Once upon a time, a light-brown-and-gray tabby kitten lived with an elderly woman in Alameda. He was loved, but, like so many cats, he was never taken to the vet, even though there was something wrong with his left eye that caused him to squint.
When his owner passed away, the kitten was left to fend for himself. So he did what any smart cat would do.
Nearby was an elementary school with a crossing guard. So he took it upon himself to accompany the guard, Cecilia Theis, every time she stepped into the crosswalk to halt traffic for the kids.
They quickly struck a deal: In return for his help, he got two meals a day. He quickly learned that if he showed up a few minutes early, she'd open a can of cat food and let him eat before his shift began.
The children loved him and named him Pirate because one eye was shut, and he realized that if he timed his arrival right, they'd give him neck and belly rubs on their way to and from school. He started to trust people again.
That was two years ago. Two months ago, a wonderful rescue organization called Island Cat Resources and Adoption heard about Pirate, and a couple of volunteers went over to check out his eye problem.
It turned out to be an extremely painful condition that caused his eyelashes to grow inward. But it was curable. All he needed was an expensive operation.
Now, this is usually something ICRA can't handle. They're a strictly volunteer group whose budget is already stretched to the max paying for routine medical care, vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery for the cats and kittens they rescue.
But this was a special case. After all he'd been through already, how could they let him continue to suffer?
So they dug deep into their own pockets and somehow came up with enough money to pay for the surgery.
It was a success. Pirate is not only cured, he's been adopted. He's now living with Theis (surprise!) in his forever home.
But he still makes an occasional visit to his lucky crosswalk for old times' sake. And the children still adore him and pet him.
ICRA has found new homes for 4,500 cats In the last 10 years, as well spaying or neutering more than 16,000. Considering that a single pair of fertile cats and their offspring will produce 65,000 cats in just five years, that's a lot of unwanted kittens that were never born to short, miserable lives.
If you'd like to support ICRA's lifesaving mission, there's an easy way: Buy your Christmas decorations, gifts, cards, wrapping paper, baked items, jewelry and more at ICRA's annual Holiday Boutique, which will take place Friday, Dec. 5, from noon to 6 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Alameda Elks Lodge, 2255 Santa Clara Avenue. And if you can't make it to the Holiday Boutique, you can still donate on ICRA's website, www.icraeastbay.org. That's also where you can see pictures of some very adorable kitties up for adoption.
ICRA doesn't have a shelter; and that, paradoxically, is an advantage because all the cats are fostered in private homes, which makes them much friendlier and less timid.
Sorry, Pirate is already taken.