He is a cat who could be dead or still alive tonight. He is also a symbol of abandonment, decrepitude, poverty and pain, but always accompanied with dignity. Old Cat has been gracing our doorstep for years: an old yella fella of the tabby variety who sired more than his share but never forgot who was good to him. If ever there was a cat I would’ve loved to have befriended from the beginning, he would be the one. A sizeable, striped yellowish-butterscotch-and-white with a pink nose, he wound up having a good dozen or more lives, returning as each began anew. With one ear gone, several broken hips and legs, usually limping and always looking sideways from his injuries, he has managed to show up for his evening meal like clockwork. His purr somehow seems to get louder as he brushes unabashedly against you, still respecting your boundaries when you place his dish a few feet away. A trail of blood may be all that remains of this valiant fellow at this point, something I saw in my mind’s eye but a week ago. We have one of his great grandsons, terrific temperament included. We once took in his offspring, two butterscotch brothers, my just knowing they were FIV ridden, and having to mercifully put them down for fear of their transferring the disease to our privileged and pampered pets. I can never live it down nor forget their faces, always in fear of gazing at their photograph. Old Cat – once a head with only a spine attached – the cat I refused to feed for a night or two back then, praying he’d perish because it was implausible that he could survive. And yet some kinder soul with far more hope apparently made sure that he did. He rebounded beautifully and returned to us, never to be ignored again. He is the one who reminds you of those who freeze or swelter in public parks or far worse at night; the ones no one wants or knows how to handle without getting irreparably damaged themselves. Like them, he never asked for protection, just kindness. His strength is forever my weakness.