The Story of Toes starts a good 18 years ago. Two years before my sister Hannah was born and in the days when my family lived on an old country road in an ancient farmhouse that was built long before the American Revolutionary War. Toes was not would you call the perfect candidate to join the ranks of our family animal tribe. To the those that know him today, Toes is the aged silver haired cat that prowls the grounds at my families new home. For years he has stood guard with his gleaming green eyes watching over what hapless squirrel or mouse might wander his way. But like most good stories it was not always so…
When he first arrived he was the runt of the litter, sick and I’m sure moments away from deaths door. We took him to the vet, they told us it was hopeless, and suggested he might have any number of various feline diseases. Undeterred my mother asked what could be done… being the runt is never an excuse to give up. It turns out a healthy regime of being cleaned aggressively several times a day to cure the infestation of fleas coupled with a healthy diet of steroids were Toes best bet. My mother, always one to take the underdog under her wing, accepted the challenge.
He was so small back then…barely enough to hold in the palm of your hand. He wheezed when he took a breath and beyond eating up his daily dose of medicine barely moved from his little home in the kitchen. My mother must have known it was only a matter of time… sometimes the world just needs to take the weak ones to make room for the strong. Or so they say.
But Toes hung on… seems he didn’t get the memo about his place in the world and he must have decided that he would rather live and make a place for himself. It didn’t happen magically overnight like it does in the movies you watch… but it did happen. First he stopped wheezing and his breathing improved. Then the fleas went away and his scruffy grey coat filled in thick… and when the last hair grew back in it suddenly seemed to shimmer and shine. And then he grew… and he grew big… and he grew strong! From humble and weak beginnings Toes shook off his back the trials and tribulations the world at placed on him just days after he was born and from day to day grew bigger and stronger.
Toes became the young man on the street just moments after he left his little home in the kitchen and ventured out into the yard for the first time. My mother has always been famous for slathering our cats toes with butter the first time they are let outside to venture. She says, and history has confirmed it, that they spend those first minutes cleaning their toes and this helps them remember where home is. Toes never forgot. He would venture far and wide in his 18 years on patrol. He got into trouble and came home repeatedly banged and bruised…sometimes more broken than others. But he alway came home… and he always recovered big and strong once more.
These days Toes has grown old. His once proud coat is fading, just a little, and the strength in his body is leaving him clear to see. He has had many recent trips to the vet and some even whisper that this may be the last summer that he prowls the gardens. But from time to time you will see Toes sitting on the outside deck patiently watching the world around him. He wobbles just slightly but you can still see in him the strength that took a little runt of the litter and made him the proud cat he is today.
He has littered four cats that are now spread around the world. His daughter, Slippers, still lives with my family today. She continues his tradition of prowling the gardens and although she is known for giving her father a hard time… sometimes you can still catch her helping clean his grey coat. The others are with homes in America, maybe most famously Maximus who, just like his father, grew up big and strong with a shimmering black coat…the next generation all ready to carry his name forward.
Stories are most often told of those we care for…they’re journey from humble beginings to the end of their days. Somehow it seemed that “The Story of Toes” was best told while he was still prowling, purring and patiently waiting sitting there on the deck. Maybe Toes was only granted 18 years, maybe more… who knows. But if you can learn anything from a cat, our famous little tiger Toes, then it’s that life may not start out like you planned, it may throw you more than your own share of curve balls… but that doesn’t mean you have to take it… fight long, fight hard and get life off your back and find your own destiny.
Today’s toast goes to Toes and may The Story of Toes carry on another summer longer.
UPDATE: Toes passed away this morning, Monday, May 9th. Sleep long, sleep well, goodbye Toes…