The tale of Mr. White — a sad story turned happy

This is the tale of Mr. White.

Well, at least it is a story about my little friend’s journey so far.

A few months ago, I mentioned in this column that my neighbor, Jess Lucas, had passed away. Jess was well known in the Belmont community and the surrounding area. Many knew him as “the can man” because of the years he spent collecting aluminum cans from the sides of local roads.

Jess was 75 when he died in early July. Many friends and neighbors had become concerned about him because he lived alone and could no longer get around well.

What some of those who knew him may not have realized is that he was an animal lover. Specifically, Jess loved cats. If there was a stray cat in our neighborhood up on Cider Press Hill, it could find a friend in Jess.

He often fed felines that wandered around his home, and he eventually took most of them in. At one point, I believe he had about a dozen pet cats.

When he died, it appears that Jess only had a couple of cats left. One was a yellow tiger that seems to have found another home. The other was the cat I now call Mr. White.

Jess passed away at home, and police officers had to force their way inside to check on him when worried friends contacted them. As a result, the back door of the house was left unsecured, allowing animals to come and go.

For a while, it seemed some folks involved with humane efforts in Belmont County ensured the pets Jess left behind were provided with food and water. Eventually, though, it became apparent that the property owner was going to tear the house down. My husband, Mike, became concerned about the white cat that we often had seen watching us out the basement window of the structure. He made several visits to the house and spotted it darting around inside but could not persuade it to come out. Another neighbor said that cat had never come outside, not even when Jess was alive.

As the demolition process started, we finally spotted a skinny, sickly-looking cat creeping about Jess’s yard. Any time we tried to approach, it would run and hide in some nearby brush. It had been a couple of weeks since we were sure it had been fed, so we were quite concerned about its condition. It turns out, we were right to believe this little cat was in need of help.

Finally, after several days of persistent effort, my husband was able to coax this pale little animal out to eat some cat food. What he saw broke his heart. This cat had become quite skinny and had lost most of its fur, and it was suffering from multiple insect bites and some sort of wound to its underside.

Mike kept it up, though, and continued to provide food and water for the animal. It began to trust him and come closer, rather than waiting for him to leave the area before it would eat. Gradually, he coaxed it to come to our yard. At that point, Mike was able to begin feeding this frightened, skittish critter on a regular basis, both morning and night.

We then saw rapid signs of improvement in the cat’s condition, and Mike even managed to squirt a flea treatment he had obtained from our veterinarian on the cat’s back.

As the little guy’s fur returned, it became apparent he was white with a few dark spots. So, Mike began calling him “Mr. White.”

As of today, we have pretty much adopted Mr. White. We have set him up with a fur-lined bed on our front porch, as well as with food and water bowls. He meets us at the door every morning, expecting a meal. When we pull in the driveway at night, he comes up the sidewalk to meet us and escorts us to the front door.

Although we have become rather attached to Mr. White, we do want to be certain that he will be safe and warm through the winter. We plan to build him a little shelter, but we cannot bring him into our home. We already have an older house cat with a heart condition, and we fear she would not adapt well to having another animal in our residence. We known from experience that she doesn’t even like for other people’s pets to visit.

We intend to continue to care for Mr. White and, if temperatures become dangerously cold, we will find a way to bring him indoors — even if he has to stay in a crate. We would, however, be willing to let him go if some other cat lover wanted to give him a good home.

So far, his story has turned out to be a happy one. If you want to be a part of it, please let me know.