I was six years and living with my mom in a small rental home in the “Old Town” section of Albuquerque, New Mexico—a working-class neighborhood of modest single-story ranch and adobe houses. My father was out of the picture, and my mom worked to support us. We had a middle-aged German Shepherd named Hugo, whom we’d adopted from the local SPCA. We weren’t looking for any more pets, but fate has a way of surprising you when you least expect it.
One day my mom returned home from shopping, and parked our VW bug in front of the house—which stood with many like it before a broad drainage ditch that snaked through the neighborhood. In the desert, these ditches are mostly dry, except during the rainy season when they guide thousands of gallons of floodwater safely out of town to the Rio Grande. During the dry seasons, the ditches are largely ignored, except for small lizards and other desert wildlife. On this day, however, my mom knew immediately that something was wrong. She heard the yowl of a clearly distressed cat coming from behind the house where the ditch ran.
When she investigated, she found a heavy plastic garbage bag, tied and sealed, moving in the ditch. She scrambled down, retrieved the bag, and opened it. Inside was a full grown orange tabby, male, a bit dirty and dehydrated but seemingly in fair health. For unwanted and discarded pets in America, this situation is all too common. Naturally, my mom expected the creature to scramble away as quickly as possible, but he didn’t. He’d clearly been raised around people and was actually quite friendly.
When I got home from school, my mom told me the story and announced that we had a new cat. We named him Dave and outfitted him with all the cat basics—litter pan, food, bowls, and a toy or two. We kept him separate from Hugo (the German Shepherd) for a day or two to acclimate him. We didn’t know how the dog, who had never to our knowledge been around cats, would react. The introduction went surprisingly well. The two touched noses and accepted each other almost immediately. Maybe they both understood on some level that they were rescues and ought to stick together.
They soon took to sleeping--curled dog around cat--in Hugo’s dog bed. The funniest part of their newfound friendship was when they attempted to groom each other, specifically each other’s ears. There was Dave, with his raspy little cat tongue, attempting to groom Hugo’s huge ears—looking as he were trying to lick a sailboat clean—and Hugo, with his big sloppy tongue licking Dave’s ears, as if he were slapping paint on a house.
The two remained friends for years--until we were forced to move across country--when Dave was adopted by our landlord. Since then I’ve rescued dozens of animals from unusual places—ranging from a highway median in Virginia to the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts. Most have been placed in forever homes, and others were raised by my husband and I. Nonetheless, it all started with the day my mom found Dave in that plastic bag. It was a lucky day, for all of us.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.