We lost Sophie the other day. She had been a part of our family since 2002, an even-tempered, soft-spoken, really sweet cat with a short tail and a coat of silky long hair that in some places was at least three inches long, maybe four!
Sophie came to live with us under unusual circumstances. I have told the story before, but it’s a fun story, one worth telling again.
The year is 2002 at Muleshoe High School, homecoming, and the kids are back at school Monday evening to decorate the halls and classroom doors for the week’s activities. I am there as well, and the kids are busy getting the job done. The next morning several of us are in the workroom getting ready for the day when, all of a sudden, we all hear a quiet meow, meow, meow. Mr. Mardis jumps up off the sofa, from which the mewing seems to be coming, and we all exclaim the obvious-“That’s a kitten!”
About that time the bell rings for first period to begin, so I leave not knowing what will be done to find this kitten who must have wandered in the night before, as the doors were wide open while the kids were coming and going while they decorated.
After first period I scoot back into the workroom to see how the search and rescue is going. The sofa is turned on its side, the back fabric has been slit open, and Coach Wood, all six foot-something of him is on the floor with his arm jammed into the sofa trying to reach this kitten.
About halfway into second period, school nurse Michelle Barton comes into my room with this scrawny little gray cat with matted eyes desperately clinging to her shoulder. “Here, Alice, take this kitten,” she says, to which I respond that I have three cats, why don’t you take it? “My dog would eat it,” she says.
So she shoves this baby into my chest, says she will cover my class while I take the kitten to the vet to be checked out, and off I go with the stowaway.
I don’t ask permission or sign out to leave campus; Mrs. Barton is in charge, knows where I am, and tells Mr. Jenkins what’s transpiring. And while he learns about it sort of after the fact, he’s okay with it because he knows he can trust us to take care of business. Just one of the advantages of teaching in a small school district where the faculty is close-knit. But that’s another story.
Anyway, here I go dressed for the homecoming week hippie day in my tie-die t-shirt and jeans, sandals, straight hair, blue eye shadow, and big earrings with this kitten to the vet’s office. As I drive, I wonder how I must look, a flash from the past with this scared little cat clinging like Velcro to my t-shirt, driving when I should be at school.
I leave her for her physical and hurry back to school, where things are going just fine without me, thank you very much. I am greeted with concerned looks and questions about the baby cat. And those questions continue off and on the rest of the year, as the kids are really interested in how Sophie, as she came to be known because she had come out of the sofa, is doing.
And she did just fine, thanks to Mrs. Barton not taking no for an answer and me taking her home, where she was accepted by the other cats and Daphne the dog. And Bill, who really didn’t want another cat, but with whom she formed a bond and in whose lap she spent many happy hours watching football. She also enjoyed sleeping in his golf cart.
All that long hair would get matted terribly by the end of summer, no matter how diligently I tried to keep her brushed, so I finally resorted to having her shaved. Bless her heart, she was so patient with the hair cut; she quietly purred through the whole procedure. And it kept her from matting up from one summer to the next.
In the end it was a fungus on her lungs that did her in. She was sweet, patient, and gentle about it to the very end. God love her. I wrote her a good-bye letter, put it with a picture of her in a plastic bag, and we buried it with her next to her friend Gracie Lou, close to where she would hang around with us when we would sit in the evenings outside.
She was one of a kind, Miss Sophie. I still miss Bill saying, “Sophie’s hungry,” and she would be sitting at the kitchen island, patiently waiting for her milk and cat food.
Godspeed, dear Sophie.