Spots was quietly absent Sunday evening. I looked for her, but she was not on the roof. She was not lying in the seat of the truck. She was not in any of the resting places that I could normally find her.
This mildly disturbed me, for Spots had been lame for the past week or so, her right hind leg slipping out from under her as she made her way along. Taking notice of this, I’d resolved to moving her about, first to one place and the other, that she would telegraph to me where she wanted to be, in order to keep her from having to use the leg. I figured that over time, the leg would heal, and that she would resume her normal activities. But upon finding her missing, I was filled with an unsettling emptiness.
Now I believe that Spots has left home, for what will be the last time.
It isn’t as if she hadn’t done it all before. Yes, she’d done it several times, and each time, after two or three weeks, after I’d convinced myself that I’d never see her again, she would invariably, and when it was least expected, appear, sashaying up the driveway, much to my incredulity. But did she arrive emaciated and haggard? To the contrary, she looked as if she’d been living in the lap of luxury: coat gleaming, and every whisker in place.
Of course, I’d charge out with equal portions of joy and disbelief, and embrace her in my arms. I’d make a big fuss and scold her for making me worry, while she ignored me with the detached nature that cats are generally hated for.
Spots is a yellow tabby who elected to spend a portion of her life in close proximity with me. Mostly at my prompting and tempting. Cats have no emotion. None. This seems to be the source of the distaste that many people hold for these animals.
Most folks seem to want an animal that, in contrast, is wholly dependent on them. They enjoy ‘owning’ an animal which they can exercise a certain level of control over.
Cats are among the most persecuted animals in the history of man. They’ve been tried as witches, exterminated on account of idiotic superstitions (with dire results) and accused of killing babies by, ‘stealing their breath’. The primary reason, I think, that cats are despised, is because they cannot be controlled, manipulated, nor tamed practically. We cannot ‘own’ cats. We can lock them up in our homes, we can attempt to regulate their feedings in order to feel more ‘in control’, but cats eat when, and what they want to. Cats choose to become domesticated, and only when it suits their needs.
If a cat becomes ‘homeless’ and left to his or her own devices, it will not only survive, but thrive. Cats can easily swing from domesticated to feral living. The poor dog however, having the common sense of its brother the wolf bred completely out of it over millennia, will generally starve without intervention of human compassion.
I hold a quiet, yet firm, respect for cats for the very reason that most people hate them.
I wonder how many times the same scenario plays out; we, for some reason or another, and with misgivings, take on some stray animal that doesn’t necessarily appeal to us, but out of the aforesaid compassion that many others seem to be completely devoid of, take the hapless creature home, only to fall helplessly in love with it over the period of time that we are blessed to be in company of it.
This is precisely how Spots came into my life to eventually become my favorite companion.
While working for a client during the summer of 2006, he asked if I might be kind enough to ‘eliminate’ a certain supposedly feral cat, which he had surreptitiously observed meandering around one of the dumpsters on his property.
I’d seen the cat before.
The first time was when I observed her moving stealthily through the forest behind the complex. Five minutes later, I had witnessed three dogs, hot on her trail. Ten minutes afterward, I saw the same cat negotiating her way in the opposite direction. I had to hand it to the cat. She was cool.
Engaging in discussion with those living in the vicinity, I ascertained that, although many people had taken to feeding the cat irregularly (thereby negating my client’s claim of the animal’s being feral), she seemed to belong to no one . However, this cat had it made. I thereby resolved that I would have nothing to do with the ‘disposal’ of the feline, but rather directed my son, who happens to be very good with animals in general, to try and lure the cat to him, which he did in short order.
Bringing her into where we had been performing work, and were presently breaking for lunch, the cat nonchalantly walked over to where I was sitting, and took a bite of my blueberry bagel. I decided there and then that nothing else would do but to take the poor thing back to my home, where two other cats were currently residing along with us.
I eventually settled on calling her ‘Spots’, on account of the unusual looking darker circular stripes which formed a sort of target pattern on either side of her body.
As is the custom of cats, she displayed a penchant for the outdoors, which is where she has lived out the remainder of her, eternally mysterious, life.
Spots, not particularly caring for the company of other cats, preferred instead to live a life of solitude. Wishing to avoid the others, who also went outdoors during the day, she finally settled on the following routine: Quite early in the morning, she would be waiting at the door for me to feed her, after which time she would wind her way down the long and steep drive, spending the remainder of the day in various places down the hill. In the evening around six, I’d round up the others, whistling the tune of Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’. After they’d been recalled and safely indoors, Spots could be seen making her way idly up the hill where, eating her evening meal, she would stay outside on ‘guard duty’ until the next morning.
Years later, I began to refer to Spots as the ‘The Forever Cat’ because during a time that the coyotes were especially problematic for me, and losing three other cats to them, Spots continued negotiating the long, steep drive, lined with kudzu on either side, unscathed.
Spots and I spent countless nights sitting in front of the fireplace on cold nights, over the course of many a winter. We would talk about all kinds of things together, although I must admit that she did most of the listening.
She never appeared to age. Eight years on, she looked exactly the same, and I have the photos to prove it. I’d finally convinced myself that she was immortal. I’d decided that Spots was indeed the forever cat, neither being born nor dying.
Today is day three, and she still has not shown up, but you can bet that I have been looking for her, but to no avail. If poor Spots felt that the end was near, she would have nothing of being catered to any longer. And by no means would she lower herself to having someone watch her die. She was fiercely independent in life, and I can only imagine her as such in death.
There will be no grave for the one I so revere.
I look out through the forest, continuing to call her name in my signature sharp, strident tone, but I fear that my poor forever cat has disappeared into the same setting from which I first saw her creeping so long ago.
Farewell, old girl.