He was just a plain old stray cat who came up in our yard about three years ago. Now he’s dead, victim of his own predeliction for roaming the great outdoors. His name was Happy…and that he was.
It wasn’t that we didn’t invite him inside, because we did. We even bought him one of those clean-itself litter boxes, complete with a tent so he’d have privacy. He tried—he really did—to be satisfied perching on a window and looking out at chirping birds and neighbors’ cats as they invaded “his” territory. But he couldn’t suppress the soul of a wanderer, and eventually he began to dart out at every opportunity. Happy was an outdoor-indoor cat, and he wasn’t satisfied to spend his days in luxurious but boring comfort when there were things to see, a vast domain to explore…unwary birds to chase away and bugs to eradicate when they ventured in his path.
Today he met his fate at the hands of one of our neighbor’s three large, vicious dogs who mauled him, left him broken and in shock yet still able to raise his head and say “Meow” when I called his name and told him a tearful goodbye before the vet gave him that final shot to relieve the awful pain. We could have waited, made certain his wounds wouldn’t heal with days or weeks of intensive care—and we’d have done it but for the certainty that if he recovered he would be neurologically impaired at best, paralyzed at worst. We couldn’t bear the thought of Happy hurting so, and no longer being able to do the things he loved best—and so we gave our permission for him to leave us.
Today our home is not so happy…but through the tears and sadness we’ll always remember the joy one small black cat brought to us for a while. Yes, Happy was just a plain old stray cat, but he had a human mom and dad, two brothers, and a sister who loved him, miss him, and will keep the memories he left us in our hearts forever. Maybe someday I'll be able to bring him back as a character in one of my books--but not now. It hurts too damn much to realize he's gone.