We have this cat who is mostly ours. We feed him and take him to the vet, but unlike our two inside cats, this one, known as Harold the Brave, likes to go roaming. He’s always been something of a vagabond. We didn’t adopt him; one day he just ran in the house and started eating. He’s very affectionate, in a dominant, alpha sort of way (he pets you; you don’t pet him – unless he demands it), and all attempts to make him an indoor cat have failed. It is what it is. Once, my son told me, “Mommy, I saw Harold coming out of the house down the street. They call him Simba over there.” He doesn’t believe in exclusive relationships; we have an open pet policy with him.
However, Harold is now getting on in years, and his schedule has become pretty regular. He shows up three times a day for meals. He might stay for a cuddle and a nap, but then he’s off to attend to important cat business matters. If it’s cold or rainy out, he may spend the night. The first day he didn’t show up, we thought nothing of it. On the second day, we were a little concerned. By the third day, I started fearing the worst and planning how I would explain his disappearance to my 9 year old daughter. She would be devastated. I wished I’d tried harder to keep him inside, where it was safe.
After a week, my teenage son came bounding exuberantly down the hallway to tell me, “Harold is back!” Note: Teenage Boy has a polite but distant relationship with all animals. He finds them cute, but only “from a reasonable distance.” The fact that he came rushing to tell me shows that he, too, was considerably worried. Harold had returned. Limping, bedraggled, and very hungry. I don’t think I realized how anxious I was until that moment, because I went limp with relief. That damned cat! We still don’t know where he was or how he got hurt. He behaved so obnoxiously at the vet that they weren’t even able to x-ray him. They just gave him some antibiotics and pain meds and sent him home with us. He’s mending just fine and has finally stopped growling at everyone. He drools a little after the pain meds have been administered, which I think means they gave him the good stuff. I think sometimes he senses me wondering and he hobbles over to rub his face on my cheek, as if to say, “Listen, baby, don’t worry about it. Don’t I treat you good when I’m here?”
Short of strapping a Go-Pro camera to him or, as my husband suggests, hiring the crew from “Cheaters” to follow him around, I’ll never know where Harold goes or what he does when he’s out of sight. It’s actually a humbling lesson: all we can know of another person or creature is the personal experience we share with them, and that is only a small portion of his or her own reality. Everyone we meet is bigger than the moment of encounter. It’s a good reminder that even a loverboy cat (I speak of his affection – he is, of course, neutered) has more depth and richness to his life than one might think. You’ve got to respect that. The other lesson here is that you must be very self-actualized to care for a cat, because they’re not that great with thank yous. The work is the reward; snuggles are extra.
3 Things That Were Good:
1. I went to physical therapy for my wonky back and shoulder, and for my carpal tunnel hands, which started to feel better as soon as I found out that my appointment had been confirmed. You’d think this is a good thing, but I call it Day Before A Haircut Syndrome. You know – when you really, really need to have your hair done because it’s become completely unmanageable but then the day before you’re supposed to get it cut or colored or whatever, it suddenly looks fabulous. You might then be tempted to cancel your appointment, which is what your sneaky hair wants you to do, but that would be a terrible mistake. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have experienced Day Before A Haircut Syndrome before and know not to fall for it, so I went to my appointment even though my arms and back seemed to be suddenly healed. It’s good that I went. Apparently, I have terrible posture and work habits. I caused the nice physical therapist to shake his head and sigh a lot, but I promised to be diligent in my stretching exercises.
2. Harold the Brave cat came home. See above.
3. National Novel Writing Month has begun. I love NaNoWriMo in all its writerly, frantic madness. I’m already far behind in my word count, but I’m having so much fun.
2 Things I Did Well:
1. Medicated an uncooperative cat.
2. Refrained from wallowing hip deep in tiny chocolate bars. The leftover Halloween candy taunts me, but I resist!