I moved from Maryland to Utah when I was 13 years old. My dad had been transferred by his work, so the family picked up and headed west. Joining us in this displacement was the family cat, officially named Cuddles, but more often referred to by her nickname, “Bud.” Bud was a giant animal with a surly disposition who became only slightly agreeable when she was hungry and she believed you were going to feed her. Still, her ill-temperament notwithstanding, Bud was part of the family.
A few years passed and when I was in high school, on a particularly cold winter day, a tiny, shivering kitten found its way to our back porch, managing only a few feeble meows of distress. Hearing her cries and seeing her through the glass of the back door, we plucked her out of the snow and brought her inside. My dad, ever the practical one, immediately declared that we couldn’t keep her, arguing and warning, “We already have a cat. And nobody is to feed this new one. If you feed a stray cat, it will never leave.” We convinced him to let us warm the kitten while it continued to snow. He reluctantly agreed. But the snow didn’t quickly stop and, later that day, to our delight, we discovered that Dad himself had been slipping our new kitten bits of food.
Dad was right about fed cats never leaving. Missy, as we were soon to call her, though remaining an outdoor cat, stayed with us from that time forward. We quickly fell in love with Missy, who as most kittens are, was playful and friendly and cute; traits she kept long after growing into a cat.
It was convenient to have another cat around, because not too long later, Bud, the aging moody animal, fell sick and died. Though we felt a loss, her death was ameliorated somewhat by the presence of Missy.
After high school I moved out of my parent’s house for college, and then went on a mission and then to more college. That departure was 11 years ago. When I would return home to visit, it wouldn’t take much calling for Missy to come running out from under the deck or from the garage, anxious to be played with.
About a month ago, on a visit home, I saw a change in Missy. Her once playful self had slowed and she seemed thinner than I remembered. Kneeling down to pet her, I noticed her ribs were clearly felt through her skin. Believing she was simply underfed, I immediately opened a can of cat food, which she devoured with relish. Thinking the problem was solved, I urged my Mom to feed the cat more regularly.
I last saw Missy a week ago. I stopped by home to see if I had any mail, and as was my habit, I stepped out on that back porch to play with Missy. I picked her up and held her. To my dismay, her physical condition had deteriorated and she, for a moment, reminded me of that initial meeting, so many years ago; she was again thin and tiny and needing help. We decided then to take her to the vet.
Missy died today. I am flooded with memories. I recall with a smile the many times she snuggled up to me when I was reading a book on the back porch. I remember when I cut a hole in the garage door so she could get in when the weather was bad. I remember bringing her in to watch a movie with the family and how we would pass her around so everyone got a chance to hold her. It’s funny how animals are some of our best friends. Missy will surely be missed by us all.