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Amazing animals: The Legend of Luigi
When a fire destroyed our townhouse, we worried wed never see our beloved cat again.
He slept on our patio for one week and begged for food. Every time we opened the drapes he cried and looked at us with his green, almond-shaped eyes, pink nose and funny Charlie Chaplin moustache.
As a family of three, we took a vote. We decided that although we had lost two other cats to coyotes, we couldn't resist giving this poor emaciated cat food
He had no collar or identification. We had no way of knowing if he was a neighbor's pet. His striped gray coat was lifeless. His watery eyes looked sad, and he scratched his ears constantly. He cried throughout the night, even though he was generously fed.
“Let's take him to the vet,” said Brad, my younger son, who instantly fell in love with him.
“If no one claims him within a week, we will take him to the veterinarian. Hopefully he will get well and we will have a new cat in our house,” I said.
A feline friend in need
I couldn't stop thinking about the sad animal that now slept on our patio on top of our old blankets. I wanted to take him in my arms, cuddle him and feed him.
After a week, no one came looking for him, despite our posting signs near the mailboxes and telephone poles just outside our townhouse complex. The three of us were already attached to him. He was sweet, smart and responded to food.
When we took him to the vet, we learned he suffered from an eye infection, ear mites and malnutrition. The doctor suspected he had been abused as well. He told us to be gentle and go slowly when we showed our affection to the cat.
The medication cost more than $150, and the doctor told us it would be at least three months before his hair would be shiny again and he would begin to trust us.
At home, the boys fed him and carefully displayed their love while I administered his medication.
“What would you like to call him?” I asked.
“Tiger,” said Brad.
“No, Silver Streak,” said Marc.
“How about something that describes his funny moustache we love so much?” I suggested.
“I know! Luigi,” said my younger son.
“That's it!” We all agreed it was the perfect name.
Luigi made himself at home with our hospitality. Before three months were up, he had improved remarkably. Each day he became more open to letting us touch him, and his disposition was wonderful, despite his sad history. He was fully recovered and definitely our favorite cat of the three we'd previously owned.
The night of the fire
About a year later, the three of us went out to dinner, leaving Luigi at home as usual. When we returned home, we found fire engines along the driveway, near our garage. We didn't get more than 10 feet before a fireman approached our car.
“Sorry, but you'll have to park here. We have a three-alarm fire going and no one can pass through this area right now.”
“Can you tell us where and which townhouse?” I asked.
“Yes. The dark brown wooden one over there.” He pointed to our home.
“One of your neighbors heard your smoke alarm go off and called the fire department. We were here in five minutes, but the top portion of the second story had already burned down. The bottom floor is badly water damaged, but we saved some furniture and belongings.”
“Did you see our cat?” I asked.
“Yes. When we broke the downstairs window, he flew out so fast we couldn't catch him.”
We watched in horror as the firemen axed their way into our blazing home. I was hysterical, and I couldn't stop thinking of Luigi. The boys watched as the fire slowed to the smoldering stage and the flames died down.
Brad started his search for Luigi, while Marc and I stood as though we were in a coma, not able to speak to anyone or believe that this had happened to us.
The next day I walked through the rubble with the insurance company as they carefully assessed the damaged skeleton of our house. It took hours to sift through the rooms and try to mentally reconstruct their original condition from just 12 hours before. We lost all of our family pictures, and my jewelry had melted together into one big heap of gold.
Luigi remained lost. We searched every day, called his name and finally decided to leave food and water on the patio, where he had originally slept as a stray. The three of us prayed he would smell the food and come home.
The final explanation on the cause of the fire was an electrical short in Brad's bedroom wall. The reconstruction took more than three months. We returned each day and the food and water were gone. It was hard to tell whether the neighborhood cats were eating it or if it was indeed Luigi. Brad and Marc were convinced it was Luigi and wouldn't give up hope. He was alive, as far as they were concerned, and too scared to reappear ... just yet. I didn't know what to believe.
After three months, we moved back into our reconstructed townhouse. On our first day home, we thought we heard scratching and Luigi's cry, but we didn't see him.
“Mom, there's a dead bird near the front door,” yelled Brad.
“You know what that means, right Brad? It's a gift,” said Marc.
“Maybe it's Luigi's way of telling us he's alive and misses us,” I said.
Several days later we heard the cry again, but we saw no sign of the cat. When we looked outside, there was a dead mouse. For the next five days, we received similar anonymous gifts.
A week later, I opened the drapes to the patio and heard scratching on the screen door. I was in the kitchen making dinner when I heard the cry again. I called the boys, and we tiptoed across our wood floor and watched the patio area. To our delight, Luigi jumped over the wood fence and crouched in the corner. He waited for us to welcome him home.
Ecstatic, we brought him his favorite food, which he gobbled up. We stood together and laughed, feeling happy to have Luigi back. After three-and-a-half months, our family was complete again.