At Sunset Shores RV Park, Willis, Texas...
This is an unabashedly feelgood story involving some good friends of ours, Steve and Jackie, who are also fulltiming RVers and Phaeton owners. In fact, they generously give us credit for having influenced their recent purchase of the Phaeton instead of a new fifth wheel, as was their intention. But that's another story. This is really about the goodness in people and the incredible good fortune of a kitten named Arkie.
Mention cats in a conversation with several people, and you'll find a rather broad spectrum of opinions regarding the furry little creatures. We have friends who absolutely love them and others who believe they are of the devil. I confess that I rather like cats, but that may be due their snarky, nonconformist attitude, snobbishly deciding whether a mere human is worthy of their affection. I guess I just appreciate individualism and eccentricity as interesting qualities in both animals and people--as they are in some of our friends who are reading this right now. Yes, you know who you are; I will be merciful and not name names, though.
I like dogs, too, but sometimes I think they take the slavish adoration thing a little too far. I can't help but think of Dickens' Oliver Twist and his fawning, "Please sir, may I have another [bowl of gruel]"--something any dog would do for, say, a pat on the head. A cat, on the other hand, would probably make an obscene gesture, if it could. (Now don't write me letters--I said I like dogs, too; I just wish they were a bit more cool.)
Okay, back to the story: Steve and Jackie were on a trip in their Phaeton from their home base in Austin, Texas back to Chillicothe, Ohio, where they lived before moving nearer kids and grandkids in Texas. This trip would take them through en route stops in Forest City, Arkansas and Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Tired after their long first-day drive, Steve pulled the Phaeton into a Forest City Wal-Mart parking lot among some other RVs, and it wasn't long after dinner until they were on their way to dreamland in their comfy Sleep Number bed. Just before drifting off, they heard a faint "meow," which they attributed to a cat outside the coach looking for food. Steve made a mental note to share some leftovers with the cat if it was still around in the morning.
They had forgotten about the cat the next morning as they readied for departure, and the drive to Bowling Green was uneventful until they dropped the jacks and extended the slides at their RV park. At that point, they both heard the same "meow" as they had heard at the Arkansas Wal-Mart parking lot. They looked at each other, and both realized the cat had obviously hidden itself somewhere in the bowels of the coach chassis upon leaving Forest City.
Steve grabbed a flashlight and crawled under the coach on his back, shining the light upward into all the nooks and crannies he could find, looking for the hitchhiker. This was to no avail and, once back inside the coach for a while, he and Jackie realized that they had heard no more meowing, so they hoped the cat had found its way out. They couldn't be sure, of course, and Jackie continued to have the nagging fear that the cat might be injured and unable to move.
After a quiet night, Steve and Jackie got on the road early and decided to stop at a Blue Beacon truck wash in Glendale, Kentucky for a wash job. Steve was quite pleased with the result and was gratified that the attendants washed the underside of the coach thoroughly. Still not sure that the cat had exited, he asked if any of the guys had seen a cat run out, what with all the spraying going on. They replied that they hadn't. His expectations were buoyed, then, that the hitchhiker had indeed left the coach at Bowling Green.
Reaching Chillicothe and extending the slides at their new RV park, they heard the now familiar "meow," which caused great alarm for Jackie, who was wondering how this poor creature had survived the journey with no food or water and perhaps having been injured, all the while avoiding the flood at the truck wash.
So, back under the coach went Steve with his flashlight, but again, no kitty was visible. It was at this point that I got a call from Jackie, wondering if I had any ideas about how to find the cat. I suggested that they first call the city animal control department and humane society--which they had already done, including the fire department, and none of these offered any help. I then suggested that they remove the engine cover in the bedroom and see if they could get a look from another perspective. Steve took the cover off, but again couldn't see the cat's lair.
Jackie put a small bowl of canned tuna on top of the exposed engine, then Steve replaced the engine cover and the two of them left the coach and went into town. Upon returning, the bowl was licked clean. From this evidence, they were relieved to know that the cat wasn't stuck somewhere and could exit the coach if it wanted to, which it, in fact did, as the cat could also be heard in and around a small shed in back of the coach at times. This cat was obviously not going to leave, as it now had a second home in addition to its hiding place in the coach!
Believing it a Divine inspiration for her to rescue this cat in one way or another, Jackie began trying to find a live trap somewhere. She called the animal shelter and tried posting on Facebook, but no help. Finally, Steve's brother came up with one, and they set the trap with another bowl of tuna for bait.
After a while, they checked the trap and found the tuna gone and the trip plate intact. So, they set the trap again, and this time--success! In the trap was a very scared calico kitten about four or five months old.
Jackie's plan was to take the kitten to the vet for a cleanup, exam, shots and spay/neuter the next morning, then to look for a rescue group to help find it a home. She was relating the story to a couple in a nearby RV, who said, believe it or not, that they love cats and had been looking for one! They asked to see the cat and fell in love with it, gladly taking it and naming it "Arkie," in honor of its birthplace.
The new owners of the cat soon left the park and returned to their home in Columbus, sending back to Steve and Jackie photos of its adjustment to the new surroundings, much to their delight.
Now perhaps this story is a little schmaltzy, especially to those who aren't sure why God made cats, but in a world as crass and uncaring as ours seems today, it gave me a warm feeling that we count good people like Steve and Jackie among our friends. For if they would go to such trouble and potential expense to save a mere kitten, I can't imagine what they would do for their friends and loved ones. God bless you good folks; we're so honored to know you!
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.