A Great Cat and Friend

The movement in the garage caught me off guard.  Whatever it was had rushed out as the garage door lifted.  I thought I had somehow trapped a possum or an armadillo when I closed the door the night before.
It took me several days to find out that a big yellow tomcat had taken up residence in a box on a shelf in the garage.  The box had a blanket in the bottom and provided great protection from the Winter cold.
The cat would wait until the garage door was being lowered each night before scurrying in.  The exit was made as soon as the door was on its way up the next morning.  Our neighbor was well known for feeding stray cats, so the riddle had now been solved.
A week later my wife put out a small bowl of milk by the back door.  I knew then that our visitor was about to become a permanent resident.  It seems this cat had stumbled into the right garage.
Mary Lou and I had never owned a cat.  Neither of us grew up in a house that ever had cats.  Using the only method I knew, I determined that this big yellow cat was a female.  We named the cat “Sally” since our dog was named “Harry”, thinking we were clever to use the names of the two characters in the popular movie, When Harry Met Sally.  
The first stop was at Riverside Vet Clinic where we left Sally to have shots and be “fixed”.  One unexpected cat was a big enough surprise in our lives; we didn’t want a litter of kittens to further disrupt our routine.
When I picked up Sally a couple of days later the charges were only $4.  “This can’t be right”, I told the clerk.  “Just room and board”, she said.  Then with a gleam in her eye, she informed me that Sally was a boy who had already been fixed.
We changed his name to “Wills” in honor of the two British princes, Harry and Wills.  Within a few days, Wills was enjoying life, sprawled on our bed as we tried to sleep.
Wills was not a normal cat; at least as I understood cats.  He loved being around people.  He and Harry would follow you around the yard all day.  They literally fought like cats and dogs, but in a playful way.  Harry would grab Wills’ tail and pull him across the hardwood floors.
Wills had it made and clearly was enjoying living and playing in a big, warm house.  That might have been the end of the story except for one fateful day.  I came home to find my brand new leather recliner clawed up.  Within minutes, Mary Lou screamed as she found that he had gotten in her new car and clawed up the leather back seats.  
He was banished to the outdoor world where he had always lived, taking up residence on the patio.  He and Harry played every day and ruled over their joint kingdom.
I buried Wills this week.  We never knew where he came from, but he was part of our lives for nine years and we came to love him dearly.  
We had to put Wills to sleep because of advanced hepatitis.  Cleve Bridges, an animal lover if there ever was one, had put him in a box.  When I got home, Harry was guarding Wills’ body.  Harry jumped in the grave as I started to lower the box.  He jumped in again after Wills’ remains had been placed.  He barked and whimpered until Wills was finally resting by “Bud”, my second great dog.
It was then that I realized that Wills wasn’t just my friend.  He was a friend and companion to Harry who continues to mourn.  We miss him for the same reason.  Wills was a great cat and a great friend.
oOo
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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