Leroy (2012 - 2023)

Leroy looking pensive, February 2022

    It did not take long for an unwanted cat to become cherished.  The first  years of his life are mere conjecture, but his arrival at our house at around age two was nothing less than astonishing.  

    We had five cats the summer of 2012, which was crazy.  Some were acquired on purpose and others had decided to move in.  I noticed a totally grey kitten peering from the bushes and trees along the creek ravine in our yard one evening, but it ran away when I approached.  Several weeks later it appeared again, and this time it let me come up to it and pet it.  The little guy wanted his belly rubbed and looked at me with stunning eyes, sort of like 'Oscar the Grouch' on Sesame Street.  I thought Oscar would be a great name for a cat, but knew we just could not deal with another cat.  He seemed disappointed when I explained this to him and reluctantly he disappeared back into the underbrush of the creek.  The next summer he made several appearances and our cats seemed to know and accept him and he looked well fed so obviously had a home somewhere.

    The next summer Oscar returned early one evening and a grey and white cat the same size was following him.  This new cat appeared a bit dazed and confused, but was determined to follow Oscar.  I was at our back steps with several of our fuzzy buddies milling about, which was a typical activity.  Seeing Oscar did not give them pause, but the new cat elicited some interest.  Then Oscar turned to his brother and gave him a severe talking to, which was very harsh.  We sat there waiting to see how this was going to play out.  Oscar proceeded up the path toward the garage and the grey and white cat followed.  That was not what Oscar had told him to do, so he wheeled around and give the new cat a tongue thrashing.  Stunned and hurt, the cat sat down and watched Oscar walk away and disappear down the alley.  The bewildered and shaken kitty just sat there.

    I went in the house and informed my wife Tammy about what had just transpired.  She came out to see for herself.  The cat was still sitting there looking down the alley where Oscar had vanished, and our cats were watching him.  The cat was a nervous wreck when Tammy approached, but he did let her touch and talk to him.  Timid and scared though he was, he was friendly and welcomed her sympathy and concern.

    "So what are we going to do?  You know we have too many cats already," Tammy queried, then added hopefully, "Maybe Oscar will come back."

    "No, Oscar told this guy in no uncertain terms that he was to stay here and Oscar would be moving on.  I have never seen anything like it, and even our boys seemed amazed to witness it.  Short term is to make sure he is fed, and the long term goal is to find him a new home."

    "Are you going to let him inside?"

    "That would be a mistake," I replied.  "I'm not sure how our boys would take that, and besides, we have no idea whether he is litter-trained our housebroken.  We have enough of a problem without dealing with all that."

    Over the next couple of weeks I tried to find a home for a two year old cat.  Our vet let us post a notice.  One Saturday I loaded him into a carrier and took him to all the cat rescue facilities in Columbus, and none of them would take him without being fixed and up-to-date with his shots.  He took this daytrip calmly, and just looked at me with a confused expression, yet was glad and relaxed when we returned home.

    A place to sleep was fixed up in the shed.  Our cats were very interested with what was going on, and made sure he understood they were the primary cats of the household.  It soon became obvious this cat did not know about proper bathroom protocols even outdoors.  He used the English ivy beside the shed door.  He also did not wander about.  Oscar told him to stay, and stay he did!  Fifty feet was about the extent of his initial travels.  Tammy and I asked ourselves what possibly could have happened to this cat to make him this way, and what horrible things did Oscar tell him.  He spent most of the days looking down the alley.

    Somehow he hurt his front paw and it swelled up like a boxing glove, which resulted in his first trip to the vet.  We had no name for him and explained this was a temporary situation.  The injury, which probably was a cat bite, was lanced drained, then bandaged.  The cat would have to stay indoors and use a litter box.  We were adamant that since he was not staying long the house was not an option for a cat that also did not know how to go to the bathroom properly.  We set up a box in the shed, filled with shredded newspaper on the advice from the vet, so as to not get litter in the wound under the bandage.  This arrangement was to last a week.  

    I thought we had to give him a name if we were stuck with him for another week, and a week of close interaction at that.  The grey and white cat became Leroy.  It just seemed fitting for some reason, and he responded to it.  After that it was a return to the vet to get shots and have him fixed.  All this time, effort, and a lot of money in order to finally get rid of one cat too many.

    One cat, ready to go!  Has a name, very tame, litterbox trained!  Fixed and shots up to date - who could possibly resist?  Kittens are the name of the game, and Leroy at two years old was no kitten.  I finally secured a taker, the adult son of a friend at work.  On the day of the transfer I could not do it, so I called and apologized.  The young man was a bit relieved to not have to take on the responsibility.

    Leroy had won my heart.  He had learned a lot, but there was more room for growth, and only a "cat person" would be able to see that and have the patience to continue the work.  We brought him into our house and our home, officially.

    Our "boys" were not too thrilled with this new development.  The "Black Brothers", Jagger and Pip, mostly ignored Leroy.  Greg decided this 'dim bulb' did not merit any respect and would harass Leroy.  Rocket was willing to accept him as long as he knew to stay in his place, which was low on the status ranking.  Dudley concurred with Rocket.  Thus a new feline equilibrium was slowly established.

