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This story has been shared as part of the Fur Fam Story Contest. Submissions were accepted through December 5th. Voting will run from December 6th through December 31st. Three grand prize winners will receive a $500 prize, plus $2000 in cash and supplies for their favorite shelter. See all the stories here!Once upon a time in 2019, I took a position writing fundraising copy for a dog and cat shelter in Thailand. All day long, I wrote social media posts and email appeals about the animals our catchers found on the streets of Phuket, or who were brought to us by caring people in the community.
As the main person writing the animals’ stories at the time, I got firsthand information about each rescue cat and dog who came into the shelter daily. I am very much a cat person. One kitty, a large, sweet tabby boy, had caught my eye, but he was diagnosed FIV-positive. I had wanted to adopt him, but the adoption fell through because of the risk to my other kitties, all healthy. I was crushed!
KITTEN. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK/KATE
When this happened, I was already struggling – learning to live in a strange (but beautiful) new tropical home 9,000 miles away from my former one in the desert, ghosted by my beloved boyfriend (who’d been excited about my new adventure, but had found the reality of the distance between us too much to handle), trying to care for a terminally ill kitty I had brought to Thailand with me, not getting much sleep due to my new environment… I was reaching my wit’s end.
There’s a meme I really like that makes the rounds on social media: “One day, someone will walk into your life who will make you understand why things never worked out before.” But it wasn’t a human who walked into my life. It was Happy.
Happy was a skinny 7-month-old black kitten found languishing on the streets of Phuket. A kind soul had noticed the poor little boy’s eyes were in a terrible way. The woman took him to the veterinary hospital at my shelter. I got news of him and began writing my fundraising post about him. Something told me I needed to meet this kitty personally.
The intake staff had originally named Happy “Khontee.” When I went to see him, the poor little thing was caged in a room full of other kitties who were waiting to be evaluated for illnesses, behavioral problems, and the like. His eyes had already been removed because they were too damaged to be saved.
PHOTO: JANET RICE
I asked if I could hold him. Khontee clung to me, crying pitifully in the sweetest kitty voice I had ever heard. I’m sure that the cries of the other kitties, the confines of his cage, and the fact that overnight, he could no longer see what was happening around him, terrified him.
As I held him, I made up my mind that I would get this poor boy out of there as soon as possible. The next day, I took Khontee home with a syringe full of doxicillin to treat a cold he’d picked up.
Once out of the shelter, Khontee started to come into his own. He was sweet and playful and sensed the presence of my other cats (I had four others then). He wanted to make friends with them all and chased after them endlessly! Only my Russian Blue boy, Mister, would have anything to do with the exuberant kitten.
My poor sick boy, Charlie, who was dying from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hid from Khontee because he felt too terrible to be bothered (my twice-daily attempts to give him his meds were traumatic enough). My two others stayed away from the interloper as much as possible, not knowing what to make of this eyeless, boisterous baby boy.
PHOTO: JANET RICE
I bought Khontee a rubber chicken, the only toy I could find in my small village supermarket pet section. He chased after it as best he could. I had to keep squeaking it so he could hear it. Whenever he couldn’t hear anything, he cried out for me. It was as if he needed to know his mom was there for him. He still does this, two years on, and it melts my heart.
Seeing all the joy overflowing from this little boy made me realize that he didn’t have the right name. I decided to name Khontee “Happy.” Today I call him Happy, Mr. Happiness, Mr. Cat and just Cat… and he answers to all of them. He gets so excited at the sound of my voice! We love each other a lot, Happy and I.
Over the past two years, Happy has won over my other kitties. Sadly, we lost Charlie shortly after Happy came home. My girl, 7-year-old Little Miss Sunshine/Sunny, regularly grooms Happy like he’s her own kitten. My friendly Mister and Happy chase each other around the house, sending my area rugs and the kitty toys flying.
Even my “king,” Bernie, a giant tabby recluse, has taken to cuddling with Happy now and again. It all works out fine until Happy – all 18 pounds of him – decides it’s a game and attacks in fun. Bernie runs away and Happy comes to find me.
PHOTO: JANET RICE
Happy is a very intelligent boy who can sense the presence of birds and bugs, and bats at them when I allow him out onto my balcony in Arizona (we moved back in 2020). I have had to limit his balcony visits because, after 14 months, he has finally discovered the balcony railing! The rest of the porch, I’ve Happy-proofed to the hilt. Happy is now determined to discover what lies over the railing. I won’t let anything bad happen to him, I promise.
When I explain to people that Happy is blind, they usually express pity. But Happy is not the least bit pitiful! He doesn’t care a whit about his lost eyes… after all, he’s been getting along fine without them for most of his life.
The truth is that Happy can see – with his heart. And I will do my best to fill it with love and to give him the pawsome life he was born to have and that all cats deserve.
This story was submitted by Janet Rice, in support of The Hermitage Cat Shelter. To see other Fur Fam Story Contest submissions, click here!