Cats can be great companions. I’ve spent the better part of my life in the company of cats. For one, I used to work with a few area feline rescues and even served as Secretary and Treasurer for one in particular. There is nothing more intriguing than a cat. They come in all shapes and sizes and colors – big cats, little cats, cats with no fur or cats with tons of fur, shy cats, outgoing cats, devilishly humorous cats, and lazy cats. Regardless of the wide variety, a cat can still be an important companion and friend where even their loss is deeply heartfelt.
Artists: Robin Caffin
Since given this opportunity, I thought I would tell a special story of a cat that touched the hearts of so many people. He started life off in the worst way – the offspring of a feral female living in a small colony near a housing complex. She left this one kitten in a cement pipe that had been placed into the street and was slotted to be tarred over in the next day or two. A fellow rescuer and her young daughter crawled into the pipe and removed the kitten. Now what to do? Mom was frightened off and here was this tiny infant kitten no more than 48 hours old now without a mom. With a late night phone call, my mother and I went out to meet Emma and her daughter in the parking lot of an area grocery store where the little guy was left to us to bottle feed. And sure enough, the following morning, the pipe had indeed been covered over by hot tar. The fate this kitten might have faced is just too disturbing to think about.
He reminded me of a white and black sausage. After his first feeding using a kitten bottle filled with warm formula, he settled down on the rug, stretched out his full length next to my arm, and went to sleep. Even though he didn't have his mom, we managed to get him to thrive and he grew, and grew, and grew!
Over the next few months, Manny went to work with my mother. The postal workers in the office all shared feeding duties for this little guy. He no sooner became a sight to behold up on the window where my mother served as a clerk selling stamps and handling packages. People sometimes would come in just to see Manny. Here he shares a tender moment with his rescuer, Emma, when she came in to see him a couple months after his rescue.
It took five months to finally wean Manny. He loved his “ba ba” so much that I would supplement his solid food with a drink of formula once a day. He’d dance around as I mixed the formula and even at what really was late in life nursing he would hold his bottle like a child and then fall asleep when he had enough. Here's mom with Manny at the Post Office in a photo that was published in the local newspaper.
Over the following years, Manny became a mascot for the group we were board members of. He attended meetings and social gatherings. The local newspaper took pictures of him when the Compassion Club held its annual Animal Awareness Day. He visited two area schools as we did talks on how important it is to spay and neuter one’s pets and how life is so hard when trying to fend for oneself in the wild. The students were so enamored with him that they created a book about his meager beginnings and future stardom as a representative of the need to spay and neuter one’s pet and to be a responsible owner. My mother can still remember getting a phone call from a student who desperately wanted to clarify that Manny had a white tip at the end of his tail – they wanted their drawings and information as accurate as possible. Talk about dedication from fifth graders!
Manny held by our dear friend and retired middle school teacher Trish as they enjoy a beautiful day meeting the public at the Madison Craft Fair.
He celebrated his third birthday on the Branford Green at the Third Annual Animal Awareness Day. Again, he had his picture taken for the papers and gained much attention. After this event, Manny ‘retired’ from making public appearances just to live his life quietly. However, our work with the homeless cats was far from done.
For anyone who feels a cat can’t bring joy to a person, I beg to differ. Manny touched not only my heart and those of anyone in our family but he touched many hearts of people by being an ambassador for our Club.
Manny passed away earlier this year at age twelve after battling Feline Leukemia for an entire year. His loss I still grieve over and I'll never forget you, my companion, my beloved pal, my friend - I will always miss you.