When we first moved into our neighbourhood, we were on a walk one day when we saw a sign on some people's front fence, advising passers-by of the health of their cat, Milly, which had apparently been attacked by a dog. It was sad and sweet, but also kind of strange. We felt for the cat's owners, of course, but we also thought it was more than a little bit odd that they felt the need to inform the entire community about their cat's misadventures. I mean, our cat Ruby hurt her nose recently. I didn't feel the need to leave a missive on our front gate about it.
But that was because I hadn't met Milly.
Milly is a raggedy-looking, duck-footed, white cat who belongs not just to the family she lives with but to the whole neighbourhood. Apparently she was a stray until adopted by this family, but a friendlier stray you could never meet. She lives only a few houses down from the primary school, and waits out the front to collect pats and cuddles and kisses from all the children on their way to class each morning. She lives around the corner from the park, and joins random groups of strangers on their picnics.
She has tens, hundreds, possibly thousands of friends and admirers. So when she went missing from her front gate after the episode with the dog, people began asking questions, which led to the note we first discovered on her front gate. While Milly was stuck indoors recovering, children sent her cards and flowers, and tins of tuna.
Not so long ago, somebody created a stencil portrait of Milly outside her family's house, and another on their back fence (then they left a bottle of paint remover behind in case the owners took exception to the art. They didn't). Her family also leaves a little bucket of chalk on their front gate so that anyone who wants to can write a letter to Milly.
Scout adores Milly. When we go on walks, she begs me to walk past Milly's house, so that we can say hello to her. When we stop and smile at Milly, she runs towards us. And once our little greetings are over, Milly tries to follow us wherever we're going. More than once I've had to turn up a side street so that Milly wouldn't follow us onto the busy road only two blocks away.
That's Milly the community cat. Friend to thousands. Local identity. Kind of a big deal on Facebook. And best of all, at least in our family, sweet friend to my two-year-old little girl.