I began first grade together at Pinehurst Elementary School. A year or so ago she told me about a special pet in their family. The story began with a helpless kitten.
Mrs. Louise Bowen, Kay’s mother, moved in with Kay and her husband, Eugene, during her later years. Her cats, however, remained on the family farm where they went to feed and pet them each day.
Cats have always been a part of Kay’s life. During childhood she enjoyed watching her father, Mr. Carl, train them. He called their feline pets his boys and would walk them to the field across the road to conduct essential business. Then he rewarded each one with a boll of cotton to take home. Their yard was often decorated with scattered white fibers, adeptly shredded by playful claws.
One Friday after work, Kay went by the homestead as usual to check on the cats. She saw a tiny kitten all alone. There wasn’t a mama cat around, so where the new addition came from was a mystery. The kitty was small enough to fit in Kay’s palm, but she resisted the urge to cuddle her. Mr. Carl had taught her not to touch an infant kitten, that it could cause the mother to reject it.
With considerable hesitation, she left the kitten where she found her, hoping for the best while fearing the worst. After a miserable night of uncertainty, Kay made a hurried early morning drive back. The weather had suddenly turned cold and the little kitten felt like a block of ice. Kay wrapped her tightly in a towel and held her close to her body, warming her as they headed toward home.
When she walked through the door Eugene was elated. “Please tell me you don’t have another cat!” he said. Maybe his elation wasn’t instantaneous, but he mellowed quickly. Lucy had to be fed with a syringe and he did most of the feeding. Afterward he’d take a warm, damp, paper towel and wipe her off. It was as close as he could get to a mother cat licking her baby clean.
After bath time, Eugene began wadding up a paper towel into a ball and tossing it, teaching Lucy to chase and retrieve. I might have been skeptical about that story had I not seen the video. Cats apparently are more trainable than I realized. Having a good teacher must be the key.
Eugene’s shirt pocket was where Lucy enjoyed spending time. When she could no longer squeeze her way in, she found a new ride. She would put her paws on the bar of Miss Louise’s walker and accompany her around the house, never asking where they were headed or when they’d be back.
With Eugene and Kay both working, Lucy became Miss Louise’s best buddy. They spent hours together in a recliner with Lucy sucking on a bit of blanket as if it were yielding milk. After Miss Louise died, Lucy picked Kay as her favorite. Maybe she remembered who brought her to the dance.
Lucy began sleeping in the bed with Kay and Eugene, continuing to favor the lady of the house. Without offering any explanation, in the middle of 2020 she moved to Eugene’s side. That’s where she stayed until just before Christmas.
Her breathing was labored so they took her to their vet in Cordele. She went home with more medicine than hope. That weekend Lucy eased out of their bed without waking them. Kay found her on the bathroom floor suffering with the kind of pain that begs for merciful relief. The after-hours recording at Cordele Animal Hospital referred them to a Warner Robins clinic for emergencies.
Kay and Eugene took Lucy on a somber ride, not an easy trip even though they knew it was for the best. They were completely surprised to be greeted by their own veterinarian, a lady who knew Lucy well and had attended her earlier in the week. It was a small but welcome blessing on a difficult day.
My opinion about who man’s best friend is hasn’t changed. But if someone says cats deserve first place, I can’t say for sure they’re wrong. It all depends on who finds a path to your heart. A cat named Lucy traveled that road with some friends of mine.