We do not remember days, we remember moments.
Cesare Pavese, from This Business of Living
It’s hard to decide where to begin with little Lucy and big Max stories. They were both such larger-than-life personalities. That’s why their leaving left such deep voids in Judy’s and my souls. We still have two other cats and Ruby the yellow female Lab. So I decided to approach this as only an engineer can, in alphabetical order. We’ll start off with Lucy, the first Official Arcane Science Lab Mascot.
Lucy officially came into our lives 22 August 2008 when she walked through our front door. Three weeks prior to that momentous day our next door neighbors had asked my wife if she’d put out cat food and water daily for two cats that they’d been feeding at their front door. My wife did this until that first weekend when I saw her ready to head out the door with another meal for them. I took the meals over and that’s when I first saw Lucy and another cat, a male ginger. I don’t know why I paid such close attention to Lucy, and I don’t think I ever will. But I did and from that moment her possible fate gnawed on my conscience. I wasn’t worried about the male ginger, as he was another neighbor’s cat and a fat freeloader. Lucy was just the opposite, frail and thin, at least to my eyes. That’s when I started to up the feedings to twice/day.
I kept those feedings up until the next weekend, when my concern over her well being grew ever greater. It was hotter than hell that August and the idea of leaving Lucy outside to fend for herself was getting to me. So one day, on a whim, as I was walking back from dropping off another meal, I stopped in the middle of the neighbor’s yard so that Lucy could still see me, and then turned back to look at her, and waited. Lucy wasn’t eating yet; she was watching me. We made eye contact and then she started eating. I stayed until she finished, which didn’t take long. When she looked back up she started to slowly move towards me. I waited until she got close, then I slowly turned and slowly walked back across our yards to my front door, always stopping long enough to see if Lucy was following. For the first two days she stopped, apparently afraid to leave the feeding spot.
But one day she followed me completely home as I’d hoped, and sat at the front door and meowed. I went in and got new dishes of food and water and fed her a second time. I figured she was still hungry and I was right. She started coming to my door every day, which was fine by me. The next door neighbors were home from vacation anyway.
Lucy’s outdoor living on my doorstep lasted for just several more days until one day I opened the front door, stood aside, and waited. Lucy looked up at me, then inside the door with the air conditioning flowing out, and made the decision to come on in on her own. That day was 22 August, and that started a long deepening relationship between cat and human. And two square meals per day in air conditioned comfort.
I have no idea where Lucy came from, but I have my theories. When Lucy first came into the house she was wearing a flea collar. When I took her to a vet several days later I was told she’d been spayed. When I asked the vet where she might have come from the vet said she’d been raised as a lap cat and wasn’t really an outdoor cat. That lap cat behavior didn’t fully (re)establish itself until around Christmas of that year.
That meant, to me, that Lucy either ran away or was just simply turned out. Considering that 2008 was the height of the real estate collapse, where people were loosing their homes right an left, over time I came to believe she was turned out, or more precisely just left behind when a family left their foreclosed home. The reason or reasons why will never be known.
It meant I didn’t know her real age. The fact she was thin due to lack of proper nutrition didn’t help. She might have been anywhere from 1 to 3 years of age before she walked through my front door.
It took Lucy until Thanksgiving before she “became” the Lucy I’ll always remember. Before that time she was shy, backing away if I got close and stayed near too long. I made sure to feed her on a regular basis and then just let her eat. She managed to fill out during that period. She explored all the rooms in the house and all its hiding spots and would set up “shop” in different locations. She would seemingly disappear and put me in a panic until she either walked out of a hiding spot or I managed to stumble upon a spot. Her favorite resting spot was in the kitchen next to the washer and dryer when we were washing the blankets and towels. When they came out of the dryer still warm, I’d fold them and then stack them on the kitchen table to be put away. Lucy would home in on that pile like a heat-seeking missile, where she’d zoom to the top of the pile and then sit and watch everything happening around that part of the house. August to Thanksgiving 2008 was Lucy’s getting-to-know-us period. The house must have seemed chaotic to her, with two Labs (Max and Ruby as a puppy) and two other cats (Ellipse and Lulu). But she adapted to them and they to her. After that she made up her mind to adopt a person, and she adopted me.
The Long Stay
Lucy integrated well into the household. She would have her moments with the other two cats, especially Lulu (everybody had moments with Lulu). She knew the drill about vet visits; she had no qualms at all about being put into a cat carrier and taken in the car to see the vet. I made sure to put her in the front seat. She’d talk up a storm and I’d reply back in a soothing tone. Once at the vets it was always a time of intense curiosity until the vet came to visit.
The photo at right shows the first time I took her with Ruby to the vet. Ruby had been born August 23rd, one day after Lucy showed up. We wouldn’t get Ruby until eight weeks later, at which point she was an instant object of curiosity for all the cats.
Lucy’s reaction to both Labs knocked down a common myth about animosity between cats and dogs. It didn’t exist, at least not in our household. All three cats loved to rub up against Ruby as a pup. I have to wonder if they thought of Ruby as a very big kitten.
Or perhaps it was because all the cats, being female, had deep maternal instincts that crossed species boundaries. Whatever the reason, all the little creatures in our household lived in relative harmony, except for the occasional standoff between Lucy and Lulu.
