PIRATE AND THE LADY
by Jean Airey
It has been said there are psychic currents in Englewood that bring people together. I'm beginning to believe these must affect animals as well.
As a volunteer with one of the local pet rescue organizations, I'd gone down to the parking lot of the local newspaper where we were going to have a special adoption day. Our organization believes in fostering out as many animals as we can, and I'd been foster mother to a black cat named Pirate since he'd been rescued as a kitten. Today was another chance for Pirate to be adopted.
I put Pirate in one of the front cages, at eye height, in the hopes that someone would be interested in him. Unfortunately, this was also the area where all the cute little kittens were, and few people are interested in an almost full grown cat. Pirate lay in the cage, ignored, and occasionally glared at me as if to ask why I'd brought him there.
A lady came out of the newspaper office and walked over to look at the cats. At the kittens, really. I have to call her a lady, because she looked like one and not like the down-home casual women one usually sees around town. She was wearing a classic straight-skirted light blue suit with a pale yellow blouse and low, slim heels. Elegant gold earrings glinted in the sun and a small gold watch rested on a fine-boned wrist. There was a single ring with a colored stone on her right hand. A professional woman, I guessed. The type to choose a Siamese or a Persian that would go with her décor.
"Are these all for adoption?" she asked. Her voice was low and pleasant. She was wearing tinted glasses, so I couldn't see her eyes clearly, but the rest of her face seemed to be carefully made up.
"Yes they are," I replied. "They've all had their shots and, with the adoption fee, we do provide neutering."
She put one finger up to a cage, and a small tabby kitten came over to bat at it. She smiled. Maybe she would consider a cute kitten, I thought. Cute could be as enhancing to one's décor as beautiful. Then she looked down the cages and caught sight of Pirate. "That's not a kitten," she said and moved down toward him. I followed her.
Pirate's head was tucked into his belly. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I thought. "No, he's eight months old now. I've been his foster mother since we got him. His name is Pirate."
At the sound of his name, which usually meant food was coming, Pirate lifted his head and looked at us. She took a quick breath. "He's only got one eye," she said in a hushed whisper as if saying it might upset me.
I'd seen this reaction before. Amazement, curiosity, a fascinating listening to his story, and then a return to the cute little kittens. Pirate looked directly at her, his eye – on the left side – a glowing yellow – the solid black fur on the right side a mute testimony to his life on the streets.
"One of our volunteers found him on last Halloween; she spotted some boys clustered around something in the middle of the road. They ran away when she approached them. She found Pirate on the ground where they'd been standing. His eye had been cut open and part of his tail was crushed. One of his legs had been broken. In spite of that, he still stood up on three legs when she bent down to pick him up. She says that when she picked him up, he started purring."
The lady was staring at Pirate with a singular intensity and he was returning the look. "Grreow," he said to her in a raspy voice and reached out to her with one paw. She reached through the bars with one manicured finger and touched it.
This looked promising. A lot of people didn't even want to touch him, as if they might catch some form of one-eyedness. "He lost the eye and an inch off his tail. The break healed well, although there's a slight lump on the bone," I continued. She was still stroking his paw.
"Grreow," he said and got up to move over to the bars where she could scratch his head. Somewhat bemused, she obliged.
"Does he sound funny?" she asked with some hesitation.
"We think someone may have tried to choke him and damaged his vocal cords. He's got a little rasp when he purrs too. He's a very friendly cat – toward people. But he wants a lot of attention and it would really be best if he was the only cat in the house."
"Could I hold him?"
Well, this was progress. "Of course. Let me take him out and we can go over to this section in the back where it's not so hectic." There were a number of people looking at the cats now, including some of the dog-walkers. Anticipating this, we'd set up a blocked off section that only possible adopters could go into with one of the volunteers.
As we walked back there I asked some more pertinent questions. Did she have children? No. Husband? No. Job? Teacher at a local middle school.
"I have more than enough children there," she said with a rueful smile. Reaching the 'holding' section, she sat down and I put Pirate into her lap. She started stroking his back and he promptly rolled over to get his belly rubbed. When she stopped, he grabbed her hand with both paws (claws retracted) and said "Ggggreeow."
"He doesn't want you to stop."
"I can tell that," she continued, learning the first lesson of a cat owner: Do what the cat wants. I could hear his raspy purr. "Does he have claws?"
This was going to be a breaking point. I could easily picture an immaculate apartment with delicate fabrics and decorations precisely arranged. "Yes, but I've always kept them clipped and he's never scratched anything."
"You clip his claws?"
"Yes. It's just like trimming your nails." Only I bet she had a professional do that. "We can teach you how, or you can bring him back to us and we'll do it."
She picked him up and held him against her chest. I could see black hairs on the blue suit, but she didn't seem to notice. He snuggled into her neck and purred more loudly. "How can I adopt him?"
I wanted to say, "Are you sure?", but from the way she was holding him, it was obvious she was. "I'll get the form for you to fill out."
She nodded. As I left to get the application form, I saw her lift Pirate so she was looking right into his face. "Don't you worry," she said. "You're going to be my one-eyed beautiful boy. You see, I've only got one eye too."
"Grreow," said Pirate.
(Based on a true story)