In July 2004, as my wife and I were driving through town, I noticed a black cat walking on a wooden deck, hugging the wall of an office building. The roof overhung the deck by about a foot, but the angle of the sun left little shade. Now, this is not an uncommon sight, right? So, I had no worldly reason to make a verbal comment at that moment. But, GOD knows why, I felt compelled to say “oh look, there’s a cat.” I immediately felt stupid and wondered why I had said that.
As we drove past, my wife had only about half-a-second’s glance before the cat was out of view. Apparently half-a-second was all she needed. She stopped the car, put it in reverse and backed up. Surprised, I asked “what are you doing?” She said “we have to help that cat!” Now, we see cats all the time while driving, but my wife had never acted this way before, and she seemed so in earnest. I was a little shocked.
When the cat saw us approaching, it jumped off the deck and started to go under. The majority of the decking was straight and skirted over asphalt, but the cat was disappearing under an extended, unskirted section over a flowerbed. My wife walked to one side of the flowerbed and I walked to the other and knelt down. As I looked under the deck I could see the cat, and I could also see that there was nothing baring it from vanishing under the building.
My wife wasted no time and got down on her hands and knees in the beauty bark and started to crawl under the deck. This was even more uncharacteristic behavior. She was determined to get that cat.
Directly in front of me was a wooden post holding up the roof. Behind the post was the start of the deck skirting. I said to GOD “if you intend for us to have this cat, then we need your help because it can disappear at any moment.” As soon as I said that, the cat ran. It ran and stopped right between the post and skirt where I was kneeling. I was shocked again. I said “all right Father,” and I reached around the post with both hands and grabbed her.
My wife was right in what she had felt. Suzy needed help desperately. She was severely dehydrated, malnourished, anemic and covered in hundreds of fleas and thousands of flea eggs. When she scratched, the eggs fell off like salt. When I bathed her, the flea droppings turned the bath water bright red. She also had second-degree burns on all four paws. Dr. J. estimated that she was three or four months old, but she was the size of a kitten half her age. He said she probably would have lived only a few more days.
Suzy-Q is a very happy girl, albeit a little high-strung. When you pass her by, she likes to be petted once and will enthusiastically arch or lift up for it. However, if you stop and attempt to pet her more than once, she whines at you and moves away. We call her our one-pet-kitty. She will curl up on my chest from time to time, but she grips with her claws, so it helps to wear something thick.
In April 2005, when Suzy turned one year old, I commemorated the event by creating this novelty photo. I hope she liked all of her virtual gifts and ice cream cake.
At the end of October 2004, we moved from Mount Vernon, Washington to a much larger house in a new development on the west end of the Phoenix valley. We had nine cats at the time and months before the move, I began contemplating how to get them there with as little trauma as possible. Again, as I so often do, I turned to GOD for help.
One month before our move, I helped move my mom and grandma to their new house. Afterward, I was given grandpa’s old pickup truck which had a canopy on it. So, I replaced the truck’s rear window with one that slides open. Then, I cut out a foam frame, wrapped it in plastic and squished it between the truck and canopy windows. Now I could open both windows from inside the cab and squeeze through to the back of the truck without letting any cats out or any rain in. It was a tight fit, but I didn’t care, my prayer had been answered. I was thrilled.
I got several cardboard apple boxes, cut a large hole in each and carpeted the inside. I left these in the house for weeks so that the cats could get used to them. I carpeted the truck bed and built a carpeted shelf all the way around the inside of the canopy. Everything was carpeted to give the cats traction while the truck was in motion. I took plastic whipped-cream tubs, screwed them down onto the shelves and filled them with dry food. I placed the apple boxes, litter boxes and some toys in the back of the truck and all the cat supplies were kept in the cab. We were ready to go.
I waited till the last possible moment. The moving truck was loaded and the house was empty except for cats. I started with Suzy because she was the newest and most difficult to handle. She did start to struggle in fear as I carried her to the truck, but as soon as I opened the canopy window, she took one sniff, relaxed and went right in by herself. They all did, and everything went great during the entire four-day trip. I was and still am so very thankful.
Dr. Johnson (our Dr. J.) is a kindhearted, soft-spoken vet with a gentle hand. He could often tell things about our cats before he examined them. When he made a prediction, it almost always happened just that way. When he gave an opinion, we listened. And during those times when we had to make that oh-so-painful decision to end a life and return a furry-friend to GOD, Dr. J. would personally drive to our home and do what was necessary with patience and kindness. He holds a place of honor in our hearts. We wish he could be our vet forever. On occasion, we still call him for advice.
When we moved into our new house, there were only a handful of completed homes in our neighborhood. The rest were in various stages of construction. So, there were many dumpsters all around us brimming with scrap construction materials. Since we didn’t have much in the way of furnishings or funds, I contacted the builder’s customer service representative and obtained permission to glean materials to build cat furniture. I found everything I needed except paint, glue, staples and rope.
In August of 2005, some children found a four-week-old kitten in a vacant lot and took it to their grandmother. She brought it to the assisted living facility where she worked and, not knowing what else to do, gave it to my wife who is the Activity Director there. My wife named him Sunny. At first, Sunny went to work with her every day as a therapy kitten. But after a while, he didn’t want to work anymore. He preferred to stay at home and play.
We call him Sunny Bunny because when he was too small to walk down the stairs, he would hop down them just like a bunny. Sunny loves to lick strawberry flavored Dum-Dum Lollypops.
After Sunny had grown up, I decided to make a family portrait of our cats which I later used to create our family Christmas card. Sunny and Peanut are in the front. Then, from left to right there’s Chester, Tinker, Lacey, Spud, Nicki, Marmi, Suzy and Muffins. Ten cats in all.
(And I thought our family was big then!)