Friday, December 19, 2008

A Tribute To "Baby"

Ours is a tough neighborhood for cats. We live in one of those areas where people think, for whatever reason, it's okay to let you dogs out at night, where neutering any animal is just an added expense and probably takes away their personality. It makes for a terrible mix of too many cats being stalked by too many testosterone saturated dogs. We think Baby may have fallen victim.

Our neighborhood has improved. Ten years ago there were gangs and skinheads and lots of drugs. The house across the street and one house down was a drug house. One guy lived there and many visited. He had a son we would occasionally see on weekends. Somewhere around this time a small female cat started hanging around. I wouldn't see her that often, but when I did I would try and entice her over to me. We soon struck up a friendship and she would quite often come over and help when I was working in the garden.

Still only seeing her occasionally, one cool evening I invited her in for dinner. She enjoyed the evening and the other animals didn't seem to mind her presence. She was so small and petite I just called her "Baby". About a month later while working in the flowerbeds with Baby nearby I was confronted by the seven or eight year old boy from across the street, "What are you doing with my cat?"

"She just came by for a visit. What's her name?", I asked.

"Her name is Angel. I want her back. She's my cat.", he demanded.

"Good," I said, "She's just getting in the way over here." Then I handed him Angel Baby and he tucked her under his arm and carried her back home.

Over the next several months we surmised that Baby was hanging out in probably three different houses besides our own. Every once and awhile she would stop by for breakfast or dinner. We showed her the cat door so she knew she could always leave when she wanted. On cool mornings I'd catch a glimpse of her sitting on the water heater vent of our neighbor's house to stay warm.

As with most druggie situations the circumstances deteriorated across the street and Baby started hanging out with us more and more. Eventually, he went to jail and the little kid stayed with his mom (whom I sure was a lovely woman). Since we would feed her on occasion, we took her to the vet and had her spayed (It's our "You feed 'em, you fix 'em" policy). We kept her confined for a few days while she recovered and that help build a bond.

Baby had some real street sense. She was a good hunter helping me catch the gophers that plague our property. She loved to chase birds, too, as you can see her way up on this cottonwood tree. Another favorite pastime was sitting on the fence just out of reach of our neighbor's dogs. Their frustrated barking must have been music to her ears.

Baby became more and more our cat with regular feedings and sleepovers. She still ruled our little neighborhood by keeping the other "stray" in line and she kept ties with at least one other house. We haven't seen Baby since Thanksgiving. After ten years we can assume someone took her and she is living comfortably at another home, or one of the other animal thugs in the neighborhood got to her. That's the thing about cats - they are connected and independent at the same time. We've tried keeping cats with a similar history to Baby inside and they just can't deal with it. They know the world is out there and they need to experience it. We'll miss Baby coming into cuddle on the sofa, or jumping up to your shoulder from the ground. Ranae will miss her burying her nose in her hair. We'll miss seeing her on the roof waiting for us to come home from work, but most of all, I'll miss her company in the garden.

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