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Kit Menkin

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How Lucky Got His Name

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It was right after we had Sadie, our ten-year-old black Labrador, put to sleep. It was a very traumatic experience. We made a life or death decision that we did not want about a member of our family. A week before, she was very healthy and active.

We had taken Sadie in Thursday to Los Gatos Dog and Cat Hospital. Friday, the blood tests showed kidney failure. She remained three more days for a final blood test on Monday afternoon. If the tests remained the same, Dr. Frandle recommended, for the quality of life and suffering she was experiencing, Sadie be put to sleep. I remember the four days very well. It was a very long weekend.

Sadie was the best dog I have ever known. She came from the Triton Museum fund raising auction. She was our only thoroughbred with American Kennel Society papers. I have trained six dogs at Saratoga School for Dogs. Sadie was the smartest, fastest learner; responded to hand signals. She also was the classiest dog you would ever want to meet. We called her, "Sadie, the Black Satin Lady."

I took her for her final walk on her final Monday morning. I was told to just stay around the building, and interpreted that to mean I could walk around the entire four square block. Sadie seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t know the vet assistant meant the small area on the side of the building. I didn’t know the day would lead to a final late afternoon by us, spending the last time we would ever have with a most wonderful dog, who loved us and licked us goodbye.

I am almost crying writing this. If you are not a dog lover, you won’t understand the trauma and how unhappy we all are to this day when you mention Sadie’s name. I received over a dozen cards in the mail and more than a dozen e-mails of condolences when I wrote about her on the Internet and in more detail than I am now.

On the Saturday after we had taken Sadie for blood tests, I saw this small beaten-up cat dart across our office parking lot. My office has a large window where I can see the roses we grow, plus if I look up from the 21" computer screen, I can see visitors coming in the door. My eye caught this ugly rag of a cat. I jumped from my desk and literally bolted through the door as when I have seen people trying to steal my roses (they used to come with rose cutters, but that is another story).

What was this stupid cat doing here! Sadie was sick and might die and here is this mangy, ugly, thin, beat-up, emaciated cat. I think I scared it with my attitude alone. It froze among the roses as if I couldn’t see it. It was small, very thin, too thin, with dull two tone black and white hair with the strangest looking cross-eyed face.   It also looked like it was about to starve to death. I drove immediately to the closest Seven-11 and bought "Meow Mix."

I never saw a cat with such crossed eyes. I wondered how it could see. The cat was almost skin and bones and was not attractive at all. It took several days of food before the cat looked like it would live. It rained the day after Sadie died and the "Meow Mix" was wet. It looked like mush. During lunch, I bought one of those small Igloos thinking the cat would take refuge. It even had a soft bed.

The cat would have nothing to do with it. The cat would wait until I put food in her dish, then would come up and eat when I left. If I stayed around, she would hide among the bottom of the rose bushes, waiting until I left before returning to eat. But every morning when I drove up, this cross eyed cat recognized my big blue three-quarter ton Suburban (how could she miss it?) because as soon as I stepped out, she would move from under the rose bushes to the dish by the front door. Rain or shine, the cat would appear. Seven days a week (I work almost every Saturday, and many early Sunday mornings).

In May, the cat came up limping to be fed, holding up its right paw. I thought it was broken. The cat still kept its distance from me, but I knew our funding manager, Bridget Tesik loved cats. She had a way with them, and maybe the cat would come to Bridget.

No way. She suggested I catch the cat with a towel (we had one in the office). I tried, then gave Bridget the assignment to catch the cat with the pink towel. This went on for a day or two, during feeding time, or whenever anyone would spot the cat. One time Bridget ran down the street chasing the cat as if out of a television cartoon, her skirt blowing in the wind, her hair being tossed side-to-side, towel waiving in the wind, her yelling "kitty-kitty". It was quite a sight to see.

This went on for several days. I was now getting desperate, thinking the bone might set, and here I was letting the cat down and I thought of Sadie. It made me angry. It made me so angry, I thought of the big white hunter trick from the Michael Douglas movie.

The next morning, I put "Turkey Giblet" in the dish, the cat’s favorite, but this time moved it inside the reception area, with the door open. I hid in the next room. It took the cat what felt like an hour to creep slowly in and then start eating. When I saw my chance, I closed the door with a broom handle. Bang!!! Did that cat take off?!!?

It first jumped against the door, then did a summersault, twisting in the air, this time landing higher against the door, then crashing to the floor. It then ran circles around the reception room, maybe two or three times, going so fast it did not first find the hallway entrance. This cat was going wild! It finally found a way out and disappeared down the hallway.

I locked all the doors, putting a notice not to use a door key, but to use the rear entrance as I had the cat "trapped" in the building. When everyone finally arrived for work, we all went for a search around the office. Bridget found the cat hiding in the corner behind my desk, literally frozen on a stack of phonebooks, thinking if she moved, we would see her. I actually had sat in my chair, gotten up to let people in several times, but never discovered her. She was next to me all the time, but did not move, almost like the first time we met.

We moved the food and water nearby. The cat was not interested. It did not move. It was frozen still, almost exactly the same as when I first discovered her in our garden. I had to go to Morgan Hill to sign a lease with FST Consulting. To my luck, next door to them was the Santa Clara County Animal Control Department.

In the meantime, Bridget made arrangements with the Los Gatos Cat and Dog Hospital. When I got back, the cat had not moved at all. It was a statue. We couldn’t get the County Animal group to come out until the afternoon as this was not an emergency by their definition, so I called Steve Gabriel on a break from Pepperdine. I told him it was an emergency, so he came right in. Steve is the kind of person who can do anything, is not afraid of trying, and while in college playing soccer goalie, he would play with broken bones, but tell no one, because he wanted to play. He is that kind of guy.

I had some gardening gloves, so he put them on, picked up the cat, gingerly putting the scared wild animal into the carrying box we got free from the Humane Society. It wasn’t as simple as I am describing. Steve received several bites through the gloves and on his forearm, but captured the cat. In retrospect, it could have been a lot worse and I should have waited for the County to do this.

We called the vet and told them we were on our way. On the telephone, they asked for   the animal’s name to admit. I turned to my staff perplexed. We didn’t know the cat’s name. We called it "kitty." What should we name the cat? Steve was still here, and he said to call the cat "Lucky." And he laughed about it, too.

The staff at Los Gatos Cat and Dog Hospital put the cat in a cage, hoping it would settle down. We called. The cat still would not let anyone near. The assistant vet told us the next procedure, and their recommendation, anesthetize the cat. Cost: $40. Plus it would not be until 6pm before they could examine the cat, so that meant an overnight stay. I asked them to waive the overnight fee since the animal was wild. They made an exception to policy, but again told me, if the tests showed the cat had aids or leukemia, they would put the animal to sleep permanently. They told me to call back at 7pm.

I decided to visit in person. I saw Lucky asleep in a small wire cage.

The good news, the cat was in very good health and received all the shots. He was neutered. I guess the name then was appropriate.

They could not find any broken bones, even with a double x-ray. Their diagnosis: it looked like an old bite that was healing fine.

Monday, Lucky recognized my car when I drove up. We were back to a twenty-foot distance. It took about a month before he started coming up to me. He then started to brush against my leg and we reached a relationship where he would let me pet him before he ate.

Every morning and evening when I see my handsome cat, I think of Sadie. Perhaps they would have been good friends. Sadie always got along with our cat at home.

I think of Sadie every time I see "Lucky."

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