A Stray Cat Named Missy


A humor column is by design or by accident supposed to be funny.  We associate humor with laughter, with smiles and hopefully an occasional guffaw.  Oddly, though, one of the definitions of "Humor me" is "to soothe."

In today's story "soothe" is the operative word.

Last week I lost a precious friend.  It wasn't a family member or a pal I'd known a long time.  Instead, it was a little gray stray cat with a broken tail, a bent back, a scarred eye, and a missing tooth.  Her name was Missy.  I never saw her, I never held her, I never petted her furry coat.  We lived a continent apart and before I could even hold her, she died.  And I am bereft.

Missy belonged to my best friend, Dee, who lives in Arizona.  Because Dee is disabled by an incurable and largely untreatable disease, Sarcoidosis, this stray cat who came fortuitously into her life took on the dimensions of a near-human friend and companion.  It was through Dee that I learned to love Missy.

Last year Dee staged a birthday party for her stray cat at Epoch Assisted Living Center, a posh retirement home in Sun City West, Arizona.  I laughed.  I thought it was a hoot.  But the residents at Epoch had grown to love Missy during Dee's frequent visits to her mother who resides at this facility.  So many residents showed up for the birthday celebration and the large birthday cake which was served, that Dee scheduled a tenth birthday party for Missy this spring.  The spacious living room was overflowing with well-wishers.

Missy primly wore a lace collar and posed proudly for a newspaper photographer.  Party-goers were given packs of Lifesavers wrapped with a colorful printed message from Missy. Slices of birthday cake were served to the residents.  An accomplished guitarist provided special music.  A certificate, naming Missy "Arizona Cat of the Year" was delivered.  Roses were presented to Dee and her caring, elderly mother, Mary, who had found this lonely stray cat ten years ago in her garage in Casper, Wyoming and took her by plane to Dee's residence in Arizona where she was given a warm welcome and a loving environment.

After Missy's first birthday party, Dee and I decided to self-publish "Missy's Mewspaper" a tongue-in-cheek newspaper for cat lovers as seen through the eyes of a cat.  It was an instant success.  Missy, as editor-in-chief, wrote an "Advice to the Lovelorn" column, reported imaginative and humorous cat events held throughout the nation, featured a Literary Section of original poetry by Missy, a classified ad page, Health, Education and Church pages, an Op-Ed page, and a Society page which detailed Missy's engagement and pending marriage to Snuggs Buggalug, a make-believe tom cat who ultimately disappointed Missy enough that she gave him the proverbial boot.  Four or five editions of Missy's Mewspaper were made available to Epoch residents who eagerly mailed copies to family and friends in virtually every state in the country.  Missy had become famous.

When I added Missy's Mewspaper to my own "Humor Me" web site, she became known worldwide.  With links to many other cat sites, Missy's web page brought visitors from over thirty foreign countries as well as every part of the United States.  The postings in my web site Guest book were full of accolades citing Missy's antics, her humor, her foibles, and above all, her sweet, cunning nature.  It became difficult to separate the real Missy from the personality Dee and I had developed for her and indeed, there was no need: Missy was the Missy of Missy's Mewspaper.

Two weeks ago, Dee noticed with alarm several protruding lumps on Missy's tummy. Missy's trusted veterinarian, Dr. Tom Leber, confirmed that Missy was invaded with a very aggressive form of cancer.  With little warning and with virtually no preparation for those of us who loved Missy, she laid her head down and submitted quietly to the inevitable.

When I posted "In Memoriam: A Tribute To Missy" on my web page recounting her sudden death, people from all over the world responded.  Most of them I didn't know but they'd regularly visited my web site to learn of Missy's most recent adventures.  All were shocked and saddened by her death.

For Dee, it is a much larger issue.  Her house is quiet.  Missy isn't there to open the window blinds with her large paw or to push stuffed animals from the shelves of the entertainment center.  Missy isn't asleep in the linen closet.  Missy isn't begging for a can of Kitty Kaviar. And hardest of all, Missy isn't curled up in Dee's arms under the covers at night, providing comfort and love and nurturing to a dear, disabled woman whose love for that little stray cat has become legend.

Will there be pets in heaven?  Billy Graham was asked that question and his compassionate answer was,  "I believe God will provide whatever it takes to make us happy in heaven and for that reason I believe, yes, there will be pets in heaven."


Mariane Holbrook







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