January 27, 2023
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By Alice Liles

This story first appeared in my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on November 16, 2015 under the title “Sophie the Sofa Cat 2002-2015.”

Sophie came to be a member of our household after being rescued in the teacher’s workroom at Muleshoe High School in 2002. We lost Sophie in 2015. I thought I would share this story with you as a follow-up to last week’s story about losing pets and as an example of my experiences teaching at Muleshoe High School.

We lost Sophie the other day. She ha

d been a part of our family since 2002, an even-tempered, soft-spoken, really sweet cat with a short tail and a coat of silky long hair that in some places was at least three inches long, maybe four.
Sophie came to live with us under unusual circumstances. I have told the story before, but it’s a fun story, one worth telling again.
The year is 2002 at Muleshoe High School, homecoming, and  the kids are back at school Monday evening to decorate the halls and classroom doors for the week’s activities. I am there as well, and the kids are there, some of them actually working, to get the job done.
The next morning several of us are in the workroom getting ready for the day when, all of a sudden, we all hear a quiet meow, meow, meow.  Chris Mardi

s jumps up off the sofa, from which the mewing seems to be coming, and we all exclaim the obvious-“That’s a kitten!”
About that time the bell rings for first period to begin, so I leave not knowing what will be done to find this kitten who must have either been snuck in by a student or wandered in the night before, as the doors were wide open as the kids were coming and going while they decorated.
After first period I scoot back into the workroom to see how the search and rescue is going. The sofa is turned on its side, the back fabric slit open from top to bottom and Coach David Wood, all six foot-something of him is on the floor with his arm jammed into the sofa trying to reach this mystery kitten who by now is petrified and unwilling to be rescued.
I had to go back to second period. Time passed. Suddenly school nurse Michelle Barton rushes into my room with this little ball of gray fur with matted eyes, scared to death and desperately clinging to her shoulder. “Here, Alice, you take her. Look, she loves you,” she says as she plied the kitten loose from her shirt and pushes her onto me.
Yeah, sure. This cat is scared to death; she would cling to anyone who made her feel safe. “You

take her, Michele. I have three cats already,” I tell her.
“My dogs would eat her. YOU take her,” she says as she pushes me out the classroom door.
So it is decided Michele will watch my class, since she didn’t have a class that period, while I take the kitten to the vet to be checked out before I take her home.
Off I go with the stowaway without asking permission or sign out to leave campus. Mrs. Barton is in charge, knows where I am, and tells our principal, David Jenkins what’s transpiring. And while he learns about it sort of after the fact, he’s okay with it because he knows he can trust us to take care of business. Just one of the m

any advantages of teaching in a small school district where the faculty is close-knit.
Now keep in mind this is homecoming week and this day is Hippie Day, so here I go dressed in full regalia: tie-die t-shirt, jeans, sandals, hair straight and parted down the middle, blue eye shadow, and big earrings, taking this kitten to the vet’s office. As I drive, I wonder how I must look, a flash from the past with this scared little cat clinging like Velcro to my t-shirt, driving when I

should be at school.

I leave her at the vet’s office for her physical and hurry back to school, where things are going just fine without me, thank you very much. I slip back into teaching mode and don’t get fired for leaving class under emergency circumstances. Well, we thought it was an emergency. God bless small schools and small towns. I don’t think this would have ever happened in a big school. We felt comfortable enough with each other to get this done without a hitch; the kids were on task, the kitten was rescued, and Mr. Jenkins knew us well enough to know we had taken care of business without having to bother him.
But upon my return, I am greeted with concerned looks and questions about the baby cat. And those questions continue off and on the rest of the school year, as the kids are really interested in how S

ophie, as she came to be known because she had come out of the sofa, is doing.
And she did just fine, thanks to Mrs. Barton not taking no for an answer and me taking her home, where she was accepted by the other cats and Daphne Dog-and husband Bill, who really didn’t want another cat, but with whom she formed a bond and in whose lap she spent many happy hours watching football. She also enjoyed sleeping in his golf cart.
All that long hair would get matted terribly by the end of summer, no matter how diligently I tried to keep her brushed, so I finally resorted to having her shaved. Bless her heart, she was so patient with the hair cut; she quietly purred through the whole proc

edure. And it kept her from matting up from one summer to the next.
In the end it was a fungus on her lungs that did her in. She was sweet, patient, and gentle about it to the very end. God love her. I wrote her a good-bye letter, put it and a picture of her in a plastic bag, and we buried it with her next to her friend Gracie Lou, close to where she would hang around with us when we would sit in the evenings outside.
She was one of a kind, Miss Sophie. I still miss Bill saying, “Sophie’s hungry,” and she would be sitting at the kitchen island, patiently waiting for her milk and cat food.
Godspeed, dear Sophie.

Rhea Gonzales


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