This is the story of a 70-pound greyhound that has brought back the joy of living to an ancient, timid cat.
I've always had cats. Fourteen years ago, five cats were on hand to greet Tigger, the first dog to enter my life. Irish and Annie came later, followed by Ashley, the male stray whom all the other dogs and cats adored.
Only one of those five cats still survives. Sam-I-Am, or Sammy, has reached the astonishing age of 27 years. She always tolerated Tigger and hissed at Irish, but she was afraid of rambunctious Annie, who wanted to play "chase" and "bark at the cat," games that rank low on the lists of geriatric feline amusements.
Sammy began spending her days and nights in an otherwise unoccupied upstairs bedroom. She permitted only Ashley to enter her room for quiet naps in the final months of his battle with lymphoma. After he died, Sammy was alone again. She rarely ventured outside her room. I feared that she would spend the last days of her life in a tiny world of solitude.
We all missed Ashley. He couldn't be replaced. Nevertheless, the time finally seemed right to add another male dog to make the pack complete again.
A serendipitous search on the Internet led me to Hounds of the Heartland, an Oklahoma City greyhound rescue organization (www.greyhoundpetsok.org). I filled out an application for adoption, and a volunteer introduced me to Rusty, a handsome, red-fawn male with nearly impeccable manners. I was relieved to learn that Rusty had been tested and declared "cat safe."
Sammy was fearful at first. After all, this dog was long and lean like Annie, yet even taller. The cat hid in her room, venturing downstairs only for furtive meals. Her bowl is kept on a high ledge, both to prevent the dogs from eating the cat food and to give her a sense of security from the larger animals. One night, the unthinkable happened.
Sammy finished eating and jumped down, without looking below. She landed directly in front of the new dog and froze in terror. Rusty was startled, but not upset. He sniffed the cat and carefully stepped over her. That was the moment that Sammy's world grew larger.
Over the next few days, the cat came out of her room as far as the stairway, where she sat and watched the dogs. They didn't seem to mind. No one barked at her, and no one tried to play chase. She noticed that Rusty had a large, wooly bed. One day when Rusty was elsewhere, Sammy became brave enough to climb into it. When he came into the room, however, she ran back upstairs. A few days later, she came back to his soft bed and fell into a sound sleep. If she woke when Rusty joined her for a nap-time snuggle, she didn't run. Over time, she has realized that he will not harm her. In fact, he has become her best friend and protector.
Sammy has abandoned her lonely days in the room at the top of the stairs. She now spends much of her time in the sociable company of dogs. None of them seems to bother her, anymore. After all, her personal bodyguard is the biggest guy on the block. I'm the big winner, though. Not only did I get a wonderful greyhound, but Rusty brought back a happier cat, too. - Judith Murphy
Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Norman.