Bonds between humans and animals often begin with a need and a desire to help. Such was the case for Sophie the cat and Brian Sheppard, the manager of a car dealership in Pocola, Oklahoma.
"One of my salesmen at the dealership I operate discovered Sophie with an empty can of dog food stuck on her head. She was very thin, and lethargic," Brian recounted to MNN in an email.
"My thoughts on her were just wanting to help. She was starving. No domesticated animal should have to fend for itself."
They removed the can from Sophie's head, and Brian fed her bits of chicken left from his lunch.
"She was apprehensive until she smelled food. She ate from my hand, piece by piece."
After this initial encounter, however, Sophie didn't immediately return to the dealership for more food. It took a few days for the cat to return, but when she did, Brian made sure the cat had a safe space. He stocked up on supplies for the wandering kitty, including food, dishes and a bed for her, all accessible in his office.
"My sales guys would always say, 'Brian your cat is back.' They would let her in, and she would come to my office where I kept her food and bed," he said.
Brian gave Sophie an inspection for injuries and medical issues. He discovered that Sophie was nursing. He couldn't keep her indoors all the time if she had kittens to tend to, so he hoped that Sophie would eventually bring her kittens to him, her source of food. It took about "a month, a month-and-half" until Sophie brought her kittens to the dealership.
He sought out their owner to inquire about taking care of Sophie and her kittens full-time.
"Before I could her get the question out, the man said 'Take 'em and the kittens. I didn't want them in the first place.' Apparently the cat was his daughter's pet. They weren't taking care of her."
Sophie was apparently a stray that they took in after finding her foraging for food in garbage cans. They cared for her for around 90 days before Brian took her and the kittens in.
"After Sophie brought her kittens to me, I kept them inside the store, knowing it was my chance to rescue them and find homes for them."
One of Brian's coworkers eventually adopted the two kittens, and Sheppard paid for their vet visit and to have them spayed and neutered. That only left Sophie, who was a bit of a question mark. Brian talked things over with his wife, who is very allergic to cats, and they agreed to give Sophie a trial run. If things didn't work out, he would have to find a home for the cat.
Sophie came to the Sheppards' home Dec. 6, 2016.
"It was getting close to Christmas, so we spoiled her a bit with toys, a heated bed, and a 5.5-foot cat tree, and it was obvious she had found her home."
Sophie now has the run of the Sheppards' home, along with three Shih Tzus and a 22-year-old cockatoo who Sophie is still trying to win over. ("[Sophie is] still a bit intimidated by her.") Sophie spends her days hiding in the bamboo around the Sheppards' pool and keeping a close watch on the birds and squirrels from this hiding spot. She also has her own room where she can escape from the Shiz Tzus and get some "private time."
Sophie still sticks close to Brian, despite all the space and freedom she has.
"I couldn't imagine our home without her now. She's closest to me still. I go back to the back bedroom from time to time, and she's quick to get next to me, or in my lap, and share some one-on-one time."