And that lasted all the time that Lucy lived with us. Whenever Lulu and Lucy got within seeing distance of one another, Lulu would start up a low growl that would set your teeth on edge. If it kept up long enough I’d call out to Lulu to knock it off. And she understood enough that it did stop.
How Lucy Got Her Name
Before Lucy was Lucy, she was called Gertrude by the next door neighbor. The neighbor is originally from Quebec, which may have something to do with the name. I personally feel Gertrude isn’t a fit name for man nor beast. I think Gertrude/Lucy felt the same way.
Lucy had been in the house for about two weeks when one day she decided to visit the back master bedroom and check out the bed. While sitting quietly and thinking cat thoughts, Judy came in the room and happened to notice her up on the bed. She walked over, bent down to say something nice, and while she was hovering over Lucy, Lucy reached up to bat her face away.
Lucy’s reach was with claws still retracted and was meant as a simple bat to get Judy back up a bit. The paw bat was strong enough and accurately placed such that Lucy, even though still recovering from her outdoor life stage, managed to put a little bruise Judy’s lower eye lid. There was no pain involved and she didn’t notice the bruise until a little later. When I saw the bruise and heard the story I immediately thought of Peanut’s Lucy, who was known to whop some of the other characters. I told Judy and from that time onward Gertrude was Lucy. And I think Lucy approved, because she quickly came to respond to that name.
How Lucy Won My Heart So Deeply, And Vice Versa
That process was pretty much over with me after those first two weeks in August. But winning Lucy’s heart took time, and required I just give her plenty of time and space to adjust to life in the house and come to see she was OK. As I wrote earlier I didn’t know how old she was, or what led up to her being homeless, or how long she’d been homeless. But I do believe that animals are not stupid. The bond of animal-to-human love and trust is easily built as well as broken, and while it can be healed, it takes time. So I gave Lucy all the time she needed. I made sure she was given ample food and water and the protection of the household. And over the next three months, her little soul did indeed heal, and I do believe, heal completely.
I knew it was healed when one day, out of the blue, she started to walk around my ankles, purring. And I don’t mean soft purrs. Lucy would purr like a motorboat. She’d be loud enough that even with my damaged hearing I could hear her standing straight while she was on the floor. That was around that first Thanksgiving.
From that point forward she made it her duty to visit me, especially when I was sitting in my lounger. She would patrol the house and on her way through the TV room, if she spotted me, she’d pick up her pace and then make a running leap into my lap. The first couple of times it was a bit startling, but I quickly grew used to it and would look forward to her visits. I give her rubs and she’d settle into my lap and purr, purr, purr.
After determining that she was going to adopt me, she also checked to see if we could sleep together. She started to check that out by first sleeping at the foot of the bed. Later, after she grew comfortable with that, she would come up, curl up into a ball, and snuggle into my midriff. More than once when I woke up in the middle of the night I had to be careful not to squash a little cat. But that never happened, and she kept that up, especially during her illness.
During her illness I would reach down to rub her head and tell her how I loved her. Outside of taking her to the vet that was about all I could do. I’m pretty certain she understood the emotion if not the exact words. And it helped sustain her so that she lived a little longer.
She was like any other cat. She loved to play with toys, both conventional and 21st century. Her favorite conventional toys were the kind that she could play cat soccer with on the floor. Our house has tile flooring throughout, the easier to keep it clean of messes. It makes for a marvelously low-friction surface for rolling objects, for which all the cats found useful. But it was Lucy and Lulu who took the most advantage of the tile floor for playtime. The 21st century toy she loved most was the little red laser pointer. I would send her scampering from one end of the house to the other, and up walls, trying to capture the little red dot.
What follows are a few more photographs, in general chronological order. The final photos at the bottom are towards the end of both Lucy and Max.
This photo shows Lucy’s one special house spot. It’s an old cabinet in front of the main window. We’d feed and water her in this one spot. Lucy would eat and then settle down to look out as the world passed by, one paw drapped. My daughter says that windows are like TV for cats.
There’s no other way to describe Lucy except as an exceptionally sweet and outsized personality in a small cat body. If her physical size had matched her personality she’d have been tiger-sized. Which makes why she was abandoned by her original owner(s) even more inexplicable to me.
It was the exposure to that outsized personality followed by its loss that has left such a painful void in my soul, every bit as big and painful as Max. She was around during some of the most tumultuous times in my life, providing solace and a barrier at home against an indifferent world. I foolishly thought she’d last nearly forever.
I’ll always remember these years I’ve enjoyed with Lucy, all her purring, the morning wake-up walks up my chest and into my face, the mischievous playfulness, and especially the unconditional love she showered me with. She broke just about every myth and convention I’d ever heard about cats and owning a cat, and all in a good way. She had her moments with Lulu, but everyone has had moments with Lulu, and to be fair to Lulu she’s been quiet and mopey with Lucy gone. She’s missing Lucy too in her own way.
Finding Lucy was one of the most improbable moments I think I’ve experience in my life. Yet I know that there’s lots more like Lucy in the world, and they need the same care I gave to Lucy. I guess it’s just a matter of time before I we find each other – again.
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