I have a 15-year-old cat named Joey Joe. My former boyfriend and I adopted Joey from a rescue organization at the Westchester County Cat Show in New York when he was six months old. I was 22 years old and still in college. I remember walking Joey in a cardboard box carrier across the Bronx River Parkway and thinking that I was some grown-up.
Joey is a charcoal-gray tabby cat with a white chest and white paws. He has been with me two years longer than any other animal in my home. That is 14 years. Before he came to me, someone cut his whiskers and kicked him. He even now can get a little skittish at the sight of legs. However, I believe Joey is a survivor. Here are some of his adventures:
When we lived on the shores of Peach Lake, Joey would go canoeing with me every day. He once fell into the lake and actually swam to me so I could pull him out.
He went on a four-mile walk with my former boyfriend. When a set of golfers showed up, my boyfriend left him on the eighth hole. Joey waited three hours until I came home from work to search and rescue.
He jumped out the car at a gas station somewhere in Kansas where I almost lost him.
He has bum knee from falling out of tree house on the property of a Montecito horse ranch.
One day in upper Ojai, my wolf dog was barking frantically because a coyote pinned Joey between a rock and a chain link fence. Joey survived with only a few punctures.
Joey, needless to say, has been through quite a lot. My ex-husband even wrote a song about him. When I ask Joey what he remembers of his life, he says he remembers a lot:
“I remember the Badlands and the hotels we slept in and how the country looked and smelled different as we traveled. I remember when we didn’t have a home and Boomer the bunny couldn’t live with us, and we slept in a tent and in friends’ houses. I remember how we lived with Seymour, the blue and gold parrot, and how he knew when there were coyotes outside before I did. The pigs, Jezebel and Simon, and how they were so grateful to live with us and eat juice pulp. The pet sitters we had, and how one of them would go into your closet and wear your dresses. Being scared that a fire was going to burn our house. I remember not being as smart as I am now. I remember Juliet the cat, and her spirit teaching me how to hunt on the day she died. I remember all the types of music you would listen to. The huge organic garden with three different types of catnip. I remember eating puzzle pieces and you wondering where the pieces went. I remember not understanding why I couldn’t go to the bathroom in the potted plants. I remember the smell of wine. The variety of food and treats you gave me. Walking on top of snow, and how beautiful it was falling from the sky. I remember living where there were hundreds of stray cats and that some of them would want to fight for nothing. I remember hanging out in the upstairs in the room with the doorways that opened to the sky, and seeing and smelling the ocean, and watching the waves crashing.”
And when I ask Joey, “What have you learned over the years?” Joey answers wisely:
“I have learned that no fear is worth having, because if you are patient it goes away. I have learned that the oceans, the forests, and the lands from here to New York sometimes suffer and some humans try to make it better. I have learned that good friends of ours walk slower in the house; usually, guests who walk quickly are selfish. I have learned that you can live in the country or the city, and coyotes reside in either place, but there are no deer in the city. I have learned it is cooler under the house on hot days and that eating mice makes my body feel healthier. If you kill a bird, Mom will be really sad. If someone is mean, it might just be because someone hurt them when they were little. Most of all, saying ‘I love you’ with the touch of a paw is the greatest way of healing Mom when she is sad.”