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   You’re wondering about the cat, aren’t you?  What does a cat have to do with an airline, right?  Well, I’ll tell you a little about Lewis The Cat (Lewie), and why he’s so much a part of everything I do.

 

   About seventeen or eighteen years ago, during a blinding, December snowstorm,

I was at party at a friend’s rural home in upstate New York, way out in the boonies.  It wasn’t a farm as such, but the fellow had a couple of barns and other outbuildings, and kept a variety of cats around to help keep the mice out of the horse food.  Thin is, my friend, Russ, hated pets of any kind, and especially cats.  But they were a necessary evil, and there were always cats to be seen around his property.  Well, the booze flowed and the party progressed inside Russ’s huge living room, and suddenly we hear a bellow from Russ, “Hey, somebody step on that damn thing; they ain’t allowed in the house!  I peeked around people to see what all the commotion was about, and there, in the farthest corner of the room near the doorway, stood this tiny, sickly-looking little orange thing with snot and pus leaking out of every orifice I could see.  And it was staring straight at me.  I countered Russ’s order, advising partiers that nobody had better step on that kitten, and we all watched in amazement as he wobble his way through the drunken feet, never once breaking eye contact with me, until he finally made all the way to my foot…where he toppled over sideways, no doubt from exhaustion, all the while still looking squarely into my face. 

 

   I’m not the least bit ashamed to say the bond was struck in that instant, and I had to do something.  I put him in my shirt pocket…he was that small…and left the party.  This kitten was so obviously sick that I truly felt it would be a miracle if he lived more than a few hours, but I had to try.  So, through blizzard-snow and icy roads, I drove 65 miles to the only vet I knew well enough to wake up at 2:00 AM; a friend I grew up with.  We finally got there, only to be told that there was not much chance this kitten would make it even through the night; he was too young, too small, and he was plugged solid with upper-respiratory congestion. Not a chance.  I wrote a check, leaving the amount blank, and told my Doc pal, “You fill in the numbers on the right, and call me when I can come pick up the cat.  Do your best.”  We clarified that, yes, I probably was crazy, but also, yes, I was deadly serious, and that the check would not bounce, no matter the value.  Save the cat.  Three days later, I got the call, “Come pick up your cat.”   Doc had stayed round-the-clock with Lewie the whole time, which ended up costing me just over $3,000, and which proved out to be the best and smartest money I have ever spent in my entire life.

   

   A relationship began and grew, but we had our moments of doubt.  Although Lewie was alive, he was still very, very sick for a long time.  But we made it, me and and that little man, and a bond developed that goes far beyond explanation. I was doing quite a bit of flying at the time, both commercially and privately, and to a lot of people’s chagrin, Lewie went where I went; if he wasn’t welcome, then neither was I.  If it was a commercial flight, whoever was hiring me bought two tickets and Lewie flew in the seat beside me, always.  Once I was escorted off a plane in Atlanta by two hefty gents, and told to use another airline henceforth: A snotty little stewardess had told me that Lewie must to go into the baggage area, and I’ll leave you to wonder what I told her, but it's safe to assume that I wasn’t much of a gentleman about it...and Lewie did not go in with the baggage  Another time, years later and between wives, my attorney at the time…an adorable redhead…came to a big party at my lake home and decided (total surprise to me) to spend the weekend.  Yippee, I was thinking; I’ve struck gold!  But the party finally wound itself to a halt, and Ms. Lawyer drops her overnight bag on the bed, aghast what she saw…Lewie, sound asleep on my pillow, where he slept every night.  “That damn cat is not sleeping on this bed!” said she.  My response:  “Well, actually he is, but you aren’t.” and escorted her to the front door.  I could recite numerous instances that would have some folks wondering about my sanity, but the bottom line is that Lewie was the best and most loyal friend I’ve ever had.  Unlike friends and wives and business partners, Lewie never tried to steal my money, cars, homes, businesses; didn’t care if I shaved or took a shower that day…he just wanted to love me, period.  We’ve been to hell and back several times, me and Lewie:  Failed marriages, business successes and failures, relocations; you name it, we’ve been there.  And always…always…the more I hurt, the more he loved.  Whenever I was sick with the flu, he’d stay on my pillow and not move unless I did.  So, sick or not, I’d have to get out of bed so that he’d go eat, drink, do the litterbox thing.  Hell of a boy, that Lewie.

 

  And then, a while back, he developed kidney problems in his senior years, and a radical vet killed him with drugs meant for a horse…and my boy is gone. 

 

   Gone, yes, but he’ll never be forgotten, and now you know about “The Cat”.  Lewie will always go where I go and be a part of anything that touches my life, and that includes Lewis Air Virtual Airlines.