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All my felines

This is Part One in a two-part series.

The hottest show in town (make that in the suburbs of beautiful Honoraville) is an extravaganza featuring a lovely, plucky heroine forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, her five adorable but infinitely mischievous offspring (call them the young and the restless') and said heroine's difficult four stepsisters.

Oh, yes, there's also the mysterious, shadowy figure of a dark stranger who may

or may not

be the father of her children not to mention the possible threat her golden eyes perceive in a couple of overgrown junkyard dawg' types who frequent the neighborhood.

Welcome to &uot;All My Felines&uot; now playing at the Long home. A few months ago, we were a family of seven

three inside cats, two outside dogs, and two humans. Then we adopted one very bright little scrapper named &uot;Thumper&uot; who lost her leg but escaped with her life after fighting a losing bout with an unfriendly canine in Greenville.

So we became eight. We really and truly, positively and definitely planned to stop there.

Call it fate, call it karma, call it divine intervention. Call me a big sucker.

But she was such a sweet young thing, you see, this slender, golden-eyed girl with the yellow (and white) hair and soft voice. She was hungry, thirsty and it seemed, had nowhere else to go. I ask you, what would you have done?

I started calling her &uot;Scotch&uot; (short for &uot;Butterscotch&uot;). When she didn't show up on the back deck some nights, I found myself fretting. But she always turned up and my heart was gladeven if my pocketbook wasn't. We didn't exactly need another mouth to feed.

And as it turned out, we didn't get one more. &uot;Honey,&uot; I remarked one day to my spouse, &uot;Is it just me or is Scotch gettingrounder?&uot;

He sighed. &uot;Nope, it's not just you. I'm thinking she's expecting, too.&uot;

One morning Scotch showed up trim, slim

and ravenously hungry. I looked and looked but saw neither hide nor hair of any little Scotchies. Later, though, I began to hear soft mewing sounds from beneath the house.

I stuck my head underneath our home and scanned the area with a flashlight on several occasions. No sightings to report. I strained to hear any further sounds of feline life. Were they OK? What did they look like? How many were there?

Weeks passedlong ones for me. Scotch was obviously doing a lot of nursing and seemed to get a mite on the skinny side. &uot;Put some canned food out for her, I think she needs the extra protein,&uot; my spouse advised.

Then one afternoon I was sitting in the den pegging away at my laptop when I looked out the patio door and glimpsed my husband gesturing to me. He was holding aKITTEN!