We first met him nearly two years ago. He was a mere kitten when he suddenly appeared in the alley behind our house.
Shortly after he appeared, he was lost. His guardians, who had done nothing to protect him from such a fate, canvassed the neighborhood with the kind of poster that is an all too familiar sight.
He was missing for one week, then two. His guardians brought home another kitten to replace him. Then, he suddenly reappeared. His guardians learned nothing from his absence. They continued to disregard his safety, and also the safety of the second kitten, and their adult cat, Domino.
He grew up outside, exposed to inclement weather, wild animals, and countless other dangers. His orange tabby brother, who was far more trustful than he, was swept up in The Capture and taken to a new, safe home. Unapproachable due to fear, he stayed behind. He and Domino struggled together, two neglected Limbo kitties taking comfort wherever they could find it.
One night, his guardians left. Then Domino was taken away by a man he appeared to trust. The only family he knew was gone. Those who were supposed to love and protect him had abandoned him. He had been treated no better than the garbage they had left in a pile in the backyard, a pile he was now forced to live in.
But his plight had not gone unnoticed. On July 1, 2012, his life changed forever when he walked into a strange, wire box to help himself to some tasty food. A door slammed shut behind him and he was suddenly swept up in The Capture and whisked away to The Promised Land. I was excited to greet him the next morning.
In the early days following The Capture, he was filled with fear. He struggled with inner demons, acquired during his year of life in Limbo.
He lashed out when handled. He bit and wounded one of the Guardians as he was being contained for a trip to The Bad Place.
He endured physical trials. Not only was he neutered at The Bad Place, he also had to have a broken tooth removed.
He constantly hid. He was afraid of all of us, both felines and humans. I sat with him to help him overcome his fear.
The Brothers followed My lead. They welcomed him warmly and made him feel at home. Well… there were a few hissy fits from Brother Oliver, but he got over it.
He began to let his guard down, and a silly side of him emerged.
His True Spirit slowly began to shine through. There was an amazing little being underneath all that fear.
Slowly but surely, he began to trust.
The trust continued to develop until it began to transform into genuine affection. He began to love.
His world was expanded to help him push his boundaries.
Barriers were removed to allow him to integrate fully with the rest of us. He cautiously explored his new world.
In time, his confidence grew. His fear, though still present, began to noticeably subside.
He began to assimilate. As he did so, he was recruited to undergo training.
He amazed us all with his resilience and strength. He also puzzled us at times.
And now, exactly one year after he was swept up in The Capture, Thomas is truly one of us. As he looks out of the window in Kitty Valhalla he has a view across the alleyway and into the backyard in which he once lived. The garbage pile is still there. A year of sun, rain, wind and snow has turned the boxes and paper to tattered piles of mush. A thick coating of algae covers everything. It is an image of neglect and despair. As Thomas sits in the window, less than 100 feet separates him from that living hell in which he was abandoned, but this kitty has traveled miles from there.
Many of you have followed Thomas’s progress over the past year, and have expressed how much you love him. He is a remarkable kitty in his own right, but he is also a shining example of why we must continue to reach out to kitties stuck in Limbo or The Shadows. Abandonment, in any form, is not OK. Imagine if the Guardians had turned a blind eye to Thomas, or decided that food and water was all he required. Where would he be today? Assuming he was even still alive, WHO would he be today?
There are so many neglected or abandoned cats out there that it’s hard to feel like you can ever make a difference. But you can. You may not be able to single-handedly save them all, but Thomas’s story, and MY story for that matter, are shining examples of the kind of difference you can make. And believe Me, there is as much in it for you as there is for the kitties. When you take a cat from a place of fear, desperation, and despair and provide him with the safety and comfort he needs to fully be himself, you will see his True Spirit soar. When you see that, I guarantee your spirit will soar with him.
So Sayeth Otis