David Lauderdale

Lessons on life learned from a humble cat

Nothing much was expected out of Mex the cat.

For 19 years, he was part of our home. But he was more like a piece of furniture than the other pets who skipped and hopped into our hearts. In fact, Mex was content to spend most of his life on the green sofa in the living room.

He was a tall, black cat with stilt-like hind legs taller than his front legs. He was gangly, even as a kitten. The other cats, Tommy and Cubby, could pirouette around the house like Alvin Ailey dancers. When little Mex first dared to leap off a bed, he spread out all four white paws in the Superman position and landed flat on his face.

He had nowhere near the personality of the other cats, and he was never cuddly. If you tried to hold him, he'd claw to get away like he was digging out of a coal mine.

He didn't seem to have the curiosity of the other cats, or their sense of wonder in the world around him. He'd bat at a string or a belt, but he didn't spend every waking moment leaping at lizards and staring down tree frogs on the other side of the glass.

He always felt a little oily because he didn't groom himself like the other cats did.

Mex was picked on by the other cats, and the dog. He had to eat in the sink in the utility room so Zoey the dog wouldn't steal his food. Mex had a baby's high chair to jump onto to help him get up there, but it was often a lunging growl from the dog that gave him the boost he needed.

Mex loved to be brushed, though, especially around the head and neck. We had a couple of brushes for him, and a wooden back scratcher, and I do believe he knew where they were kept.

Mex was brushed and combed to his heart's content before we had to put him to sleep several weeks ago. He didn't give up; he simply gave out. The last night of his life is the only time he let me hold him.

As soon as Mex was buried alongside Tommy and Cubby, the most unexpected thing happened.

The dog went into mourning. For two weeks, the dog did not leave the sofa where Mex spent all his time.

To our surprise, we, too, were heartbroken. We didn't realize how much we were touched by the simple cat who greeted us each morning, who rushed over when shoes were taken off at the end of the day so he could rub his chin on them, and who always, always -- unlike his brilliant colleagues -- used the litter box.

Mex didn't demand anything, and he asked for very little. In return, he gave us two powerful lessons on life. He taught us that blessings will be found where you least expect them. And blowhards aren't nearly as special as they think they are.