I promised to complete the story of Smokey and Dusty...
As the years went by, each cat developed a different relationship our family. Strangely enough, although Smokey seemed to consider each member of the family as pretty much equal, and would let each pet her and, on occasion, pick her up, Dusty was quite different.
She never developed a "warm and fuzzy" attitude about us (with on exception, which I will get into in a moment). She would NOT be picked up, and preferred to eat without anyone watching. She and Smokey would eat at different times, and she never "hung around."
The one exception was when I came home from work. She would jump up on the car, then step across to my shoulders and perch there for a moment, purring, then jump down. I was not allowed to pet her or scratch around her ears. Nor was I allowed to pick her up. This was the sole evidence that we served any other purpose that as a provider.
This degree of appreciation fit beautifully with my stated stance on these cats: I complained at every opportunity in the presence of others that these cats were freeloaders and we should not be treating them so well (although, during the winter months I would make sure the garage door was up high enough to let them get in out of the most intense cold).
They got old. We didn't know how old, since we had no idea of their birth date, but they got thinner and moved a bit slower.
One night I came home from work and was walking from my car to the back door when I was stopped in my tracks by what I can only describe as a "screech" from behind me. I whirled around and there, sitting next to the hood of my car behind me, was Smokey. When I turned around, she got up and walked up to me, rose on her hind feet stretching her front feet up my pants leg...she wanted to be picked up. This hadn't happened before.
I bent over, picked her up and she curled up on my arms, purred, and licked my hand. After about thirty seconds, or so, she squirmed about, telling me she wanted to get down. I gently put her back on the cement floor. She walked toward the door, stopped about two feet from the garage door and looked back at me, then left.
We never saw her again. We looked, but...she had gone.
A year or so passed. Dusty get older and more gaunt.
One evening, as I was going from the car to the house, I heard "the screech" and for a moment thought Smokey had come home.
I turned, to see Dusty sitting there. She walked over, rose on her hind feet with her front paws (claws withdrawn) on my trouser leg. For the first (and last) time in her life she asked to be picked up. I did so and, miracle of miracles, she coiled up in my arms, purred, and licked my hand, right between my thumb and first finger. After about thirty or so seconds, she wiggled (gently) asking to be put down. I did so.
She walked toward the garage door and, as Smokey had done, stopped and looked back over her shoulder at me then walked out the door and disappeared. We never saw her again.
I always envied them. I hope that when it is my time, I can walk out with as much good grace, appreciation, and independence. They knew themselves. It's a shame people aren't as good at it.
I miss them.