By: Dr. Hilary Slaven
In the summer of 2007, our front office staff received several calls from Beverly Shelton, a retired school guidance counselor, highly respected member of the community, and known cat-lover. She was concerned about two neighborhood cats that she felt were neglected, and wanted to know how to approach the situation. These cats were living on a neighbor’s front porch, and were not receiving daily care. Beverly, a kind soul, was trying to divine the proper way to handle things. Eventually she was able to adopt one of the cats: a young tuxedo short haired cat that she brought into her home and named “Lucky”.
Lucky was an only cat. Beverly lived alone, and when she took him in it was with love and open arms. She fully took on the responsibility of having a new family member. Consequently, he soon became a fixture in our clinic.
We spent the next few months getting Lucky caught up on vaccinations and all of the other necessary endeavors for a new kitty. Even after the initial visits were over, the couple continued to visit with regularity. It was not uncommon to see him on a monthly basis, and we looked forward to seeing him on the morning schedule. With every visit, Lucky needed his nails trimmed, his teeth and anal sacs checked (a horrible but necessary trauma; he seemed to understand). His weight was recorded in a notebook that Beverly kept, in order to keep a record of his health and (I always supposed) to keep him in mind of not over-eating.
Lucky was really a very healthy cat overall. He occasionally had ‘funky stool’ that resolved with a teaspoon of yogurt every morning. I think that Beverly and Lucky shared a yogurt every morning (strawberry or vanilla; Lucky did not care for exotic flavors). She often told me that she enjoyed her breakfast routine with kitty.
We soon came to realize that Lucky was an incredibly generous cat. Every visit included a box of Andes mints that Lucky had kindly brought along, in appreciation for our services. He also celebrated all of the major holidays and thought of us with each one. He was thoughtful by nature and would send a card 6 times a year: Christmas/New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Each card was hand-written and expressed his love for our staff and veterinarians and wished us blessings for the day. At Christmas, Lucky insisted on providing a catered lunch for the staff. No, he and Beverly did not wish to be there for the luncheon, he was just happy to know that we were going to enjoy it.
“To everyone at WCVS: Lucky and I want to thank everyone for your help, services, friendship and love the past 3 years. Much appreciated. God loves you all and so do I. Take care and be safe, Love, Lucky and Beverly Shelton. XOXO.”
Always the XOXO at the end of a note.
This was the kind of person that Beverly was; always thinking of others and incredibly generous. It was not uncommon for Lucky to show up with a heart-shaped cheese ball for us to enjoy, or a fresh box of cookies from the grocery. When one of our receptionists moved away from town, Beverly sent her family care packages with cat toys and treats, just because she knew that she had cats at home. She was known for doing ‘little things’ like this for others, and would brush off any thanks like it was unnecessary, and yet the joy in her face was always evident.
I do feel that Lucky was family to Beverly. Her love for him was well-known; she famously walked him around town in a cat carriage. She often talked about the little things that Lucky did each day that brought her joy. One of my favorite moments at work of all time involved a visit with Beverly and Lucky in which she revealed her new tattoo – Lucky’s handsome black-and-white head – on her left forearm. Picture this lovely, petite, fair-skinned woman in her late 60’s with bright white hair and this picture of her best furry friend and loving companion on her arm. We were all so surprised! It was beautifully done; it looked like a Polaroid picture. She loved that tattoo.
Last summer, we had another surprise: Lucky became ill quite suddenly, to the point that we referred him to the local University hospital for emergency care. He had a serious heart condition that could not be cured, and he was suffering. Beverly was forced to make one final loving decision for her dear Lucky. He was euthanized that week at the referral hospital.
We were stunned and horribly saddened by the loss to such a kind, wonderful woman. And, selfishly, it was difficult to get used to life without seeing Beverly and Lucky in the clinic. Because Lucky was a frequent visitor, we had learned a lot about Beverly’s life and missed hearing her animated stories. In addition to talk about Lucky’s adventures, she had often conversed about her twin sister, referred to as “Sissy”, that she was obviously very close to and loved very much. Beverly did stop by once after he was gone, in the fall, to thank us for our care of her dear friend. She looked frail then, and it was at that time that she told us that she had terminal lung cancer. There were tears, and hugs, and promises for prayer, and then she was gone.
We met Sissy the other day; she stopped by the veterinary clinic to hand us a portrait of Lucky that a friend had painted for Beverly from a photograph. I suppose that she had commissioned the work after Lucky’s passing. I don’t know if she ever got to enjoy it; Beverly passed away in March this year of lung cancer, at the age of 71. Sissy knew that Beverly wanted us to have it, and spent time visiting with all of us, telling us about how beautiful the memorial service was, how brave Beverly had been throughout her final months, and how she was buried in the end with Lucky’s ashes tucked under her tattooed arm.
Knowing Beverly Shelton and her beloved made us at WCVS Veedersburg incredibly Lucky.
May they rest in peace together.