Sometimes greatness transcends species.
Sporty came to live with my family 17 years ago. He hogged the bed, slept on everybody’s chest and got along with most of the pets who came along later.
Once, we brought home a baby chihuahua. We all walked up the stairs, and the dog struggled with the steps. I saw Sporty walk by, curl his paw around the baby’s butt, and push the puppy forward, never missing a step. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d never have believed it.
Cats and birds are not supposed to get along, but Sporty actually liked our pet cockatiel, Jimmy. I once woke up from a nap with Jimmy on my hip, and Sporty asleep in the small of my back.
It would be nice to say he was fiercely loyal, but he really wasn’t.
When we lived in an apartment, he disappeared for a few days. It turned out that a family with two young boys had adopted him, and renamed him Toby. Another neighbor came home from work to discover Sporty sleeping on the sofa. He had let himself in somehow as the guy left for work that morning. Sporty woke up, stretched and walked out. Even when we moved to our home, Sporty wandered to the neighbors and slept wherever he could mooch a meal.
Sporty liked being an outside cat so much that he once jumped from a second story balcony to be free.
Not long ago my wife called me, tearfully saying that Sporty was dead, hit by a car just around the corner from the house. I came home, grabbed a box and a shovel, and found where he lay. He was always losing his collar, but there was little question that this grey mess was Sporty. A lady shot me a disgusted glance as I scooped him up.
When I got home, I opened the door to the van, and Sporty dashed out from under a bush, under the car and onto the porch. I had gathered up somebody else’s cat. Inside my house, my wife and daughter were in the bed, crying hard. I tossed Sporty — the real Sporty — on the bed.
Sporty fought the neighborhood cats and generally won, lost his eye to a tumor, and never forgave my wife for having him fixed. He crossed the street at will, sometimes actually slowing down in the road to raise an eyebrow to an approaching car.
Over the last few weeks Sporty started staying inside more and more, licked people’s hands and meowed more often, as if he was trying to say something. By this afternoon, we allowed ourselves to understand what he was saying.
Sporty is survived by a family which loved him, several dogs who learned to stay out of his way, and by a handful of people in my neighborhood who cared for him just as much as we did.