Just goes to show you first impressions aren't always accurate.
The night Lucky came to me half-starving and frightened in the alley behind my apartment, I thought, "You poor thing. So thin and so afraid and so in need of love."
I know how I am. I was determined not to take in another cat, and so after I gave Lucky some food I started walking back toward the house. I'd only gotten a few steps when she grabbed my ankle gently with both paws, as if trying to keep me from leaving, and looked up at me with her little head cocked. It was as though she was wondering what I was thinking.
I hate guilt. It won't let me sleep at night.
Still, I managed to pry her paws loose and walk away.
Inside, I started thinking. "What's this poor little thing going to do when it gets cold out? She just sits in the compost pile, unprotected from wind and rain. How's she going to eat? Her idea of birding is to walk right up to them. Most of them fly away. The rest just keep pecking away right in front of her. It's really pathetic." I slept fitfully.
It got colder. I put a box with towels in it outside for her. It got downright frigid.
I hate guilt.
I scooped her up, and carried her inside. She hissed at my 6-year-old cats Cassie and Scooter, curled up on my lap, and went to sleep.
Unfortunately, all's not well that begins well.
Lucky was terrified of Cassie and Scooter. That's understandable, since when the two of them stand together they look a lot like a furry Mack truck. Not realizing that Cassie and Scooter are gentle giants, Lucky decided to face her fear headon.
She confronted them. She chased them. She swatted them. She terrified them.
After the third unprovoked attack, I had a talk with Scooter.
"Look, you're twice her size," I said. "Thump her just once and maybe she'll stop these terrorist attacks. Stop being such a wimp."
He looked at me blankly. Shock does that to you.
I was going to give Cassie a pep talk too, except Lucky had her cornered under the bed.
I thought about what the vet's assistant said when I took Lucky in for her shots.
"I suggest you keep them separated while you're at work. The other two cats may gang up on her while you're gone, and that wouldn't be fair," she had said.
HA HA HA HA. Little did she know.
I realize free kitten signs are posted in every corner of creation, but I keep thinking once I've told her story to someone (I've even approached strangers in the grocery line) they'll feel their heart touched and take her from me. So far this hasn't worked. In fact, people seem to resent my asking.
"Your problem, lady. Not mine," said one particularly insenstive and rude man.
A friend suggested I leave all the cats out and together when I'm gone. Her theory: I'm the alpha cat (top dog) in Cassie and Scooter's eyes and they depend on me to protect them when I'm home, so they make no effort to defend themselves. They have no need. If they are confronted by the kitten in my absence, they will revert to true feline form and defend themselves.
"All Scooter would have to do is sit on her once," she said.
My friend's a former therapist. You can tell, can't you.
"I don't want to find big fuzzy body parts when I come home from work," I replied.
So I'm looking reluctantly for a home for Lucky. I think she needs to be king of the hill. I think she needs someone who has no other animals. Someone who is gentle and loving.
Lucky's bright. She's litter-box trained. She loves to play. She has long black and white fur and immensely long white whiskers, and white hair sticking out of her black ears. She's quiet as a churchmouse.
And she has that disarming way of looking up at you with her head cocked at an angle, as if she's trying to figure out what you're thinking.
Oh, God, I hope she doesn't know.
I hate guilt.
Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.