By Sharon Seltzer on Care2.com
Animal lovers know that certain pets were meant to be part of their life.
They come to you at the exact moment you need them. One of my co-workers at
the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society uses this quote to describe the
occurrence, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some
people have entertained angels without knowing it.” At this holiday season,
I’d like to share a story about a special cat that knew when he found his
Rigel is the brightest star in the Orion constellation. It is only
visible in the northern hemisphere during the nighttime skies of winter.
Rigel was also the brightest star in the home of Dr. George and Sharon
Greaney for nearly 14 years in the form of a Golden Retriever. This story is
how Rigel gave his family – the gift of Winter.
Rigel and his guardians were accustomed to taking a walk around their
neighborhood every evening. One night as they entered the local park inside
their community, the trio caught sight of a beautiful longhaired white cat
Sharon remembered her neighbors talking about a stray cat that had
suddenly started living in the park. Everyone thought he belonged to
“someone” in the neighborhood, but couldn’t exactly remember which neighbor
it was. Some people had tried to approach the cat to see if they could find
a name tag, but he wouldn’t let anyone get close.
However on that night when the cat saw Rigel, he stopped and stared at
the dog as if he was seeing a long lost friend. Sharon said, “He quietly
walked up and stood next to my 86lb. dog and greeted him. Rigel cautiously
wagged his tail and then the two of them ran off and played.”
From that night on the ritual was the same. George and Sharon would walk
up to the park and call out “Where’s our friend?” and the white cat would
run out from under a bush or from the other side of the park and come to
their side. He would nuzzle against Rigel and the two buddies would run off
After awhile the cat allowed George to pick him up and carry him around
the park. The couple thought he must be warming up to everyone in the
neighborhood, but they learned that the longhaired cat had only befriended
them. He ran away when other dogs or people came near.
The evening meetings continued for some time. The Greaneys and their
neighborhood cat were happy with the arrangement. The feline looked healthy
and well fed and the mild climate of their desert town didn’t make living
outside a difficult situation.
Then a couple of days before Thanksgiving in 2007 the weather turned
extremely cold and everything changed for Rigel and his buddy. That’s when
another neighbor decided it was becoming dangerous for the cat to be living
on his own. She set up a trap borrowed from a local animal rescue group,
scooped up the cat and surrendered it to the organization.
The woman called Sharon and explained the situation. That’s when George
and Sharon realized that the white cat didn’t need to find a new home. They
knew the cat had already chosen their family as his own.
The day after Thanksgiving the couple welcomed the white cat into their
family. In honor of the winter skies and his friendship with their shining
star Rigel, they named the him – Winter.
For the next two years Winter and Rigel were inseparable buddies. Winter
became Rigel’s little student and learned to do everything the Golden
Retriever did. He learned to sit like a dog, play like a dog and even beg
like a dog. At night he joined his family as they sat on the couch watching
TV. He learned to love popcorn as much as Rigel and how to signal to his
family when he was ready to head upstairs for bed. Winter even learned to
like the family’s other cat -Nugget.
Two years quickly flew by. Then on February 29, 2009, just before Rigel’s
14th birthday the Golden Retriever suddenly became sick. A few hours later
he died peacefully at home. George and Sharon allowed Winter to make one
final walk over to his friend to say goodbye.
The loss of their beloved pet has been hard, but because Winter soaked up so many of Rigel’s behaviors the couple likes to believe that part of their dog still lives on. The Greaney family made a home for a stray cat and it was the home he was meant to have.