Something about Harry

Posted: Oct 18, 2006 12:01 AM

Who was this intruder? The little old lady in Little Rock could tell when he’d been using the cat door. She already had two felines she treated like royalty, and now she would awake to find her pets’ food gobbled up and their water spilled on her clean kitchen floor.

The lady didn’t mind an occasional visit, but soon it became a nightly habit. Then late one night the phantom raider materialized: an orange-and-white tabby with the manners of an alley cat and the wariness of a hunted thing.

When she tried to shoo him away, he would skitter off — but not very far.

All her huffing and puffing didn’t fool him one bit. He knew a soft touch when he’d found one.

Like the man who came to dinner, the nocturnal visitor gradually insinuated himself into the household, much to the other cats’ initial annoyance, then grudging acceptance.

The new addition remained stand-offish, but he was willing to tolerate his hostess and her pampered pets — at a crafty survivor’s distance. One morning the lady of the house awoke to find him asleep at the foot of her bed. By the time she gave him a name — Harry — he’d become part of her life.

Then the lady decided to move close to a couple of her daughters and their families a few states away, and she just couldn’t take Harry with her. She fretted about it, but two cats were enough — more than enough sometimes.

She could have left Harry behind to fend for himself, but he wasn’t getting any younger, and she couldn’t just abandon him.

What to do? She called several places trying to find him a home, but to no avail. She was getting desperate when a vet told her to call a local outfit dubbed FuRR, which stands for Feline Rescue and Rehome. She’d never heard of it, but she called, and was mighty glad she had. She was told to have her cat neutered and FuRR would find him a home. Hooray! (But you should have seen her trying to get Harry in a cat carrier!)

That’s when she discovered that Harry had feline leukemia, a common enough condition among strays and quite a few household cats. He must have had it long before he came into her life. Enter an angel named Susan, who took him home with her. Problem solved, conscience eased.

That was a year ago, and though she knew Harry was ailing, it was still a shock when she got the e-mail from Susan. As she wrote back:

I knew the minute I saw HARRY in the subject line that he had died. As tears started, I was determined I was not going to start sobbing. So to ease my grief, I decided to review his life and try to focus on the positive things-the good things. He did have a good home for several years. He had a warm place to sleep and good food and loving. Several of the neighbors thought I was crazy, but I still let him stay. I just want to thank you so much for taking him and making his last year on earth a good one. … Yes, as you said, Harry was a special boy — even though we are the only two on earth who knew that!

Well, there may be more than two now that Harry the Cat has made this column.

How strange: Harry was always a loner, but he seemed more than content at the home FuRR provided. As the months passed, and he slowly grew weaker, Harry seemed to let his guard down. He actually began brushing up against the human who cared for him.

Toward the end, he must have sensed it coming, because he wouldn’t leave Susan’s side and spent his last days sleeping in her arms, which is where he died.

There was something about Harry that sticks in the memory. Especially if you’re something of a loner by nature, the kind any sentimental display makes a little queasy. Harry may have been asocial even by the usual feline standards, yet he inspired a certain fellow feeling.