8 years ago my little brother and I were talking on my parents' deck one morning when we heard barking, yelping, growling, hissing and other obvious signs of distress from two animals in the wooded grove of scrub oak trees below us. Recognizing the sounds of our beloved black mini-dachshund, Cody, who was clearly in a fight with another animal, we scrambled through the trees to break up the fight and see what was causing all the raucous, expecting to find Cody and a racoon arm to arm. When we got into the trees however a cat fled the scene, leaving our dog Cody with one of her tiny kittens clutched between his teeth. We grabbed him and pried the teenie tiny little kitten out of his jaws. He dropped the slobbery kitten, barely the size of a hot dog bun, on the dirty forest floor below. I scooped her up, expecting her to be dead, or at least bloody, and cradled her in my hands, but not before Cody lurched out of my brother Shawn’s arms and grabbed the kitten with his teeth. Once again we pried her loose and examined her, careful to keep the dog better restrained this time. She was shivering and smaller than any kitten I had ever seen, eyelids barely peeled back at all, but aside from the slobber I couldn’t see any signs of harm.
I had never been a cat person; I was proud to pledge my allegiance to the dog-loving-club, but I’ve always had a soft spot for all animals. Besides, who wouldn’t take pity on a tiny helpless kitten in the clutches of a dog’s jaws? We took her inside and put her in a shoe box with a tiny butterfly pillow of my little sister’s. We tried to feed her some cows milk but really didn’t have a clue what we were doing and it was obvious she was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
When she awoke hungry later that afternoon I was determined to reuinte her with her mother if I could and set out to do so. I took her tiny shoe box out into the yard, making sure to keep the dog trapped inside, and left the box on the grass near the trees where I could see. I backed away and hid out of sight and waited. The stray mother cat came, sniffed, and left. My heart broke. I thought, surely this was a mistake, maybe the box and the pillow were the problem. So carefully I snuck up, removed the helpless little kit from her box and placed her in the grass so tall it almost completely hid her. I returned to my hiding spot and waited. The mother cat came, sniffed her kitten, and once again retreated into the woods alone. My heart broke all over. I think it was then that my insistence on being “a dog-person” dissolved. That little kitten was going to die if I didn’t help her. So I did. She couldn’t stay at my parents' home where she would starve if she didn’t fall victim to the jaws of the dog again first, so I took her home to our house.
The plan was to take her to an animal shelter where she could be adopted, but I think it was too late for that the second I watched her mom walk away from her. You see, Colby and I had been married for a few years already and knew we wanted to have kids. I loved teaching elementary and considered it a life-calling, but at the back of our minds there was still that urge to care for something little and innocent and sweet of our own and despite our efforts we weren’t getting pregnant. Ironically, we had actually been contemplating getting a dog. God put a kitten in our lives instead. So we kept her.
We took her with us everywhere we went those first few weeks. She was too little and fragile and helpless to do anything for herself. By a struck of luck we went to the pet store and happened to meet several animal rescue experts that told us she was probably 2–4 weeks old, didn’t have a good chance of surviving, and told us our best chance how to care for and feed her. We purchased some formula and a tiny doll-sized bottle. She slept in her little shoebox around the clock and we woke to feed her through the night every few hours, just like a newborn. She grew so fast and we’ll never forget taking our little kitten with us on a family trip up to Moose Hollow and keeping her in a plastic kiddie swimming pool next to our bed. It was on our that trip that we knew we needed a name for her. Nothing quite seemed to fit though until my dad suggested Lucky and it felt right. She was lucky — lucky to be alive.
At home, she quickly outgrew her shoe box and we tried to quarantine her to the bathroom, and then the kitchen with cardboard boxes. She learned to scratch and scramble and slide across the kitchen floor and before we knew it the boxes were useless and she was jumping in the bed with us and curling up on our head in the night. During the day she would unexpectedly sneak up behind us, jump and attach herself to our legs and back with her claws, we would arch in helpless agony as she would climb up us like a tree to perch on our head and shoulders. Gosh we loved that little kitty, even with bloody scratches down our legs and back.
