Me and my cat

Off the Beat

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“My parents found him in an abandoned farmhouse with the rest of his litter. We were so lucky to find him.”

Lucky.

As a young girl, there was nothing I wanted more than a feline companion of my own. I poured my heart out in letters to Santa and would search for hours on Furry Friends Rescue’s website for the perfect cat that I could convince my parents to let me adopt. I did find her: a calico named Melissa. I went so far as to go around telling my grade-school companions that she was mine already. I monitored her status online for two full years, but before I could change my parents’ minds, she had found her forever home.

All around me, I watched my classmates and friends showing off their new pets. Whether I saw someone had a full-grown labrador or an 8-week-old kitten, I would immediately become insanely jealous.

I asked my parents countless times why I couldn’t have a cat. They would say something along the lines of “Indians don’t own pets.” I would point out that my teenage aunt and uncle in North Carolina owned two gorgeous golden retrievers and my uncle in Chicago had five cats. “They’re adults,” my parents would say. “They’re responsible.” It would always come down to that, leading to me stomping off angrily like the little spoiled child I was. “I am responsible,” I’d tell myself. “They just never give me a chance to prove I can take care of a pet.”

This back-and-forth went on until seventh grade, when I realized my efforts were in vain and I’d reached the age at which if I did finally adopt a cat, I wouldn’t be able to grow with it. I felt like the fire of my childhood dreams had been extinguished.

But in the middle of it all, I met Lucky. I was a shy kid going to my new friend’s house for the first time. As soon as I walked through her front door, he was waiting there for me, prowling the stairs. Seven-year-old me could not help but squeal with delight on the inside as I rushed over to pet Lucky. I watched him with stars in my eyes as my friend told me Lucky’s origin story then and many more times afterward.

And like all friendships grow, so did ours (both the one with my friend and the one with her cat). Every time I would come over, Lucky would be there to greet me. It was as if he remembered me, like we had a special bond. Maybe he did, and maybe we did. Of course, I would go to her house to hang out with her, but part of me would go just for Lucky. I made it a ritual to cuddle him for a good minute before we went our separate ways, as he had his own business to do and I had mine.

‘Til we meet again, dear cat.

As my friend and I grew closer, Lucky would spend more time with me. He began responding when I shrieked his name in a high pitched voice. My friend and I would sit on her couch playing video games, and he’d jump up and curl up on our laps. He’d perch on top of the computer chair as we giggled at Youtube videos and pioneered PC games. He was there when my friend invited multiple people to her house and gravitated towards them instead of me.

Sometimes, I’d stroke his paws, but he’d quickly retract and leave. I knew he hated it, but they were so soft I did it anyways. At our sleepovers, he’d join us for a short time during the night and duly return in the morning to wake us up.

The first horror movie I watched, “Paranormal Activity,” was with Lucky on my lap. He did sleep through the movie, but whenever a jump scare thundered on screen, he’d look up in curiosity as two frightened kids trembled close by. I’d scratch him under his chin until he drifted into slumber again. He loved that.

Then came Elise, a fluffy calico mix kitten my friend’s sister brought home. Lucky hated her. He was a senior cat after all and Elise was just too much for him. He’d sulk around the house and rarely let anyone touch him. I watched him grow gaunt as the months went by. It got to the point where he wouldn’t even eat anymore.

Lucky passed away in 2011 from kidney complications. I got a phone call from my friend in tears the day they took him to the vet. I felt the familiar weights of sadness but I wasn’t absolutely devastated. It was more along the lines of disappointment. This one creature had made me feel like I had a real companion, like he was my cat. Now, those moments were gone.

But I still have pictures of Lucky and I still have memories of Lucky. He was a better childhood buddy than my actual human friends. He gave me the sustenance I need to pass the years until I am able to own a cat of my own. He may not remember me now, but I’ll always remember him.

Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the fall semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.

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