In 1977 our family of four moved to a one acre ranch in the Rincon Valley area of Santa Rosa. The girls, Anne and Lynn were in awe of the horses on the nearby fences. As they met the children and the neighbors nearby, they became obsessed with wanting a horse of their own. Their dad and I were not ready for these demands, and were putting this off as long as we could. Care of big animals can keep you too close to home As long as we could get away with it, we decided to offer alternatives. We decided a nice lap dog would be grrrreat. One day my husband and the girls went to the dog pound to gain one of the sweetest and smartest little dogs we had ever experienced. As a puppy he was big enough to fit in your hands and he grew to be around 12 lbs.
The girls 8 and 12, could do anything with this white ball of soft fun. For a dog, he was quite versatile, They dressed him up in doll clothes, took him on fundraising Walks For Mankind, he loved camping, and he kept us in stitches as he ran around with a Barbie Doll hanging from his mouth. All this, plus Wags loved his baths, making his fur soft like a kitten’s. This little cross between a pug and cocker grew to be a wonder in our eyes and our hearts forever. Friends gave us a small black kitten with a white middy and white socks. Sam adapted readily to all of us, and the dog and cat would be found curled up together in a loving way. It is amazing how these foundlings could adapt to one another so quickly, and so lovingly as they did. The girls were still haggling for horses, but we were hoping they would be quite content with these sweet animals for awhile. We still had freedom to go abalone diving, have fun at the beach and vacation easily when there was time and money to do so. We had a small travel trailer at that time and did take off for Tahoe adventures with the dog, Wags, happily heading out with us. I think “Adventure” was his middle name. It was with guarded desire for another animal, that we found ourselves targeted by a feral cat - born in a nearby neighbor’s barn. She showed up one day while we were cleaning abalone on the patio. The girl’s father gave her a few nibbles of the cutaways, and she hung around for days in hopes for more. I told the girls she should not be fed…. In hopes she would find another home. To the cries of the girls, “Mom she is so beautiful.” “Mom she gets along great with Wags and with Sam.” “Can’t we please keep her!” My response, “Why would you want to keep a cat that won’t let you touch her? She is so young and it is expensive to have her spayed...no … no… no…
Well you can guess who won. The girls put cat food and water out for her every day. Soon they gave her the name of Callie Cat. She was beautiful, a calico with light green eyes and very delicate boning. Of course we could not touch her, and she would not come in the house….. But eat she could... and she began getting plump. You would see her lying near the dog and cat and sometimes chasing the black cat in play. They were fast becoming a family within a family. After a few months, I noted the girls were giving Callie too much food as her belly was really filling out on her tiny body. I finally realized she was very pregnant...Oopps too late to get her spayed. I had experienced many cat litters as I was raised on a farm. My biology teacher husband laughed as the girls happily discussed how many kittens she could possible have. They were about to experience their first (and if I had my say), last litter. They went to the shed and prepared a box. They led her out with her bowl of food, as if she would not find it on her own to use. Callie was feral, we could not catch her to show her the prepared box. But as cats are a bit independent, she decided on an entirely different spot - indeed. At the time, I was a puppeteer and children’s entertainer. I had a huge box of very large puppets that were kept in the closed garage. Closed I thought very carefully every day.
We spotted Callie looking a great deal thinner and realized she had had her kittens. The girls went to the shed, the rabbit cages, and finally the garage. There were many boxes in there, and as we looked, we heard a distant mew from the bottom of the puppet box. Taking layer after layer off, there she was at the bottom with three little kittens laying on my large furry bear puppet! Needless to say I was a little disturbed, but the girls were ecstatic. It’s ok mommy, we will clean it up…. Of course the puppet was washable and none the worse. She was a wonderful mother and verrrry proud. We carefully closed that door at night, just in case the poppa cat came to visit. She let the dog visit. You could almost see a smile on his face. Blackie the cat was eventually introduced to them as they began to move out of the new shorter box we gave them. Blackie was spayed when we got him, so we knew he was not the daddy. He would let them jump all over him and tug on his tail. Even tho she did not like the people visitors that came to select a kitten, we found homes for each and gave them away when they were old enough. We quickly had Callie spayed. She would now let us catch her and pet her, but she never came in the house. We tried coaxing her in, but to no avail. She had the softest coat, but all petting had to go on out of doors.
