Even with no formal schooling, Lucky the Cat was quite the teacher.
Lessons from Lucky
By Donna Lowich
Cats are great teachers, aren’t they? That is the conclusion I have come to after reflecting on the life and times of our seventeen-year-old cat, Lucky, who recently lost his battle with cancer.
He was so much a part of our lives and truly a member of our family that it is hard to remember what it was like before he came to live with us. He was a birthday gift to our son, Jeff, for his tenth birthday: he was getting the cat that he had always wanted. Jeff sprang into action, doing research on the care and selection of a cat by talking to his friends and anybody else willing to give him information on the topic. Already, Lucky was teaching Jeff responsibility.
Lucky spent his first day with us hiding under a table. That night, Jeff carried his nervous little kitten, clinging to his shirt, up to his room. A little later, when I looked in on him, I was surprised by what I saw. I called softly for my husband, Walter, to come and see, too.
“Lucky is going to think Jeffrey is his mom,” Walter whispered to me as we watched our son curled up on the floor with his arms wrapped protectively around his new friend. They were about to begin their journey of growing up together.
At age five, Lucky was strong enough to be able to open the sliding door and escape to the outdoors. Unfortunately, he chose to leave for his big adventure in January at the start of a very rainy, windy and stormy weekend.
Jeffrey and Walter searched everywhere for him, even walking in the woods during the midst of the storm, calling, “Lucky! Please come home!” But all they heard in response was the wind howling through the trees.
Each day, they repeated their walk through the woods. But they never saw or heard anything that would help them find Lucky. It looked like Lucky was lost for good, and everyone worried about him being in such rainy, windy weather. Jeff said, “If only I knew for sure that he was OK, that’s all I really want to know.” Even in his absence, Lucky was teaching compassion. He was quite the character.
On Wednesday evening, I prayed for Lucky’s safe return. As we began to eat dinner, I said, “Listen! I think I hear Lucky crying on the deck.” Jeffrey and Walter ran outside, found Lucky and brought him inside.
We were all overjoyed to see him, especially Jeffrey. We were surprised that, despite the weather, Lucky was not wet or dirty although he was very hungry. Jeff fed him some chicken and hugged him tightly. Lucky followed Jeffrey from one room to the next. The two friends were back together once again. Lucky was teaching us another of Life’s lessons: perseverance.
But, life with Lucky had its lighter moments, as well. Since Lucky’s favorite foods were chicken and turkey, it was easy enough for us to figure out that Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. From the moment he could smell the turkey roasting in the oven and all through the day, Lucky was a permanent fixture in and around the kitchen. Arriving guests, usually a cause for him to flee to another part of the house, never dissuaded him from his appointed observation post. Moving the turkey to the dining room was the only way to get Lucky to leave the kitchen.
One Thanksgiving, a number of years ago, temptation got the better of him, and jumped on to the kitchen counter after we were finished eating. The plates were waiting to be scraped before being placed in the dishwasher. I turned to walk into the kitchen from the dining room. I yelled at him, ”Lucky! What are you doing up there! You know better than that! Lucky glanced up at me, with a rather large slice of turkey dangling from the grip of his sharp teeth.
He stared at me, torn between obeying me by jumping off the counter or staying and eating the slice of turkey. Quickly he decided: he would do both! He leaped to the floor while still clenching the slice of turkey in his jaws. He ran all the way down to the basement to enjoy his feast by himself.
Earlier this year, after seventeen years of excellent health, we received some news from the vet that no one ever wants to hear. My journal entry from April 1, 2008 reveals my reaction:
We got some devastating news today. Lucky has cancer…I look outside, and it is pouring rain. I think the whole world is crying with me.
During the next four months, one of Lucky’s daily routines was to sit next to me to be kissed and cuddled. During one of his days when he wasn’t doing so well, I held him close. I began to cry. He turned, and looked at me with a sad but comforting expression on his face. He lifted his paw, and gently touched my face. He was comforting me! He obviously was teaching me about compassion for others. He was quite a cat.
Our Lucky lost his battle with cancer five months ago. He jumped into my lap for his usual “cuddle time”. He started wheezing and jumped down before I could do anything. The wheezing continued, and he lay on the floor. Panicked, I called Walter and we then called Jeff. We were going to take him to the animal emergency center about ten minutes away. Jeff came home and sat with Lucky for a time, holding him in his arms as he had so often done. Finally, he gently picked him up and carried him to the car. We never made it to the hospital. Lucky passed away the same way he started his life with us: in the loving arms of his best friend. He is gone, but his quiet courage and dignity live on in our hearts and in our memories.
Lucky was quite the teacher.