|On a hot July day, a dainty little kitty called Catty was receiving a special award: The American Humane Association's award for bravery. The association gives the award to people who risk their lives to save animals from danger and to animals who face down danger to save the lives of people.
Catty hadn't always been an extrovert. And she hadn't seemed very devoted to anyone, either. In fact, she'd been what most folks called the quiet type. When she first came to live with her owner, Jack, Catty hardly had anything to say. And most of the time, she didn't like being held.
Jack didn't know why Catty was so finicky. And he didn't understand something else: why she always became upset whenever the lights were out. He didn't care. Something about the cat's quiet manner appealed to him. So, at night, he just left all the lights on in the apartment where he and Catty lived, even when it was time to go to sleep. And if Catty wanted to keep her distance - well, he could respect that. Maybe, if he was patient, Catty would someday decide to come to him, to talk to him, to be friends.
Then, one evening, everything changed. The night started like any other. And, at evening's end, he checked - as usual - to make sure all the lights in his apartment were on. Then, he went to sleep.
Sometime later he woke with a start. Something was jumping on his head! Paws were scratching his face! And, when he opened his eyes, his apartment was no longer brightly lit; instead it was filled with black smoke. But he could see who was doing the jumping and scratching: Catty.
The little cat was all He could see. But she was enough.
Together, the two made their way to the only available exit from the apartment - the back door. He felt his way along the walls. At the same time, he felt for her with his feet and followed her. Finally, the pair reached the back door. He pulled on the knob to open the door, only to have the knob fall off into his hand. The door remained firmly shut.
Making his way to the door had taken every bit of strength and oxygen he had, and he collapsed to the floor. But, once again, he felt those insistent paws scratching his face. He mustered his last bit of strength to hurl himself against the door, break it down and run outside to fresh air and safety. Once there, he looked around for the cat who'd saved his life.
She wasn't there.
With sickening clarity, he realized that she was still inside the apartment. He ran to one of the firefighters.
"My cat's still inside my apartment!" he cried. "Can you please find her?"
The firefighter promised to try.
Now all he could do was wait. He knew her chances weren't good, but still - maybe, just maybe, she would be found alive.
An hour or so later, the firefighters brought the blaze under control. And one firefighter brought him a bundle wrapped in a towel. He held his breath. Inside the bundle was Catty - eyes seared shut, hair singed, but alive.
The firefighter explained that Catty had collapsed just inside the door and that a fireman had stumbled on her when he entered the apartment. After removing her from the apartment, paramedics gave the cat CPR and oxygen before bringing her to him.
The fire changed Jack's life dramatically. He'd lost all his clothes, furniture and other possessions. His cat had changed, too.
The once-quiet Catty was now a talker who meowed and purred almost constantly. Even more surprising was her new desire to be touched and cuddled - preferably while she was lying on Jack's lap.
Now, just four months later, Catty was being recognized for her bravery. But Jack knew he'd gotten a bigger prize. He'd never asked for more than Catty could give - and then found she was willing to give him everything she had.