persistent love pays with pet

The part Siamese cat lived for two years in a sterile cage at the local animal shelter before my daughter and her husband found it during their search for pets the winter after they married. They also found a kittenish tabby. They took the felines home.
Predictably the younger, more frisky cat quickly won everyone’s attention at last year’s holiday gathering. She played with bits of holiday ribbons and toys dangled in front of her, batted at the fish in the tank and purred when petted. The Siamese-mix shambled around the periphery of the crowd, oblivious to everything around it including its matted fur. It usually managed to get to the pad of newspaper around the cat litter pan. Sometimes it made it into the litter pan. Mostly it ignored any hand reaching out to stroke it.
Just before my daughter graduated and moved away from college the following spring, the younger cat went prowling outside one afternoon and never returned. Only the fish and the Siamese-mix joined them in their after graduation life.
The day I spent helping my daughter, her husband and others pack the moving van, the Siamese mix curled up in the middle of our path. Other than having a bit neater fur and occasionally glancing at the crowd of movers stepping over it, the Siamese-mix, as it had at Christmas time, continued to be oblivious to the wider world. It never ventured towards the open back door or looked curiously out at the activity on the porch and in the truck. The cat laid there watching us until my daughter hauled it out of the way into an empty bedroom where it stayed, never moving, until she put it into the cat carrier.
I saw the old cat again last week during a holiday visit with the family. Except for the fact that it still was a Siamese mix, I would not have recognized it. It no longer looked like a frumpy, old, half-blind cat. It was sleek and alert – almost as regal as a full-bred Siamese. At times it even hinted it wanted to be picked up and petted.
From having spent years watching my daughter with our cat, I know what happened. Whether it liked it or not, that frumpy old Siamese was picked up and dragged over to the couch to be petted and stroked right above its nose on its softest of fur while my daughter watched TV, read or talked on the phone. Anytime she had a treat to give it, she encouraged the cat to pay attention, reach up and be petted before it received the treat.
As we watched the movie “Radio” one evening during the visit, the cat lay draped over my daughter’s arm with the most blissful look on its face. Not even one muscle twitched to jump down and slink off to a dark corner.
In a small way the cat reflected the truth of the movie – which was about a mentally disabled man who once shambled awkwardly around a small community, saying nothing, avoiding people who had often hurt him. During football season the head coach in this true story caught team members tormenting the man whom he nicknamed Radio. The coach decided to do something. He began inviting the man to join him at practice. Over time, as increasingly more members of the community reached out to him, Radio began talking, interacting and contributing. He became an intricate, well loved member of the community.
Persistent loving attention paid off for both the part Siamese cat and the man, Radio. Both stories are inspiring, but the benefits emerge as especially rewarding for the whole community as each individually focused their care and concern on one whom they had once disregarded.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)