Dec. 21, 2016: All was calm, as the carol goes. Sophie, my 16 year old, was asleep in her bed in the kitchen. Former feral Humphrey and recent “foster failure” Trinket were asleep on the bed. Outside it was dark and cold — really cold. Suddenly, I heard meowing. My cats were fast asleep, so I peeked out the door and there she was — a beautiful little Calico standing on my porch, staring directly at the door, meowing.
My first Christmas cat had passed away just six months earlier. Nicholaus and I met on Dec. 15, 2004. I was driving home from the veterinary clinic, where I worked, thinking about the Christmas party the next day, which I was not in the mood for at all. Every Christmas of my life until the Alzheimer’s got hold of him, my Dad dressed up like Santa and visited people at the hospital, nursing homes and other places around town. He’d died two years earlier, and Christmas hadn’t been the same since.
I was lost in thought as I drove down the rural road toward home when I spotted a little pile of golden fur glowing in the light of a street lamp in the oncoming lane. I circled back, assuming he was dead, but when I got to him he was meowing, softly. I scooped him up and ran to my car.
His little face had taken a hit, so he spent the night in an incubator at the emergency vet, and I spent the night making fliers to pin up along the road in hopes of finding his guardians. Luckily for me, they never showed up.
Nicholaus and I rescued each other that night. My grief and depression disappeared as my attention turned to Nick’s healing, and before the New Year, we’d become family. With fur the color of honey and a heart as sweet, Nick was the epitome of love and joy, just like Santa.
The little Calico on my porch didn’t run when I opened the door, so I picked her up and brought her inside. She was so cold! The other cats barely noticed as I ferried her through the living room and into a cat bed atop a small dresser in the bathroom. The leather collar around her neck had no tags and was secured with a buckle like a tiny belt — dangerous and completely useless. I slipped it off and went to get her some food and water. When I returned, she had snuggled into the bed, one front leg seductively dangling over the edge. She reminded me of Ruby …
Ruby arrived in the spring of 2001, a little feral Calico who sat on the fence and watched as my other three cats and I played in the yard. She’d come from down the street, where a man was trying to trap and fix the colony in his backyard.
“That one’s independent,” he said. “You can keep her if you want!”
Well, it was a long courtship. I started feeding her — first at a distance, then closer and closer, until she let me touch her. Her first night inside was chaotic. She actually escaped twice, and both times I told her she could come back if she wanted to. She did, and stayed for 14 years.
Ruby loved back rubs, and danced like a ballerina when she played with toys. She was pure sweetness, and it humbled me that she’d chosen to live with us.
“You are beautiful,” I told the little Calico. Silence. “Are you lost?” Silence. “Did Ruby send you?” “Meow, MeOW, MEOW!” I lost my breath and whispered, “Oh my God.”
The next morning I went out (reluctantly, but with a sense of “duty”) taping “Found Cat” fliers around the neighborhood. I posted her online, too, but never got a call. I was between jobs, as they say, and for a moment, I actually thought about surrendering her, but when I called the shelter, the guy said, “Well, our next available surrender appointment is Dec. 24h at 2:30.” Christmas Eve? I can’t surrender a cat on Christmas Eve!
I looked at the bed where she and the other two cats lay sleeping nose to tail in a triangle. “Never mind,” I said, “Merry Christmas.”
She’s independent, like her namesake, and although she’s had plenty of opportunities these past five years, “Ruby 2” has never tried to leave us.
They say Christmas is a magical time. Well, I’ve surely received my share of magic over the years, and at least twice that magic has come wrapped in fur. Merry Christmas, everyone.