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Charlie Carillo Headshot

The Paws That Refreshed

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2013-09-08-bailsandlil.jpg

The dog you see in this photograph is our beloved Bailey, a chocolate lab who gets into one humorous scrape after another. My wife Kim has written many stories about Bailey's goofy escapades.

The cat you see on the couch with Bailey is another story - an untold story. And I feel bad about that.

Sometimes, pets are like your children - you wonder if one is getting too much attention, at the expense of the other.

Our dog is an attention magnet. He's needy, he's neurotic, and he's been to the animal clinic for so many nutty injuries that when we get there the vet says: "Ah! Right this way, Bailey, your usual table is ready!"

Bailey wants to be hugged and stroked. Lily, our British cat, wanted to be adored without being touched. She would have made a hell of a queen.

Maybe that's what kept her strong. Lily was never sick. My theory is that her queenly temperament kept her in the pink, because no disease would dare to approach feline royalty.

She was cranky and independent and noisy - how she could howl for hours on end, just to let us know she was around!

And every time I fed her, she'd bite my hand.

Not very hard, but still - biting the hand that feeds her!

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

Actually, it doesn't. There was a lot more to that little blue-eyed ball of fur besides hairballs and noise.

Like the time she vanished without a trace in our London suburb. My stepdaughter, Catherine, was beside herself with sorrow. My wife posted MISSING signs around the neighborhood, asked neighbors if they'd seen her. Nothing.

We reluctantly changed Lily's status from Missing to Presumed Dead.

Until we were watching TV one night a week later and heard the cat flap open, followed by a familiar squawking sound. Moments later Lily marched into the living room - skinny, filthy, indignant, and howling for her dinner.

As best we can figure it, Lily had slipped into somebody's tool shed and got locked inside. Somehow she survived, until the shed door was opened a week later.

We were overjoyed by this miraculous return. My wife carried Lily to the kitchen - she was as light as a kite, literally down to fur and bone! - and loaded her dish with food.

But before diving into her first meal in a week and gulping down a big bowl of water, Lily bit Kim's hand.

A starving, dehydrated cat, taking a moment to do what she always did before chowing down. Talk about staying in character!

I'm reminded of Doxology, the ancient, creaky horse in John Steinbeck's novel "East Of Eden." Someone suggests to Doxology's owner that the creature should be put out of his misery, and the owner replies:

"What misery? He's one of the few happy and consistent beings I've ever met."

So was Lily - consistently superior, selfish, and stand-offish.

But she was never anything except herself, and how many creatures can you say that about, be they two-legged or four-legged?

Inevitably, the last thing that happens to all living things happened to Lily. She suffered a stroke and was fading fast.

I was in New York when Lily was taken to the British veterinary emergency room for the first and only time.

It was well after midnight, and of course this meant significant additional expense for the doctor and the nurse being called out to examine the old girl before deciding the only thing to do was put her to sleep.

My wife was with Lily in those last moments, and the quaking cat actually reached out her paw to touch Kim's hand.

It might have been the only vulnerable gesture of her life.

She was 18. We all wept over the loss of Lily, because she was special, and because there's so much more to love than being sweet and cuddly.

And when the whopping veterinarian's bill arrived I should have wept again, but all I could do was laugh.

How about that, I thought. From the other side of the Atlantic, in the final gesture of her long, proud life, that spunky little cat stayed true to form.

She put the bite on me, one last time.

Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His novels "Shepherd Avenue," "My Ride With Gus," "Found Money," "God Plays Favorites" and "The Man Who Killed Santa Claus: A Love Story" are available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.