The first time I saw Manny was on the terrace of the Mandarin Hotel.
I was taking my daily walk around the Key and I came upon a young woman at the entrance to the restaurant, feeding a lively black and white cat. I stopped to inquire and was immediately drafted to be on his feeding team. I gladly accepted and learned that a while back, his owner had unceremoniously dumped him on the connector bridge. Since then, neighbors living on the island had taken it upon themselves to take care of Manny, organizing a team to feed him twice a day. At any given period of time there were between 7 and 15 people making sure Manny had food and water on a weekly basis. Emily moved away and I took over as team leader, recruiting new members whenever I saw anyone get near him. Then Samantha came along and I was glad to share the 'team' duties. Manny was a handful. During hurricane season, we would try to entrap him to take him somewhere safe, always unsuccessfully. Manny was too swift for us; he had become a true feral cat.
Manny would lay on the steps of the Mandarin like it was his own personal backyard. When he was in a good mood, he would allow you to pet him and even sidle up and throw himself on the ground so you could stroke his belly. Other days, he wasn't as forthcoming. On one occasion we discovered he had an infection and with Sam's help, I managed to grab him and put him in a carrier. While Ava and Sam took him to the vet, I ran down to urgent care to get cleaned up after getting a huge scratch on my arm. Manny was fierce but he was so loving it didn't matter. After getting treated he was his usual chipper self. We also found out he had been living with feline leukemia for some time.
Manny didn't let anything get him down.
With all the storms that perennially hit Miami, we worried he wouldn't survive, especially during Hurricane Irma, which hit the Key so hard. Inevitably, after a few days, there would be a Manny sighting; his sleek body spotted running on the ledge by the water like nothing had happened.
I went to say goodbye to him before I left Miami for Los Angeles. He was in his usual place by the verandah, looking for his meal. A few tears escaped; I felt I was letting him down after taking care of him for so long. I talked while he ate but he barely looked at me. I went to touch him and he brushed me off, as if saying "don't bother me woman, I'm busy." Manny was practical, and unsentimental which made me love him all the more. I had seriously considered taking him in during one of the storms a while back but now, watching him, I was glad I hadn't. Manny was happiest in his little kingdom by the sea with multiple girlfriends ready to feed him, and many places to rest his sweet head.
Sam wrote the team that after declining in health, Manny was euthanized this morning with nine people surrounding him. Thank you Sam, Ava and everyone who contributed to his care. He was truly the best-loved cat.