I have a cat named Lucky (or Lukita, as I call her here in Mexico, even though that’s not how you say “lucky” in Spanish). Her street name is Lucky-DFM, which actually stands for “lucky Dalton found me.” And it WAS lucky that Dalton found her. Dalton is a big, good-looking Navajo friend of mine who worked with me at Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona (hereinafter “PEFO”).
Some time in 2007, both Dalton and I heard some animal making horrible noises in the area of the water treatment room at Painted Desert Oasis (the northern end of PEFO), which can be entered directly off of Interstate 40. We went to see what type of animal was making the noises. And there, perched high overhead on a beam, was a smallish multi-colored cat. She had a large voice for such a small kitty, which is why we had heard her in the first place. Dalton was prepared to go get a ladder and fetch her, but the cat leapt from place to place on the equipment, gradually descending, and got to us before Dalton had time to do so.
The cat didn’t really seem scared so much as glad to see some humans. She obviously wasn’t feral since she ran up to us, rubbing our legs and purring, and standing on her back legs so we could pet her head. While Dalton stayed with the cat, I went back to my office and called National Park Service (NPS). NPS has a rule that anything found in the national parks must be reported to them so that they can attempt to contact the owners or at least hold the item in their lost-and-found for a minimum of 72 hours.
One of the NPS employees came over to retrieve the cat, who was still rubbing against Dalton’s legs and purring. Fortunately, the woman from NPS was a cat-lover and happy to take the animal to be logged into the lost-and-found. In order to “hold” the cat for the requisite 72 hours, the cat was turned over to one of the NPS employees who worked at the northern end of the park. The thinking was that the cat’s owners would return shortly, once they realized their beloved pet had escaped. (Consensus of opinion was that the cat had likely jumped out of a park visitor’s vehicle while stopped to get gas at our station or stopped to pay the park entrance fee.)
But 48 hours later, no one had claimed the cat. At that time, one of the NPS Park Rangers, who lived at the south end of PEFO, took the cat home with her since the cat, while extremely friendly to humans, didn’t get along well with the cats who lived with the woman who had had her for 48 hours. The Ranger, Kelly, also had cats but felt that perhaps her animals might be more willing to accept the stranger. Not so. The cat continued to either fight with or hide from the other cats in the household. And she apparently was also terrified of vehicles and expressed her fear while riding in Kelly’s NPS vehicle in the most stinky way possible. (Fortunately, she was in an animal carrier and not riding free-range, so to speak.)
Dalton and I had been keeping up on what was going on with the cat during those three days. When, after 72 hours, no one had claimed the cat, we were told that she either needed to be adopted or they would have to turn her over to the SPCA in the nearest town, with a great likelihood that she would be put down.
Now, I like cats, but I didn’t really want one. I didn’t want to be tied down with responsibility for anybody or anything other than myself. I’d raised my son for the most part by myself and now that he had been for many years out on his own, I figured I had contributed enough responsibility. (Which, of course, says a lot of ugly things about me….all true.) But for whatever reason, I volunteered to take the cat.
In this post, I’m not gonna go through what that was like. Suffice to say that within 18 hours after I received the little cat she went into heat — which probably explains why she was alone at PEFO. If I had had to listen to that yowling while in the contained space of a vehicle, I would have thrown her out, too.
But Lucky/Lukita is one of nature’s anamolies, the friendly cat. Just as she came to Dalton and I to be petted and fussed over, so she remains. When anyone comes to my house, whether the water man or a friend stopping by, within a minute or two, she’s out to meet that person, still doing her “pet me, pet me” routine. In the three or so years since I found her, she’s lived in two different countries in four different houses. And it doesn’t seem to bother her a bit. (Well, okay, she HATES going in my truck to get to these new places, but within seconds of arriving, she’s settled in.)
The reason I chose to write about her now is that I’ve been thinking about how lucky I am to live in Mexico. And so is Lucky. More later.