Animal Writes
19 May 1999 Issue

Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was
the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating
garbage, and shall we say, love. The combination of these things combined
with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only
one eye, and where the other should have been was a gaping hole. He was
also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot has appeared to have
been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making
him look like he was always turning the corner. His tail has long been lost,
leaving only the smallest stub, which he would constantly jerk and twitch.
Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby striped-type, except for the sores
covering his head, neck, even his shoulders with thick, yellowing scabs.
Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. "That's one
UGLY cat!!" All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw
rocks at him, hosed him down, squirted him when he tried to come in
their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly
always had the same reaction. If you turned the hose on him, he would stand
there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him,
he would curl his lanky body around feet in forgiveness. Whenever he spied
children, he would come running meowing frantically and bump his head
against their hands, begging for their love. If you ever picked him up he
would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbors huskies. They did not
respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. From my apartment I could hear
his screams, and I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was
laying, it was apparent Ugly's sad life was almost at an end. Ugly lay in a
wet circle, his back legs and lower back twisted grossly out of shape, a
gaping tear in the white strip of fur that ran down his front. As I picked him
up and tried to carry him home I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and
could feel him struggling. I must be hurting him terribly I thought. Then I felt
a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear -- Ugly, in so much pain,
suffering and obviously dying was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him
closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he
turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound
of purring. Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled-scarred cat was asking
only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had
ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, or even try to get
away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely
trusting in me to relieve his pain. Ugly died in my arms before I could get
inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about
how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what
it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly. Ugly
taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures,
or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful. He had
been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time
for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply. To give my total to those
I cared for.

Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but
for me, I will always try to be Ugly.


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