For years I have been feeding hungry neighborhood cats, those with homes and those unfortunate ones to be homeless.

 Silverbell

Silverbell was a street cat, wary, distant, a loner and a fighter.  I got used to seeing him around, and he would barely let me see him before dashing off.  Gradually he stayed as I watched him eat.  Slowly we progressed to the point that he would remain lying down as I came out of the house just to see him.  Each time I would see him, I would speak kindly to him, calling his name in a soft voice, telling him what a good boy he is.  Persistence and time paid off, and I was finally able to touch him at last!  And he ran!  But little by little, he grew to realize that I would not hurt him, and my sweet words were encouraging to his ears. 

Tired of not trusting, he began to trust me.  Eventually he let me pick him up and hold him.  Mind you, I think Silverbell was always on the street, never having had a real home and family.  He still had much wildness in him, as evidenced by the numerous war wounds that he gave me.  But I knew he wasn’t a mean cat.  I just had to wear down the aggression to find the sweet pussycat beneath the lion’s roar.

The turning point in our relationship came after about four months.  By this time, he allowed me to touch him and pick him up, he had his first trips to the vet for vaccinations and neutering, and he would occasionally come inside to explore my house.  Every night when I arrived home from work, he would appear from his safe hiding spot, and greet me with chin rubs against my legs, eagerly awaiting his dinner and some petting. 

This particular evening, however, he was nowhere in sight.  I called for him but he did not appear.  I walked around the perimeter of the house calling his name when I realized I heard his faint cry for help.  Again more frantically I called his name.  He must be in the neighbour’s back yard injured.  That’s where the sound was coming from, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t come to me. 

I rang Len and Vicki’s doorbell and expressed my fears.  Of course they would help.  Such good people.  Once inside their backyard I learned where Silverbell’s voice was actually coming from – on top of their two-story house.  He must have climbed the tree after the squirrels he would watch and chase, jumped to the roof, and became too scared to move.  Well, I couldn’t leave him on the roof! 

I called to him, but he wouldn’t move.  Len and another neighbour Danny were so sweet to get the extension ladder so we could get my terrified cat off the roof.  We even used an open can of tuna fish as bait to coax him down.  Only Silverbell would not go to them, he only trusted me.  The rest of the neighbours knew Silverbell as an ornery grouch of a cat, but to me he was a big sweet baby. 

So I, afraid of heights and all, climbed the ladder to rescue my baby.  I scooted across the roof in a strange combination of crouching and crawling, too afraid to stand and walk like Danny had been doing.  By this time, Silverbell had walked back and forth on the roof, but ended up frozen, sitting at the far corner edge of the roof. 

By now the entire neighbourhood had come out to watch the crazy cat lady walking on the roof for a cat!  I made it as close to the roof’s edge as I could to where Silverbell was, curled up, looking terrified and crying to me!  I could barely reach him.  Even though I was wearing a beautiful red silk sweater, I reached out for Silverbell, put my hand around the scruff of his neck, and attached his bared nails onto my silk sweater.  I knew he would not let go.  So with one arm around my boy and another hand helping me to scoot back to the ladder, I handed him off to Danny, who handed him down to Len, who handed him down to Vicki, who held my boy until I got off the roof.  He had never been held by anyone but me, but Silverbell was an angel to them all. 

Once we were safely on the ground, I lectured Silverbell about the dangers of being up so high and hugged and kissed him.  It was the defining moment between us.  He knew that I had risked my life for him.  (Okay, I might be a little dramatic here, but I am afraid of heights.)  He was never the same after this incident.  Soon he became an inside cat, always safely indoors and in my sight. 

Each morning as I leave for work and every night before I go to bed, I get to pick him up and kiss him on the lips and tell him how much I love him.  He doesn’t mind my kisses.  These days he spends his time watching the squirrels and birds from the safety of his kitchen windowsill. A pampered kitty now, he has come a long way from the wild tomcat when he found me.  My Silverbell – a most generous gift from God.


© Michelle Gallagher

Florida, USA


Michelle and her husband are parents to four feline angels. She was born and raised in New Orleans and now resides in West Palm Beach, Florida. She says, "Silverbell growls whenever the front door bell rings. He's my watch kitty!"

This story appeared in Petwarmers on 16th March 2005.


 

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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