Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Fair Exchange

I was away from home for an entire week. Normally, this would not bother me overmuch. There were aspects of my life from which I really needed a break. But I have a few new responsibilities that made me feel guilty, and even a bit worried, about being gone so long. As I mentioned in my previous post, my mother has sent me cats—several of them. Three in particular. And each is uncharacteristically needy at this point in his life.

Orangie is still living mostly in my back yard. He spends probably 70% of his time there—sleeping, eating, hanging with his “peeps” when we sit out on the deck in the evening. It’s the other 30% of his time that causes the problems. Every few days, he shows up with a new bite or sore, or he’s limping or just obviously doesn’t feel good. He’s been “cat about the neighborhood” for almost two years. That’s a surprisingly long tenure for any animal dumped here and left to fend for himself. Most of them waste away or disappear after a few months. This guy has hung tough; but it’s obvious he’s used up more than a couple of his nine lives in the interim.

Despite getting two big meals a day—and several snacks, when I’m home—he hasn’t fattened up at all. I noticed the other day that his fur is getting softer, and he keeps himself a little cleaner, which means he is feeling better than he did when he had to scratch for every meal. But I still would kind of like to see him looking more like the “marshmallow cats” that live in the house. And it’s obvious he’s had some kind of injury to his back legs or spine. Maybe he was attacked by a dog, or a human, or had a brush with a car… But he’s stiff and sore and sits awkwardly.

I’ve had September 1st penciled in my mind as the date to round him up and take him to the vet to be neutered and get a good check up. I wanted to wait until he trusted me enough. Still, I’m worried about the process. What if he comes home, I let him out, and he’s so upset with me that he never comes back? I suppose that’s probably a stupid thing to worry about. But I sure don’t want to do anything that forces him back out into the neighborhood to fend for himself.

He’s had a hard life the past couple of years. When I think about what he’s been through, I nearly start bawling. So, I want to do right by him; but I have to balance that, too, against what’s right for the rest of my herd. I don’t know if he’ll make a good transition to “indoor cat,” and I can’t have him going in and out of the house, possibly carrying disease to the indoor population. So he has to be “in” or “out.” We’ve been playing around with the idea of turning the shed into a kitty hut. Making it a warm, cozy place for kitties to get out of the rain and cold during the winter. And a place that we can quietly shut them in at night to keep them out of the way of the harm that lurks around the neighborhood in the dark—like raccoons, coyotes, other cats, dogs, cars, whatever. That might be a good compromise for everyone.

“Everyone” would include yet another denizen of the neighborhood who has taken to hanging around the yard and grabbing chow several times a week. This one is a scrappy little black tom…I can’t think that he is a year old, yet. We dubbed him “Ace,” short for Ace of Spades. Mostly we call him “Acer.”
He’s such a sweetie, likes people, loves to be petted. But if testicle size really was determined by the amount of male hormone coursing through his body, this little guy would be dragging around balls the size of a Brahma bull’s. He just can’t not challenge every male cat in the subdivision. As a result, he gets the crap kicked out of him on a regular basis. Every time he shows up to beg a meal, he’s sporting a new battle wound. Acer is a relatively recent addition to the neighborhood cast of cat characters…I don’t know if he belongs to someone or not. I think not. And even if he does, his owners suck as “cat parents.” I would not feel bad at all about toting him to the vet along with Orangie. Orangie is a mellow old cat; likely he would be happy to share his space amiably with Ace…but Ace has to posture and howl every time they cross paths. Perhaps they could get along once they’ve been, shall we say, re-programmed? And then they could spend yucky fall and winter evenings snuggled into our shed-cum-cathouse. That’s what I would like to see, anyway.

Yes, I go through a lot of work and worry—and expense—to take care of these wanderlings. I feel responsible, being a member of the race that has bound them to itself and then treated them so shabbily. I recognize the human race’s collective sin, so it IS my responsibility to do what I can to atone for it. And it’s not as if I get no benefit from the relationship.

Ask anyone who knows me to describe me in one word, and the words, “Gentle,” “kind,” and “comforting” would not be the first you would hear. Far from it.

But there are creatures in my world —small, helpless creatures suffering for their relationship with humans—for whom I am a source of gentleness, kindness, and comfort. They can’t say the words, but I know I help.

And that’s all the reward I need.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that once the Orange One discovered the joys of hanging out in the front of the fire you'd never pry him loose. I wish we had room for more in our tribe-but when they decide to hang out with mom in her big soft chair. Well, lets just say there's barely room for mom. LOL You're doing good, so good.