Many amazing animals make their temporary homes at animal shelters. This is the story of Lewis, a cat who came to a shelter after a thrilling adventure on the high seas.
You can be part of the next adventure of an animal in need of a home by becoming their adoptive family.
Tales from the Shelter is a recurring series that is intended for children of all ages.
Tales from the Shelter # 1: Lewis The Pirate Cat
The trip to the lagoon shore took much longer than had the reverse journey with four cats rowing. It was full dark before Lewis finally saw the glint of sand in the boat’s little lamp. He beached the boat as well as he could and started unlashing the treasure chests, lifting them out of the boat and dragging them across the sand and up a steep hill to a small cave that he found in the cliffs. The lagoon might rise in storm, but Lewis and the treasure would pass the night safe and dry.
By the time Lewis had finished securing the third chest in the cave, the wind was howling and the rain was coming down in torrents. Lewis gratefully hastened into the rear of the cave and began to lick his sodden fur into some kind of order again. Though he didn’t run the risk of becoming dehydrated overnight, he was glad that the lagoon was of freshwater and there was no salt on his fur.
Once he had dried himself as well as possible, Lewis settled down to watch the storm show its might. It was the worst blow he’d seen in some time. He began to realize that he hadn’t seen its like since the night the Whittington had gone to the bottom with all his friends aboard. In fact, it was almost like he could hear their voices now, inside of the wind, the crying of the doomed cats. Lewis shivered and tried to block out the noise, flattening his ears down against his head. But it kept coming, and now Lewis could hear his own name. His friends were calling for him!
But they hadn’t, not the night the Whittington went down. Fighting the ocean to rescue the kittens, Lewis had not heard his shipmates’ last cries. So why could he now–
With a fright, Lewis sprang up, his fur puffed up with fear and shock. It was no memory. His hearing had once again picked up voices from a storm–it was Mouse, Rocky, and Smokey on the little island, screaming his name!
Lewis dashed out into the storm. The wind nearly picked him up and pushed him back into the cave, but Lewis pressed on until he’d reached the beach. The waves were crashing at his feet, but he could still hear them, his friends on the island–calling out in fear. “Lewis! Help us! We are drowning!”
The little island-within-an-island had seemed so safe. Many years had passed since the treasure had been stashed there, and it had remained dry and safe for so long. There must never have been a storm as bad as this one, a storm that could overrun the whole of the little island with waves. Until tonight. Perhaps that was why Lewis had felt uneasy since sighting the island that morning. It had been a premonition. Death was with them on the island that night.
Lewis ran back and forth along the beach in helplessness. It might be possible for him to launch the lifeboat into the lagoon, but it was also possible that the storm would capsize the little boat and that like his friends on the Whittington, Lewis would find himself in a watery grave. Should he even try to cross the lagoon? Was it folly? Lewis’s thoughts ran to the fate of the three kittens. If he should fail to make it back to the Boots, their lives would be spent in piracy. The grandkittens of a sea captain would live out their days in thievery on the high seas. Surely Captain Rogers would not want Lewis to risk their futures by trying to launch a lifeboat onto a storm-crazed lake in a possibly vain attempt to rescue three pirates?
He could still hear their voices, Mouse, Smokey, Rocky. They called his name in shrieking fear, pleading with him for their lives. Lewis knew in his heart that he could not abandon them. If the Boots had sailed past the little lifeboat that sheltered Lewis and the kittens, then those tiny children would surely have died of hunger. Mouse had told Lewis that any cat who made his life on the sea might become a castaway someday, and that the crew of the Boots refused to tempt fate by ignoring the plight of others who were in need of help. No. He could not leave these same valiant cats to drown.
And if he died in the attempt to rescue three of his ship-mates, then yes, the kittens would be raised as pirates. But how could Lewis return to the Boots and face those three little souls knowing that he had spurned the mortal pleas of those who had become their friends?
Lewis dragged the lifeboat toward the shore. He shouted to the three cats on the island that he was coming for them, but he could not be sure that they would hear. And soon enough, he needed all his strength and energy just to steer the little craft through the breaking seas that threatened to swamp him. He lost an oar almost immediately, when it was ripped from his paw by wind and water. Fortunately, there were other oars. For what seemed like hours, Lewis fought the waves just to launch the boat. Finally he found himself past the breakers and he began to pull with all his might for the island.
The cries of his friends began to get louder. A wave had torn away the lamp from the front of the boat, but Lewis’s ears guided him true and soon enough he felt the boat strike the sand of the island’s shore. Immediately the boat’s weight was increased by the bodies of Smokey and Rocky, and Mouse began to shove the boat back off of the beach. He leaped aboard as the craft left the shore, and with the added ballast and three more cats to work what oars remained, the trip back across the lagoon went much more quickly. In time, they reached the safety of the shore. The wind howled and snatched at them as they pushed the lifeboat onto the beach and made haste to the cave where the treasure chests waited, dry and secure.
Mouse nearly collapsed in exhaustion as he entered the cave, and the sailors helped to drag him farther inside the shelter. The cave was warmer and less frightening now that Lewis had company, and he felt a sudden relief that was so heavy, he nearly stumbled as well.
Mouse managed a few heaving words. “Lewis, that is the bravest thing I’ve ever seen a cat do. You’ve saved our lives, lad.”
Lewis looked from the other cats to the treasure chests to the howling of the storm outside. “I went to sea to have an adventure,” he told them, and the laughter of his friends filled the cave.
It would be another year before Lewis would return home to Iowa. He and the kittens had taken leave of their new ship family in Peru, and with their share of the treasure, Lewis had purchased for the young cats an apartment in Lima near the university. By that time, they were kittens no longer, and he’d been satisfied that they could steer their own lives, having learned the value of friendship, loyalty, and mercy–from none other than pirates.
Lewis made it back to Iowa on a cold December day. The wind howled through the city, but the noise of storms no longer gave him any fear.
The Animal Shelter was known to local cats as a good place to stay while awaiting a more permanent place, and it was to this hotel of sorts that Lewis made his way. He’d been gone to sea two years, and had certainly had some amazing experiences. He was ready now, for his next adventure.