It doesn’t just happen that a 20-year-old cat with a crooked smile leaves the shelter.
His life must be saved by someone. Even if that person already lives with a husband, a few small children, and four large dogs.
Those kids, too? In exchange for a cat, they begged.
However, Jill Williams heeded the call when a Best Friends Animal Society email informed employees that temporary homes for the organization’s cats were urgently required.
Williams, a senior manager at Best Friends, tells The Dodo, “We were very convinced that even if we took in a homeless cat, even temporarily, that we’d need to keep them apart.” We had no idea how a new feline family member would interact with our dogs.
When Williams got to the sanctuary, the sheer number of cats looking for a home was overwhelming.
“Big cats, small cats, cute little spunky furballs of kittens, kittens with beautiful fur and bright eyes,” she recalls.
She was thinking of a tiny kitten with energy to burn.
She found a very old, toothless cat named Dexter.
Dexter seemed extremely battered, she remarks. “All over his body, his fur was exceedingly patchy; his tail had none. He meowed in a harsh manner.”
Dexter has long since grown out of his kitten stage. His brief time left appeared destined to be spent in the refuge.
She recalls her initial reaction as being, “Wow, this kitty definitely needs a home.” “In my brain, there were a million different things going on.”
Specifically, how would a 20-year-old cat fit in with four dogs and two adoring kids? particularly considering that, as she writes, he had “fulfilled his nine lives”?
Dexter was uninterested in any of that information.
“Dexter was incessantly meowing at me, weaving in and out of my legs, putting his paws up on my lap as I knelt down,” Williams explains. “OK, I was going to bring him home.”
When Williams got Dexter home, the first thing she did was call a family meeting. There needed to be some ground rules.
“I said, ‘This is Dexter. He is 20. He really didn’t like being with other cats at Best Friends, so I think we can give him a pretty good life for a while.’”
Also, she added, “Do not open the door, we have four huge dogs out there and I have no idea how they will act with an ancient kitty.”
Again. Dexter didn’t care about any of that stuff. He was finally home.
JJ and his brother Harry, who was 7 at the time, fell hard for Dexter.
“JJ failed to see a 20-year-old cat with thinning hair and an unsteady grin. He perceived a fuzzy soul mate and greatest buddy. Even at the young age of 5, JJ understood the significance of saving this cat, regardless of his age or looks.”
But it wasn’t just human hearts that Dexter would triumph over.
Dexter spent the next two years basking in his family. He put on weight. His fur filled in.
“He was active and loving,” Williams says. “He never acted old. Never. He loved anyone with a heartbeat.”