Last year on 11-7-11 our family adopted a kitten named “Lucky”. I often look at her and think about what she endured at just 10 weeks old, and how she appears to have absolutely no attachment to the pain or to the loss that she may have experienced as I watch her playing with her toys, chasing what seems to be nothing, and begging for treats next to the dogs who have trained her so well. Maybe she understands that she had to experience some hardships in her short life to get to the life that she was destined and blessed to live?
Lucky was left for dead in a school yard in one of Chicago’s worst and most violent Southside public schools. Someone had placed a miniature noose around her tiny neck and attached it carefully to a wire fence on a school yard leaving her there to die. I would imagine that the people who did this have done terrible things to other animals. I would imagine the people who did this have had horrible things done to them. But I do not feel that I should judge them sitting here in my suburban glory; I do not feel that the lesson of the kitten lies anywhere within the pain that someone felt they needed to inflict upon the kitten to alleviate the pain of a life that someone like myself could not even begin to understand.
Conversely, I do find within myself very deep appreciation for, and a reflective need to honor the children who found her in time. It is profound to imagine the children who must have been brought up in very much the same environment as the ones who inflicted the death sentence on the kitten. But instead of leaving her there, these children chose love over pain, and saw some value in her little life, and perhaps at that moment, the kitten had awakened some value in their own lives too. The children who were running and playing were given an opportunity on that day to be more than just kids playing. Those kids were given the opportunity to be heroes in a place where heroes are rarely seen; Right there opportunity met them on their own playground.
When they found the kitten, I can picture a scene where one of them lifted her away from the tension of the noose and held her still, while the other child untied her as friends looked on. I can imagine how they felt empathy maybe for the first time, while speaking of how cute she was, and how everyone together wanted to help too. I envision the one who was holding her above her noose, putting her neatly into his coat and zipping it up to help to protect and warm her as he ran her back to the safety of the inside of the school to tell his teacher. I picture the feeling of warmth inside his heart, as he felt the safety of the kitten, so very small, resting calmly within the security in between his coat and his warm body. I envision the kindness within the hearts of the others, when they realized that they had done something good in a world where it often seemed that little good could be done.
When the children got to the doorway and brought the tiny infant kitten to their teacher they were worried about what would happen to her now. These kids had seen so many horrific things in their short lives, and they could relate to the pain of the kitten who like themselves, had seen too much pain in her short time here on earth. She seemed okay though, and she still looked back at them with love, for she held no resentment towards people, but instead the kitten basked in the gratitude for the moment of the celebration of her survival, as she purred in the arms of the child who found it within him to save her.
The teacher made sure that little Lucky found her way to an animal shelter where she would remain until our family found her. My cat Jake had just died three weeks prior. Jake was also found in a situation that seemed to have no way out. He found warmth on the gas tank of a dually pickup truck hauling horses from the stable where he was born to be one of many barn cats. The driver kept hearing what sounded like meows coming from somewhere inside the cab. When they found the kitten still hanging on for dear life to the gas tank after hours of driving in the rain, they decided to name him Lucky. Twenty years later, after a blessed life, he passed the torch to the new Lucky in our lives.
When Rene and I walked into the Pet Smart on that Saturday we had no intention of getting a kitten. I was looking at pure breeds, like Ragdoll kittens and Bengals, online all night the night before, and I really had completely convinced myself that I wanted to buy from a breeder this time. Rene was convinced that we were not getting a cat of any kind, so when he said, “Let’s go look at the cats”, I almost fell over.
“Okay.” I said surprised, but I got really keyed up inside, like my intuition was speaking to me to go and take a look, especially since Rene had suggested it, and he was so against getting another cat. It was an unusual day at Pet Smart, and on that particular day the Safe Harbor Shelter was there, and there were many, many kittens visiting for the weekend in the hope that someone would take them to their new forever home.
I curiously looked into all of the cages. They were placed on stands that were right out on the sales floor, not inside the cattery behind glass as they usually were. Many families were there holding kittens. We had our dogs with us on leashes, and they were curiously looking in at the kittens, and behaving respectfully, as they always do. I spotted a little gray and white female kitten in a cage of three or four black kitties who were playing wildly while she sat contently and watched. I stuck my hand inside her cage and she bent her neck so that I could scratch her behind her ears. She was so beautiful and delicate looking, and seemed so sweet and quiet so I asked if I could hold her. “I have never had a female pet.”, I thought, and I was drawn to her. I pictured a pink girly bedroom for her full of frilly pink toys, and pink bedding.
A woman from the shelter came up to me and said, “Oh, you’re holding Lucky.”
“Lucky?” I said. The woman who ran the shelter told me about Lucky’s story, and I was positive that she would be coming home with us. I was overwhelmed right then, with the awareness that she was indeed our cat; that for certain she had been sent to us and for us. No more dreams of pure bred Bengals and Ragdolls, we had most certainly been called to this rescue and rescue now we would. I have never once regretted this kitten, and she has become one of the greatest gifts of my life, one of the greatest blessings of our family.
This kitten was not ever intended to be a cat of the streets of Chicago, hunting for food and living out her days in a cruel and harsh world, but while she was there she had to endure, she had to fight, and she had to push through those horrible and frightening days in order to find us. I often think about the lessons in the story, and I know that her destiny, her purpose was wrapped and packaged so neatly within those lessons. I think that we are often times put in agonizing situations to teach and learn lessons, and in turn we are rewarded for our sacrifices when we see our way through, and we can look back and see the path which was to be our own fate both as the student and as the teacher.
Perhaps it is simply that the lesson of the kitten is found within the journey; as she offers us a lesson of endurance, of fortitude, and a lesson in patience, as we trudge along to overcome hardships in our own daily lives. Perhaps her message is simply to teach us that if we learn to walk through our lives unafraid of the pain, with very little attachment to the outcome, and with no worry; there will undoubtedly be a promise of freedom, peace, love, and serenity right there waiting in front of us. The lesson of the kitten is one of great hope and optimism. Hope for the future of the kids who saved her in their school yard, hope for us that we can endure anything, and hope for the kitten who was graciously rewarded the beautiful life that we are blessed to be able to give her.
On November 7, 2011, Lucky became another lucky cat, who will live out her life blessed with gratitude, as she is forever carrying the gifts of the lessons her sweet soul came to leave us with on that day.
(In keeping with the tradition of the Lucky who came before her, Lucky’s name has been changed to Coco.)