It all started a couple of weeks before my 13th birthday, when a new cat arrived in our home. She was black with a little white locket on her chest. At least, that’s what I could see when I peered under the couch and saw the terrified creature, huddled in the farthest, darkest corner she could find.
At some point my mother explained that this cat had belonged to a friend of hers, but that friend wanted to get rid of the cat for reasons I’m still not sure about. (My memory of that time is kind of sketchy due to trauma and the passage of years.)
What I do know is that I saw this poor, frightened, cringing cat, and my heart filled with compassion and sadness.
For three days I didn’t see her. I knew she did occasionally leave her hideout, though, because the kibble we’d left for her had been eaten.
As I recall, I wanted to call her Marigold because of the color of her eyes, but my mother decided her name would be Maddy-Gold. After all, the cat was mad — mad as in crazy.
Through the fog of time and dropped brain data packets, there is one thing I do remember: I couldn’t stand to see this beautiful cat hiding and miserable, and I had to at least try to do something about it. One afternoon, through a combination of circumstances I don’t recall, the living room was quiet and I was alone with Maddy. I opened a can of tuna cat food, placed it on the floor in front of the couch, and started talking to her.
"Here, kitty kitty," I said, almost in a whisper. "I’ve got some food for you."
A little black nose poked out from under the sofa.
"Good girl," I whispered.
She sniffed at the cat food and took a tiny lick before darting back into her hiding place.
I moved the can a few inches closer to me.
Maddy crept out to investigate the cat food and for the first time I really got a good look at her. She had the shiniest blue-black fur I’d ever seen, and those big golden eyes scanned the room looking for danger. She took a bite and then ran back under the couch.
This went on for quite a while as I moved the can of food closer to me, inches at a time, as I murmured loving and reassuring words. With each move, she took another bite or two before retreating to her hiding place.
Eventually the food was right in front of me, and so was she. I let her take a couple of bites and reached out to touch her, ever so gently.
She jumped back, startled, but didn’t run away.
I let her sniff at my hand and gave her another gentle touch on the head.
All of a sudden Maddy looked up at me. Her eyes softened and she climbed into my lap, where she curled up and began purring.
With tears in my eyes, I stroked her soft, shiny fur as her muscles relaxed and she melted into a bundle of safe, beloved feline.
From that day on, she hung out with me. She slept in my bed. She sat in my lap. But she never let anybody else touch her.
I thought my mother was annoyed with Maddy and probably wondered more than once why she’d decided to take on this crazy cat. But I found out later that Mom actually did have a soft spot in her heart for this feline refugee.
One day when I came home from school I saw a cardboard box on the woodpile by the front door. Inside was Maddy’s body.
"What happened?" I asked my mother. "Did Maddy get hit by a car?"
That happened a lot on the rural road where I lived.
"I had her put to sleep," Mom said, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I took her to the vet this morning. She’d been losing weight. She had tumors all through her abdomen. I wanted you to have a chance to say goodbye to her before I buried her."
I wish I’d known Mom was going to take her to the vet, and why.
That was the last I saw of Maddy-Gold, the crazy black cat. We only spent a year or so together, but in that short time she changed my life.
What about you? Do you have a cat who changed your life? Let’s talk in the comments.