In the middle of the night during a July thunderstorm many years ago a couple awoke to hear what sounded like a baby crying outside, and noticed their two cats Percy and Ebi on the windowsill intently watching something. They knew it had to be a cat, but on investigation outdoors that night and the next morning, no cat was found.
A week later on August 1, the husband, working outside in the summer afternoon, suddenly ran inside yelling to his wife, “There’s a kitten out here!”
The kitten, frightened, had run up into a neighbor’s truck and they and the neighbor tried all they could think of to lure her out, and then to gently prod her from her hiding place. Eventually it took a golf club to push her out of her spot and she jumped out, to be caught by the husband and wife and quickly taken to their home.
“She was so thin, and tiny, very tiny,” the woman said, “I thought she was maybe six weeks old, and she was covered with fleas.” The new kitten was bathed and fed and coddled, but went into a kennel in a separate room until she had an appointment for the veterinarian. Magically, in that time, she went from being a fostered rescued kitten to a member of the household. Rescued kittens have a way of doing that.
“The vet asked me what I was going to do with her and I said, ‘I’m keeping her!’, like, are you kidding?” she said. “I just loved her from the beginning.”
After all, she already had a name, their little August 1 surprise, as her rescuers had begun to call her Augie.
Augie remained tiny but was a whirlwind of play and affection, and she got along fine with her calico feline sisters, the elegant Percy and exacting Ebi. And Augie not only loved her feline sisters and her humans, she loved everyone who visited, and they all loved her. She sat on everyone’s lap, and purred in complete happiness.
“She was feisty—the Christmas tree was apparently set up for her!” Augie’s mom said. “Needless to say, we left the decorations off that first year.” Nobody minded—the tree had a very special decoration.
But underlying Augie’s small size was a serious heart condition no one had suspected. “The only sign I saw, in hindsight, was that sometimes after running up the steps her breathing would be labored,” her rescuer said, “but then she would be okay. And she was so active all the time and otherwise showed no symptoms at all.”
When Augie had been with them for two years, while they were at work during the day, she tragically suffered a blood clot that paralyzed her hind legs and left her in horrible pain.
“We ran her to the vet, but there was nothing they could do and she was in such pain…” her person trailed off.
“We were due to leave for Mexico the next day,” she added, leaving unspoken the implications of what might have happened if they had been away with a pet sitter caring for the cats when it happened. They did leave for the vacation, with their sadness and tears. “And a bird at the resort was screaming, I still remember that,” she finished.
Augie was only about two years old, but she had fit all she could into her brief time. And she had certainly found the right truck to get stuck in.
. . . . . .
Soon after they’d lost Augie they decided to have a portrait done of the two calico girls and Augie, in memory, and in 2002 when I met them I could still see the lingering sadness at their loss. We’ve remained friends through the years and I’ve painted a few other portraits for the couple, but when she recounted that time again years later I could see the grief was still with her.
We talked about how sometimes, cats who need to be rescued choose the right people to find them, and those who end up having a very short life seem to make the most of the brief time they have, and leave the biggest pawprints on your heart. Certainly Augie did.
Tomorrow I’ll feature their portrait, and the stories of Augie’s fur sisters.
Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!