So much for cat years, however they are calculated; and for nine lives, however defined. Sophie has surpassed them all.
When we adopted our cat, Sophie, from the Cleveland Animal Protective League June 30, 1990, she was one of seven black kittens from the same litter — tiny, seven-week-old carbon copies of one another swarming about a cage. Sophie edged her way to the front of the pack. Her gesture wasn’t much, but it was enough. We took her home.
As I watch her slumber on her purple sleeping bag, folded and fluffed just so and set in front of a glass-panel door where she can spy on birds and squirrels with the thrill of a hunter and the spirit of a kitten, I cherish the moment. I know these times won’t last forever. Still, it’s impossible to imagine life otherwise.
Sophie joined our family within weeks of our move to our first house. I was 29, newly wed, and the doting new mother of the kitten we named, formally, Sophia. On our first night home, I fashioned a ball out of tin foil and rolled it across the floor to Sophie. Rather than bat the ball, Sophie clenched it between her teeth and skipped toward me as if she had claimed a silver medal. She had spunk, and we loved it, that is until we brought home our newborn baby, Matthew, in 1992 and swung into protective-parent mode. We kept Sophie a safe, look-but-don’t-touch distance from baby Matt. Either unamused or insulted, or probably a bit of both, Sophie retreated under beds and took a backseat for what seemed like years.
When baby Paige arrived in 1995, Sophie took her in stride. Paige, on the other hand, grew somewhat preoccupied by the pint-sized puma, and her first word wasn’t “mama” or “dada,” but rather, “Doi-yah” — Sophia, in baby talk. As a toddler, Paige both endeared and feared the little black cat. She hugged walls as she crossed Sophie’s path in our home’s narrow hallways and patted her cautiously with affectionate signs of peace.
Since those early days, Sophie has seen her human siblings, now 22 and 19, off to preschool, on first dates and proms, to high school graduations and off to college. She has been their lifelong pet and steadfast companion, here from the start, here through every tear and celebration — here, a beloved friend and cherished family member.
We’ve moved to five different homes since our first one, and at each, spent endless hours outside with Sophie as she chomped on luscious grass blades and basked under the sun on warm concrete pavers. She receives every first “Hello” and every last “Goodbye.” Through nearly a quarter-century of our family life, Sophie has remained the one constant.
Her once rich, black, velvety coat is now thin and spotted, and her prance, a wobbly amble. Sophie’s relic toys collect dust and faint passing glances. We’ve grown older and grayer together, and prized material possessions no longer matter. All that matters now is time together, precious time.
/ Denise Henry is a public relations representative and writer living in Stow.