Everyone in the apartment complex knew Ugly. Ugly, the resident tomcat . Ugly, who prized three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and, shall we say, love.
The combination of these things and a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. He had only one eye and where the other should have been was a hole. He was missing an ear on that same side. His left foot was badly broken at one time, healing at an unnatural angle and making him look like he was always turning the corner. Ugly would have been a dark grey tabby if not for the scars and sores covering his head, neck, and shoulders. Every time someone saw Ugly, there was always the same reaction: “That’s one UGLY cat!”
Children were warned not to touch him. Adults threw rocks at him, squirted him with a hose when he tried to enter their homes, and shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reactions, though. If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and if you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around your feet in forgiveness.
Whenever he spied people, especially children, he would run towards them, meowing frantically, and then bump his head against their hands, begging for their love and attention. If you picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, or anything he could find.
One day, Ugly shared his love with the neighbor’s dogs. They did not respond kindly and Ugly was badly mauled. I tried to rush to his aid, but by the time I got to where he was laying it was apparent the Ugly’s sad life was almost at an end. As I picked him up to carry him home I heard him wheezing and gasping and felt him writhing around. It must be hurting him terribly, I thought. Then I felt a familiar tugging sensation on my ear. Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me and he weakly bumped the palm of my hand with his head. He turned his one golden eye toward me and I heard the distinct sound of purring.
Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battle scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.
At that moment I realized Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I have ever seen. Never once did he bite or scratch, try to get away, or struggle against me in any way. Ugly just looked up at me, completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.
Ugly died in my arms before I could get him inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterward. I thought about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion of what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.
Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that, I will always be thankful. He may have been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside. It was time for me to move on and learn how to love truly and deeply, to give my total to those I cared for.
Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, or beautiful, but for me…
… I will always try to be Ugly.