While we could teach our children not to go in the roads and to make certain the dog did not get out on the road, we could not teach cats. Sam was hit on the road one morning and we took him immediately to the vet. After xrays, the vet said no head trauma, but Sam had experienced a broken hip and that would be $500 to pin the ball in his hip. It was a clean break, but we could not afford this type of bill at that time. The vet offered to put him down. I said, we would take him home, see how he fared, and if we could get him well. If we saw it was not working, we would bring him back and put him down. The girls placed a basket in the indoor laundry room, gave Sam water, tried to feed him and tended to him - as did their father and I.
Two days went by and Callie Cat was on the patio waiting to be fed with her nose against the glass. I opened the sliding door to place Callie’s food outside. This time she dashed between my legs into the house. She was in on the rug, her nose up in the air. By the time I finished turning around she had quickly dashed toward the open laundry room. As I looked in, she was licking Sam from head to toe, purring and nurturing - her new baby and dear friend. She came in as often as we were alert to her at the door. Wags and she made themselves present to Sam. We would look in and both animals would be in visiting. Yet it was her care that grew his health and desire to live. He began getting stronger, and healthier.
One evening we were all in the living room watching TV. We had forgotten Callie was in the house with Sam. I nudged the girls as I realized Callie Cat was backing out of the laundry room and making low sounds with her voice. We turned off the TV as we were astounded by what occurred next. Out of the laundry room, came Sam on his belly with his claws in the carpet pulling himself forward a little at a time on the carpet. She coached him across the room and back to his bed in the laundry room. He drug his leg behind him, but the other three legs were in action. We were astounded! Callie continued to do this for a week and finally led him to the back door and onto the patio. He lay in the sunshine for awhile and she coaxed him back in. What a coach, What a friend, What a mother and What a nurse she was. After a month you would find Sam up on the fence with his leg dangling off the side. He would chase butterflies, and enjoy his life for many years. The vet was amazed when we told him this story!!!!. After this, Callie would come into the house, sit on our laps, and she would let us pet her. She was so soft, and joined Wags and Sam for evening attention.
Sam was with us for several more years and disappeared on a Halloween night to the dismay of Lynn who was very attached to him. No more than Callie, who looked for him over several weeks. She could be heard calling out to him from various parts of the property. As the years went by, the girls grew up, and my marriage ended. Even tho it was my decision to end my 31 year marriage, I cried, cried and cried every evening, every weekend. It was so weird to function at a full time job in an office all day and come home, open the door, and begin to cry as soon as the key fit in the door. As I would walk in, Callie would run in beside my legs. As soon as I laid down with my tissue box, she would plunk herself right beside me or on me. She would place her little pink velvet paws on my cheeks and purr. I will never forget her selfless tenderness and constant attention. As it does, LIFE righted itself, and things became more than good. Callie would still run through my legs as I arrived home. She spent time on my lap, and was there to talk to in a very empty house.
It was no adjustment to doing things, I was always the worker bee who did lawns, gardens, laundry, cooking, bookkeeping, home and fence repairs, shopping, etc. I would be on the roof clearing leaves out of the gutters and Callie would have found her way there from our tree to coach me on. While she would hide from the lawn mower and vacuum cleaner, she loved grocery sacks and boxes, so my laughter seemed to motivate her to do a fair share of hide and seek in them. One late evening she walked toward me from the fireplace and lurched to the floor. At twelve, it was not too surprising, she was getting older. I scooped her up in my arms, called Lynn who worked for a vet at the time and held Callie close, speaking softly to her. I thanked her for all the GOOD she had brought into our lives and of the LESSONS she had taught each of us. She soon had a second stroke and was gone. I was so thankful she had died in my arms, not on a stainless steel table, and most of all -- not under a bush somewhere. My daughter Lynn came over the next day and we had a little farewell for a life well lived. We buried Callie back of the shed, talked at great length about her, and had a little cry together. Anne, Lynn and I occasionally talk of Callie and how we are still in awe of her wisdom.
No one will ever tell me that all cats are aloof, independent and only want you to care for them. They truly give us great messages of love, loyalty, sympathy and caring. Callie came with one more GIFT, she was a great teacher. I am very thankful that we were her chosen students. Copyright, 2002, Life Is, Judith Rivers-Moore, Santa Rosa, Ca