Hi, my name is Archie, and this is my story.
If you can call it a story. It doesn’t amount to much in the telling. It doesn’t have much of a beginning; it’s more like a long middle because (spoiler alert!) the end hasn’t been written yet.
But this is why I look sad. I know I look sad.
Ask me how old I am and I will reply, “I don’t know.” Your two-leg time doesn’t mean much when you’re a stray...and I could be the poster cat for what happens when a cat becomes a stray.
I don’t know how long I was a stray, living off my instincts, muscles and my wiles. I don’t recall my life before I was a stray. Those memories, if in fact I ever had them, have been erased by hardship.
When you’re a stray cat, one sunup to sun down doesn’t seem much different from another. Unless it is raining and cold. I didn’t like that. I would huddle under a bush until the sun came out again.
Sometimes though, I became so hungry I had to look for food in any weather. Looking for food often meant I had to fight to keep whatever I could scavenge.
One day, I was bitten badly on one of my back legs. Walking became hard; my ability to look for food weakened because I was weakening… and in pain. I thought the beginning of my end was in sight.
One day I smelled good food nearby, not the garbage I had become accustomed to. It was in a long box-like thing. I didn’t care. Desperation often leads to inexplicable actions and I was desperate, hungry and in pain, I creeped in on my belly. After I ate, I realized I was trapped in the box-like thing. Did I panic? No, to be honest, I didn’t really care anymore. Then I heard voices. Two two-legs picked up the box-like thing. I was being carried to somewhere. I became scared. Then I was in a car. I know all about those things. I have dodged many of them and I lost my best friend to one on a dark, rainy night. Very sad. Her cries still haunt my sleep.
Then I came to a new place. I was inside a house. (I know houses; I was usually chased away from them. Sometimes hard things were thrown at me to make me go away.) I knew the two-legs were talking about me. Then I was placed in a bigger box-like thing. It had blankets, food and water. I was still scared, too scared to eat. I was warm and dry though and suddenly very tired. I dug under a blanket at the back of the box-like thing and fell asleep. I remember voices and looking around furtively to see my surroundings and before I slept, I wondered if those would be my last thoughts, my last sights. They weren’t.
I awoke and heard voices coming near me. I wasn’t happy about it, but another two-legs put me in a little box-like thing. Then I was in another car again. (I don’t like cars.) The two-legs talked to me, telling me not to be scared. She said I was going to a “Vet,” which she said is like a cat doctor. I have heard what happens at “cat doctors,” – that’s where we often meet our end - so I wasn’t too happy about that. But again, I thought resignedly, “Does it really matter if I meet my end today or on some other day?”
We came to the “Vet’s” house. It was bright and smelled very clean. I let the “Vet” drag me out of the box-like thing, complaining only a little, and place me on a table. I’ll spare you the details – just say I was poked and prodded and jabbed a lot, had my mouth forced open and my teeth looked at and other indignities that no cat should be subjected to. But I thought to myself, if the two-legs are doing all this work on my behalf, maybe I won’t hear the descent of my final sleep today.
I wish I could report that the “Vet” gave me a clean bill of health. She didn’t. That is why I told you at the start that I could be the poster cat for suffering stray cats anywhere. Here’s a summary: I was dirty and unkempt; I had skin lesions from both fleas and fighting; I had a puncture wound in my back leg; I had ear infections; I had conjunctivitis (whatever the heck that is.) Oh, and I had advanced dental disease; a number of my teeth need to be removed. On the plus side, my heart is strong, although it has something called a “murmur,” and my lungs are healthy.
And you know what else? The “Vet” said to the two-legs who brought me to her, “He’s a nice cat.” Although I was still scared and tired, my heart and spirit leaped up when I heard that. I could not remember the last time a two-legs last said something nice about me.
And I know I am good cat. The “Vet” could see it even through my dirt and grime and illnesses.
You will too if you come to visit me at the place where I now live. I am still in one of those box-like things but maybe someday soon I will be walking around again. (I just have to remember not to fight the other cats that live there. I don’t have to depend upon fighting spirit to ensure I get my food anymore.)
If you open my box-like home, where, I must admit, I still hunker down at the back, I may hiss at you and growl a little at first – old habits die hard - but don’t back away. Have faith in me for I am all noise and bluster. I will not scratch or bite you, I promise. If you stroke my fur – and I have nice soft clean fur now – you will see me relax a little, because, I must admit, this world of two-legs still scares me and I remain tense.
(It is hard to erase so many hardships from my memory. Only your two-leg time can do that.)
I guess this is why I still look sad.
Kindness has been shown to me, perhaps more than I deserve. Now it is my cat responsibility to return that kindness as only cats can – with love and companionship. I would be happy to have a chance to show you this, if you are the two-legs who was meant for me. In your company and given some two-leg time, I know my sad eyes will brighten and who knows? Perhaps I will even find my purr again.
My name is Archie. And that is my story. Will you come visit me?
- Philip Tingey