How Luke Found Me
There are two things in this world that I have deep compassion for: children and animals. Both are vulnerable to the neglect and abuses the world hands out to them and require a lot of love and understanding. Three years ago, my daughter went to a summer camp outside Binghamton, New York but when I received a phone call from the nurse at the camp saying my daughter had the swine flu and was quite ill, I went to her. Upon learning she was being given cough medicine to help her sleep and suppress a cough (not a good medication to give an asthmatic) and that she was vomiting in her sleep without waking up, I packed up her things and decided to take her home to recuperate.
We were driving on Highway 8 North – a 2-lane road that goes through miles and miles of rural farmland – in Upstate New York when we noticed all traffic including several trucks inching along ahead of us. As we got closer, we saw a tiny black and white kitten struggling to walk across the road. I pulled over and grabbed a towel out of the backseat, scooped the kitten up and put it in my daughter’s arms. Allergic to cats and not knowing what else to do, I asked my daughter to hold the kitten while I tried to find a vet via the GPS. Thankfully, 5 miles away was a country vet who was able to see us right away.
The vet told us the kitten was between 3-4 weeks old, malnourished, dehydrated, had fleas, mites, and eye infections in both eyes (that were crusted shut with pus) but with antibiotics and some other meds, food, water, and some love, the kitten would be fine. We decided we would take the kitten home, nurse it back to health and eventually find a permanent home for it. My husband was on a business trip at the time so he didn’t know about our recent rescue (I say that because I have a history of taking in unwanted animals much to his dismay). Neither of us would ever describe ourselves as “cat people” so I wasn’t in any hurry to tell him we had a tiny kitten in the house.
Our kitten was a boy and we were going to call him “8 North” after the road on which we found him but my daughter thought he looked like a “Luke” – all 9 ounces of him. I remember holding him in my hand thinking he would break as he didn’t feel like he had any bones. Luke was unable to meow and his hair – where he had it – was spiky and sparse due to malnutrition. Above his eyes the hair was missing so he wasn’t the most beautiful kitten but as the days went by and he started to recover, I realized we had the sweetest animal that ever walked the face of the earth living with us and it didn’t matter what he looked like.
I called my husband a few days later and told him the story of rescuing the cat from a certain doom and that we would be looking to find a home for him. My daughter made signs that said “Free Kitten To A Good Home” – “References Needed” – “Home Inspection Required” – hoping these stringent guidelines would deter anyone interested because she had no intention of letting anyone take Luke from us. When my husband mentioned that our accountant’s cat had just died and that she was looking to get another cat, my daughter wrote her a letter saying that Luke was a rescue cat and proceeded to list everything that might deter her from wanting him including “he sometimes has a hard time cleaning up after himself after he goes to the bathroom but we wipe his butt; his eyes were infected and he may need long-term special care; his teeth are crooked and may require dental care, etc.” When our accountant showed us the letter, we both laughed and realized Luke wasn’t going anywhere.
We decided to keep Luke as an indoor cat (but refused to have him de-clawed) and he thrived. He loved our corgi, Daisy even though Daisy didn’t share the same feelings. In fact, Daisy was a bit put out with sharing her home with another animal. When Luke tried to nurse from Daisy, Daisy abruptly got up and left him and when Luke wanted to snuggle up to her to sleep, Daisy at best tolerated him.
Luke quickly realized the way to Daisy’s heart was to groom her so several times a day, he would lick her eyes, ears, and face and Daisy came to realize there are advantages to having a kitten around. We also realized how special Luke was. He charmed us with his personality and astounded us with his intelligence. When we closed the door to the pantry, Luke would jump on the washing machine and use both his paws to turn the handle until the door opened. My husband and daughter thought I was losing it when I told them Luke knows how to open doors and it was only when they actually saw him open the door, that they realized I wasn’t losing my mind.
Several articles advised me how to deal with cat allergies – give the cat a bath once a week to minimize the dander, wash hands after petting the animal, change the vacuum bag every week – and we have found a way to live together. People are astounded when I tell them the cat is bathed weekly or that he allows me to cut his nails, and that he loves road trips (he really does). If I take the cat carrier out and place it by the door, he jumps in, lays down and crosses his paws waiting for me to zip up the door as he doesn’t want to be left behind. Luke is used to moving around and is perfectly happy in the car, a hotel, or at home. I am told this is unusual.
Luke grew and grew and as he grew he came to look more and more like a pear and I write that with deep affection. We all said that what he didn’t get in looks, he got in personality and even my husband fell in love with the kitten who would hug his cheeks with his paws or put his nose up to give a kiss. Luke was affectionate, loving, and there wasn’t a mean bone in the cat that grew to be 18 pounds.
Several of our friends told us our cat was fat (really!) and after the vet talked to us about the dangers of obesity, we put Luke on a diet. Luke is now 3 years old and down to 14.7 pounds – positively svelte – and much healthier.
When I told a friend about Luke and how I never thought I would have a cat, she said “you just didn’t know you were a cat person. Most dog people are cat people but they don’t realize it.” I walked away with the knowledge that I never would have opened my life to a cat if it didn’t fall in my lap and I probably was a cat person but didn’t know it. What I do know is that I am so lucky to have Luke and so grateful that he picked us to be his family. We call him Lover Boy Luke and the name fits.