    Leroy adjusted and learned.  The sandbox was great!  So much so that he would ask to come inside to use it, then go back outside to continue cruising around the yard and ravine.  He had other peculiarities as well, such as taking up residence in the bathroom sink.  That made shaving for the next decade an interesting experience because I was never solo.  The sink also meant he could poke at whoever was sitting on the nearby throne, which could be rather irritating though amusing at the same time.  One thing for sure, Leroy took great interest in whatever we would be doing and was frequently by my side.

    Although our other cats merely tolerated Leroy, I made sure he felt welcomed and gave him some extra attention.  He responded in kind.  A year after his arrival we were both sitting on the back steps one morning enjoying the new day.  Suddenly he became agitated.  Something down the alley caught his attention and made him a nervous wreck. Leroy wanted in the house immediately.  As the form got closer and more identifiable, I realized it was Oscar.  Leroy wanted nothing to do with him.  I let Leroy in the house, and then went out to see if this really could be happening.  It was indeed Oscar!  He wandered up to me as if he had only been away for the evening, and not for a whole year.  

    Oscar had never been our cat, and had never entered our house, but on this morning he came right in and went straight to the water and food bowls.  He was hungry.  Our other cats materialized and went to check him out.  They all knew who he was and seemed quite interested in his sudden reappearance.  Leroy did not share in this fascination, and hissed whenever Oscar approached.

    A day later Oscar disappeared into the ravine, only to reappear two days later with another grey cat following tentatively behind.  Once again Leroy and I were on the back steps to witness this.  Leroy did not like the return of his brother Oscar but the sight of the new cat thrilled him and he ran across the yard to greet it.  Seems there was another brother that needed rescued, and Oscar had attended to it.

    The new cat was grey like Leroy and Oscar, but had longer fur.  Wherever this band of brothers had lived, the conditions must not have been good if Oscar took it upon himself to get them all away.  But in the several years since Oscar first appeared and when he dropped Leroy off, the final brother had gone almost feral, or at least was very wary of people.  It would run away when I tried to approach, even if I was bringing food and water.  Leroy stayed close to him though.  In fact, they spent several days together up on the porch of our treehouse.  Then the newcomer decided to move on, and left.  Leroy stayed in the yard and watched the beloved sibling leave.  Oscar observed this as well.

    Animals know more than most people give them credit for understanding.  Oscar somehow convinced Leroy there was a better place to live, and then traumatized him when he told him he had to stay.  Leroy did not forget what and how that message had been conveyed, so when Oscar returned a year later Leroy was totally freaked out.  Then Oscar repeated this with another brother.  Leroy and his brother had not seen each other in over a year, but they instantly knew who each other was and were glad to see each other.  Animals do not forget.

    Oscar's year on the road had not been kind to him.  He was missing a tooth and another one was broken.  We took him to the vet to have him checked out, plus fixed and vaccinated.  The vet came back into the room and said, "Did you know your cat has been shot?"  We tried to explain that Oscar was not our cat and we had not seen him in a year.  Other than the obvious issues he was okay, a little underweight, and would have to carry the bullet in his back for the rest of his life.

    From not wanting another cat a year ago, and trying hard to get rid of Leroy when he was dropped off, we now had his brother Oscar as well.  Fortunately everybody knew each other and got along.  We just had too many cats, but it all worked out.

    As the years passed, Leroy proved himself to be a gentle soul and an all-round fine fellow, even if he did have some irritating habits.  For one, he liked to wake us up, and worse than that, liked to poke me in the face just as I was about to fall asleep.  Also, if I was reading a magazine or newspaper at the dining room table he liked to stretch out upon whatever I was reading.  He always wanted to drink out of my water glass, which in his case meant sticking his paw into it and knocking it over.  These things he repeated time and again.

    But at the heart of it all Leroy was a fine companion.  He always offered a greeting whenever we approached.  He was always glad to see us, but he was not a lap cat.  Leroy would be beside us, but not on us.  It is amazing how those little things get engrained in our lives, and how comforting just being a constant presence can be.  

    The old gang of our cats began to pass away.  Several during a shockingly brief period of time.  We decided to get two kittens to give Leroy, Greg and Dudley some company.  That did not go well and was not one of our better ideas.  Dudley and Greg wanted no part of them.  Then Greg and then Dudley had to be put to sleep in quick succession due to terminal illnesses, which was overwhelmingly distressing.  Leroy, in his quiet way, interacted with the new kids and guided them.  We were not fully aware of the impact he had on them until it was his time to visit the vet and not come back - due to end-stage kidney failure.  By then Eddie and Zane were three years old.  They both went into a complete depressive funk.  Tammy and I did too.

    I miss being greeted by a grey cat in the sink when I walk into the bathroom.  I miss being alerted, or woken up, when one of the boys wanted to go outside or come back in the house.  I miss having a companion on the coffee table while I read in the evening, even if he does want to drink from my water glass.  Most of all I just miss having Leroy always around.  Things were just better in the world by him being present and letting us know it.  His place in our lives was not passive, it was totally interactive. This is a void that will be impossible to fill. I did not truly appreciate the power he exerted upon my life.  From a cat I tried desperately to get rid of came a cat that was integral to our daily lives, and I feel blessed to have been part of his life.  I truly miss you, you crazy guy - now get your paw out of my water before you knock it over!



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