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April 2014 • The Lesson I Learned From Smokey

April 2, 2014

     “Meow!” The grey cat greeted me at the back door as I left for work. I figured she was a neighborhood cat that had decided to ramble. “Go home,” I shouted. I hated cats. Furthermore, I couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly want one for a pet. Cats were aloof and unfriendly, kind of like Mrs. McKaslin*, a lady that lived a few miles down the road. Try as I might, I couldn’t make friends with that woman. She always appeared to be in her own world, and seemed to resent anyone intruding. She probably liked cats!

This cat had shown up out of the blue one day and obstinately refused to leave. I simply tried to ignore her, but I finally resigned myself to the persistent “meow” every time I left the house. She didn’t appear emaciated, so she was either foraging for her dinner or stealing food from our next-door neighbor’s cat. No one in the area knew anything about her. Why had she picked our house, when she could have had her choice of a dozen others?
     My dislike of felines was rooted in my childhood. I had a friend that had a cat, and every time I attempted to play with him he scratched me. Sometime later another friend offered me a kitten from their cat’s litter, and the same thing happened. Nope, cats weren’t for me. Now if only someone would tell that persistent grey tabby that!
     About a week after the mysterious feline appeared, our family went on a 10-day vacation. I forgot about the furry animal and enjoyed my time away from work. When we returned, though, the cat was still keeping vigil on the patio. I finally told Eddie, my husband, that anything that tenacious deserved to at least be fed, so I bought a bag of cat food. Then I named her “Smokey.” It wasn’t a very original name, but I had never had any reason to name a cat before and didn’t have any experience in picking a suitable moniker.
     In the coming weeks we settled into a routine, Smokey and I. As usual, she greeted me when I came and went, and she was allowed to roam free inside the house whenever she wanted. I even installed a litter box for her.
     During this time my elderly mother’s health was failing, and I was going through a difficult time in my life emotionally. Smokey seem to know when I needed a friend. She would jump up on the arm of my chair and, as soon as I touched her fur, she would start purring. Her beautiful eyes seemed to portray a belief and acceptance that she was where she was supposed to be. I was beginning to believe it, too. I learned that she loved the back of her ears scratched and to have the fur on her back rubbed. I sneaked in a hug every now and then, but she wasn’t too fond of that. She never scratched me, though, not once!
It was obvious Smokey had not had an easy life. She had scars on her face, and a missing section of her earlobe belied a possible fight with another cat or other animal in her past. She understood adversity, albeit in cat terms.
     Smokey was with us four years, but one day a hunting dog that was loose got into an altercation with her and she didn’t survive. I was devastated.
     I never found out where she had come from, but there is no doubt in my mind that her showing up on my patio that warm spring day was all in God’s timing. I had been wrong about cats, and He used Smokey to teach me a lesson. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). I needed to learn not to prejudge animals or people. You see, I learned something else. I was wrong about Mrs. McKaslin, too.

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