Like most of my family, I’m a sucker for stray and abandoned animals.
After school one day I found a small black kitten someone had tossed into a garbage can. I took it home, we fed it for a few days, then my mother discovered it was losing patches of hair.
My mother made my stepfather take it to the pound while she took my little sister to the doctor.
We were kitten-less and the only family on the block to have a little bald girl whose head was painted with Gentian violet, the only cure for ringworm then.
I’ve always had animals living with me and they’ve always been adopted. I’ve had cats and dogs from shelters. I’ve had cats and dogs adopted from rescue groups. I’ve even had a rescue bird, from someone who had to give it up.
I currently have only one cat, a big black guy named Djinn, for those desert spirits that move so stealthily. He came to live with me almost thirteen years ago.
My daughter was an EMT, working for an ambulance company, transporting very sick neonatal babies. Her job consisted of 24-hour shifts so the crews lived at a base when on duty. She told me that there was a black cat who would hang around, begging scraps, and the other paramedics would joke about feeding him poison.
“He’s really sweet. He gets so excited that he drools when you pet him.”
“You can’t let those jerks you work with poison him! Bring him to me and I’ll find him a home.”
Famous last words. The home I had lined up fell apart, notices at work brought nothing and I squeezed him into a house that already had a dog and two cats, because once I saw him, I knew he wasn’t adoptable.
During whatever life he’d lived on the street, he’d been injured. His front right shoulder had been broken and healed crooked, so he walked with a limp and when he curled up, it stayed straight out at an angle; he couldn’t curl it up.
Recently, I was buying cat and fish food (not rescue fish, I did buy those) at one of those pet emporiums. That day, they were having an “Adopt-a-cat” display sponsored by one of the rescue groups. Ever the sucker, I walked through the rows of cages talking to the cats when a young man came over and began talking to me.
“Aren’t they nice? They all deserve good homes. Were you thinking of any one in particular?”
I smiled. “I’m just looking at them. I have a lame cat at home.”
He stiffened. He almost hissed at me. “There’s no such thing as a lame cat!” he said.
I was so stunned I couldn’t fathom what he’d said. Did he mean that all less-than-perfect cats should be killed? I finally realized that he was years younger than me and had an entirely different understanding of “lame” so I said “He was injured. He limps.”
Djinn is now somewhere north of sixteen. His whiskers are pure white. He doesn’t clean himself as well as he used to. He still limps and occasionally needs help jumping up on the bed. Whenever I move around the house, he’s right at my feet and one dark night I’ll probably trip over him and break a hip.
But right now, my lame cat and I wander around the house at his regal pace.
I’m not sure who I’ll find when he goes but the young man was right, there’s no such thing as a lame cat.