|Jack loved to lie on his back in the kitchen doorway. He loved|
to lie on his back anywhere, actually.
Today, on Black Cat Appreciation Day, we’d like to take some time to tell you about Jack, an exemplary black cat and one of the best cats ever. His story is a reminder of how excellent cats can be, and of how you should appreciate their excellence every day because you never know when you might lose them.
He came in the fall
It was late fall, going on winter, when the handsome black cat who would come to be known as Jack started showing up at She of Little Talent’s back door. Old SoLT was very sick at the time, on the list for a lung transplant, and the last thing she or her family needed was a new cat. But…
This cat was persistent. He returned day after day. At first, food was set out for him. Then, as the weather turned colder, the humans in the house bought a heated cat house for him. The cat was never crazy about that little house. He started pawing at the humans’ back door like he wanted inside, but when anyone opened the door, he’d run away. Then one day he didn’t run away; he stepped inside tentatively but panicked when the door was shut behind him. The next day he came in again. And again. Each time, he’d stay a second longer before clamoring to return to the cold outside.
By this time, the cat had an unofficial name, Jack, given him by old SoLT’s mother. (Old SoLT, by the way, wanted to name him Snowball, which was possibly one of the worst ideas she has ever had.) No one knew if the cat was male or female, but everyone called him Jack.
|Jack and Webster became best buddies.|
Though Jack was younger, he somehow
seemed like an older brother to Webs.
Not everyone wanted a new cat
Here you might be expecting me to tell you how old SoLT was the driving force behind welcoming Jack into the family. But that’s not how it was. In fact, old SoLT was the one who did not want a new cat. I remind you that old SoLT was ill, and one of the great joys of her life during that time was being able to watch the birds visiting the feeder on the back deck. Only “this stupid cat” (that’s how she thought of him) kept hanging around and scaring them off.
In the end, though, she could not say no to a cat, especially once Jack got into her heart just a little bit.
Jack arrivesOn one of Jack’s forays into the house, an attempt was made to catch him for a trip to the vet. There was no question anymore of leaving him to face the winter outside. That cat was going to be rescued, whether he wanted to be or not. The first attempt failed and ended with poor Jack clawing frantically at the door to be let out. On the second attempt a few days later, though, something seemed to have changed for Jack. He was calmer, more willing to stay inside. Old SoLT’s dad even got him into the carrier and took him to the vet, where he was given a clean bill of health.
Now, the family already had two perfectly good cats (the Real Cats), and somekitties were not thrilled to have a new member in their midst. Jack stayed in his own room for a while, and when he was given free range throughout the house, there was some hissing at first. But (at least as old SoLT remembers it) it wasn’t long before he was a full-fledged member of the family. He became a best buddy to Real Cat Webster, and even Real Cat Paisley formed a friendship with him, surprising everyone.
|Even Paisley got to be friends with Jack, and they|
would often curl up together to sleep.
A cat unlike any other
There was something unusual, special, about Jack. First of all, he was just extraordinarily handsome in his jet-black coat, which he wore proudly. But he was much more than a good-looking cat. He had presence, something more than physical. His spirit was so strong it filled the room when he walked in. Jack was the quintessential old soul. He spent a lot of time with old SoLT in the difficult months after her lung transplant, purring and kneading the blanket and just generally making her feel better.
And so it went for a couple of years.
The day it ended
Then, on a Sunday afternoon one year and a couple of months ago, everyone in the house realized they hadn’t seen Jack for hours. An indoor search was launched, food was brought out, but Jack did not appear. The search moved outside, his name was called, the treats container was rattled, but still no Jack. As suddenly as he’d appeared at that back door, he was gone.
At first, the people held out hope that Jack would come back. Maybe, despite has apparent satisfaction with his indoor-only life, he’d felt the need for a day or two in the sun. Food was set out and other cats appeared to eat it, but Jack did not. Old SoLT did spot him a couple of times while she was out walking the big, exuberant dog, but she never got a chance to get close to him. A neighbor claimed to have seen him. But then, as days turned to weeks and a hot summer set in, no one saw him again.
|Jack liked to find interesting places to rest. Here|
he makes himself comfortable in old SoLT's
Life went back to how it had been in the pre-Jack days: It was fine. Well…it was tolerable, though there was a hole that seemed considerably larger than you might expect a twelve-pound cat to leave. Old SoLT got used to doing without her nightly chats with the poised young cat who had seemed so old and wise. She got used to not seeing the tips of his ears sticking up behind her computer monitor as she worked. She got used to worrying with every thunderstorm, every oppressively hot day, and then every cold, snow-filled day. Was Jack somewhere safe and protected?
Old SoLT still worries about Jack, she still misses him, and that is why, on this Black Cat Appreciation Day, we are taking time to tell his story and encourage readers to welcome black cats into their lives. You never know when that cat with the coal-black coat might turn out to be the wise friend you didn’t even know you needed.