In the Spring of 2002, one of my colleagues sent out a company-wide email about a family of cats that had taken up residence underneath her front porch. There was a momma and a few kittens but she was worried about one of the babies because momma used to carry her around everywhere and she looked very small.
I had a conversation with this girl and for various reasons - none of which I can actually remember now - I decided I needed to get this kitten to my vet where she probably would be put down (humanely versus starving or being attacked). I picked her up one night after work and, oh my, she was the tiniest little thing I'd ever seen. When I got her home I put her in a roomy crate with food, water and a little litter box. Two days later we went to the vet where it was discovered she had suffered a crushing injury to her lower spine. Both my vet and I fell in love with her and he convinced me to bring her home with me and try to rehab her.
I didn't take long to name her. "Hope", as in "I Hope she learns to use the litter box". 'Twas not to be.
Over the next five years, I replaced my wall to wall carpet with Pergo and spent my time at home washing waterproof pads which were on every piece of furniture I owned; laundered her soiled bedding; and learned to express her bladder and wash her bum multiple times a day. Interestingly though, I loved every minute of it.
She was the most loving cat you can imagine. You know how cats can be demanding or aloof (or both)? Never my Hope. So, okay, what did she teach me? To acknowledge and appreciate when someone is kind to me. To show my appreciation effusively (don't worry, I won't lick your face unless you are Bruce Springsteen or a cast member of True Blood). To recognize how good it feels to improve the quality of another life, be it person or animal. To greet each person I meet with kindness.
The fact that she survived for five years is pretty incredible according to my vet. And she died just as he said she would from a urinary tract infection that just couldn't be controlled. I still miss that little girl and am crying as I write this.