That was in our old 100 year old rental home in Bountiful, back before we owned our own home and Lucky loved that huge overgrown forest of a backyard — the same one we once found a homeless person was living in. We often had deer resting in our yard in the afternoon and Lucky was curious as ever about them. She would approach slowly and we would watch out the window as she and a deer would cautiously go nose to nose as if to say a friendly “hello.” We loved to watch her pounce on bugs and try her best to catch birds and mice although she was never very good at it, thankfully.
We’ll never forget the tumbling ka-thud, ka-thud, ka-thud we heard one day as I realized with horror that I had just started the dryer with Lucky inside! I had been loading the dryer with wet clothes when she climbed in. I laughed and then walked away to the bedroom to get the other load of dirty laundry to put in the wash thinking she would climb right out. I returned to the laundry room, my mind already on something else, and started that load in the wash then realized the dryer door was still open. I must have been preoccupied mentally as I slammed the dryer door, assuming I had just forgotten to start it, pushed start and walked into the kitchen. The 3 seconds later when I heard those tumbling thuds were horrible as I realized I had trapped Lucky inside and ran to the dryer to rescue her, thankful that the dryer hadn’t had longer to heat up and really harm her. She was a lucky cat.
Eventually, we got pregnant with Zoe and there was no chance I wanted to bring a newborn baby home to that old house. It was finally time for a place of our own. So we moved, and I’ll always feel bad for the trauma we caused little Lucky with that move — but she adapted and she learned to love our new home and yard and we even installed a little kitty door for her in a window in the basement.
Our family grew. First with Zoe, then with Crew, and finally with Marley. Lucky loved them all. She was cautious with each one as newborns but oh so tolerant. She would let us lay the babies on her or next to her as she laid on the bed in the sun and she would come and sniff their little soft heads and give them a few loving licks. As the kids got older they would sometimes terrorize her, chasing, grabbing, and pulling her tail. She was so tolerant. Gosh she loved them.
It was Colby that she loved the most though. I’ll never forget laughing, with a bit of jealousy as we snuggled up on the couch together each night and she’d cross over my lap to get to his, or when he’d stay up late to work on something and rather than curling up in bed with me like she usually would she’d go stay by his side. He would terrorize her more than anyone else could and yet she still loved him best.
She loved me too though and I’ll always treasure those tender moments when I would be curled up in the dark bedroom in agony alone with a migraine, sometimes crying tears from days of wretched pain in my pillow and Lucky would climb in the bed knowingly and curl up right on my head and begin her soothing purr, as if to say “I’m here. You’re not alone.” She seemed to know when I needed that extra love and where I was hurting. Sometimes it was my nauseous or aching pregnant stomach she would curl up against, and those nights when she was too tired to stay up with Colby and would curl up at the foot of the bed with me I would try my hardest to lay impossibly still as if to say to her “Stay, it’s ok! Stay here with me. Don’t go — I’ll be still.”
We decided to travel full-time last year and knew we would always regret it if we didn’t, but my heart broke every single time I thought about leaving our sweet Lucky. We found renters for our home and they agreed to watch Lucky while we were gone. We felt peace and so grateful she could keep living at home… even if our hearts were breaking to leave her behind. And believe me, we tried and tried to think of ways we could bring her with, but in the end it just seemed selfish because we knew the travel and adjustment over and over each month would just be cruel to her.
Now she’s been missing for a week, we’re a world away and our hearts are breaking over and over again. Each night as we join together in prayer before we rest our eyes I can’t keep mine from wetting the pillow praying that she’s okay. My heart aches with the guilt and hurt that we had to leave her behind, sick with worry and thoughts about what may have happened to her, and full of desperate hope that we’ll see her again.
Our dear, sweet Lucky, wherever you are, whether heaven or earth, we love you. We miss you. And we thank you. You will always be a part of our family and you will always remind us that we are lucky to be alive. We are lucky to have each other. We are lucky. Gosh we love you.