Winter came early to the Ozarks in 1996 and in mid-November there had already been a light dusting of snow on the ground and the Foxes that lived in a burrow behind a fallen tree down in the dry creek bed at the foot of our hill often were seen at the edges of our yard or coming around the corners of our out buildings, even in the early hours of daybreak, foraging for food and hoping to stir up a field mouse or unwary bird at our bird feeders.
I was watching out the window at the vixen tracking and closing on what I thought looked like a chipmunk, but, I quickly thought to myself, "That little guy should be hibernating..it's not a chipmunk". Then I realized that what I thought was a chipmunk was actually a small kitten. Now, where foxes and chipmunks are concerned, I'm not likely to interfere with the drama of nature, the curtain rises and the players have their lines, and so it goes. But, a kitten! No way!.
I ran outside whooping and scaring the fox away as the kitten cringed down and went into a thrall just as it would if the fox had struck. I picked up the little morsel thinking my most evil and dire thoughts at people who dumps pets in rural areas expecting them to make their own way. Usually they don't make any sort of way at all. They die of hunger, accident, or are eaten by predators.
Back in the house I went, with the kitten held by the scruff to keep it from scratching or biting me. We took it into the spare bedroom and set it up with water, food, and litter and left it to its self. Later, we were able to take a closer look at her and determined that she was stinky and filthy and at the verge of starvation and would have been pretty poor pickings for that young vixen and her pups.
We quickly named her Pansy because her facial markings looked like a flower pansy popping its face up and quickly nursed her back to health. She easily joined in with and was readily accepted by the other critters we chose to surround ourselves with. Pansy was one of those sweet unassuming little cats that never met a foe and was always the first to show up if one of the other cats let out a "distress call". She loved to have her head bathed and would head butt the others til one would stop and give her head and face a big, long, slurping bath. I can't remember her ever having a quarrel...unlike a couple of the others.
The worse thing she ever did was to run outside on a bitterly cold night in January and hide under the porch and refuse to come out. As frigid wind gusts blasted me and snow swirled about I spread myself out on the hard ground and managed to move some rocks for just enough space to get my head and one arm holding a flashlight up under the porch where I spotted her well out of reach and snuggled up next to an opossum while bathing its head. She ignored my blandishments and offers of canned tuna and just looked at me blinking her incredibly beautiful and fiercely stubborn blue eyes. She didn't come in until the next morning, and suffered a frost bitten ear which from then forward had a wrinkly, crinkly look to it. After that, she made a daily visit to the 'possum up until we moved back to Texas. And, we began leaving kibble and other treats out at night for it.
That was nearly ten years ago.
The past month her health was failing, as, despite steroids and special vitamins, each day she became weaker and weaker. Even last night, she was the first and loudest for feeding in the evening. But, this morning her breathing was shallow, she was too weak to walk or do much more than raise her head a bit and to prolong her in this state would have been cruel.
Arrangements were made with the vet and I held her in my hands as her little head relaxed and then dropped as she left this reality for another. As I said, she has some very worthy companions, and at least one 'possum, waiting to show her the ropes over there...and, I suspect, to give her daily big, long, slurping head baths.