Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thirty pounds, thirty feet up, for three days

It's not like she was ever really lost. We just didn't always know where she'd gone.

She was ridiculously good tempered about, well, everything. Her round head would squish and stretch into realistic versions of the Cheshire cat's smile every time she touched..or lifted patted, swatted, dropped, or my brother did many times as a child...carried into the bathroom. Of course, my brother Colin did teach her to pee in a toilet that way. She was most certainly not your everyday sort of cat. Where all her siblings were tabbies, she was white with large scattered spots of color all over. Of course my brother picked her when we were seven. Picked her because she wasn't like the other kitties. Of course he named her Splotches, and Splotches was not ever like any other kitty.

Splotches owned the world. Nothing was beyond her little kitty reach. If she liked the way your dinner smelled, she would invite herself in. If she wanted to nap in the middle of the street, no moving vehicle would stop her. They would stop for her. Neither her heart murmur nor the loss of her claws on her front feet slowed her hunting of everything from voles to blue jays. She got dirty like a dog, and she let my brother hold her in his arms while he slept. Which he did almost every night.

It was because of this nighttime ritual that the rest of the family clued in that something might be wrong. Splotches may have kept her own hours, but she came home often. When she wasn't home for the second night in a row, Colin began to insist she was lost. We had to find her. We searched the woods near our cottage for an entire day with no luck. My brother and I carefully treaded that fine childish line between hope and loss.

And then, under our favorite huge and bending tree by the stream, we paused and we looked up.
There she was.

A shock of white high above us, rocketing us out of the trees screaming towards our parents. We danced and yelled until our father found a way to get to her. He hammered found pieces of wood into the tree until he could reach her, leaving a ladder in his wake.

When our farther reached her, he declared down to us that she had climbed thirty feet into the tree. She wasn't skittish or difficult on the way down. She calmly allowed dad to carry her down to my brother.

Perhaps I should mention that it's a little difficult to climb down a tree on a homemade ladder single handed while carrying a thirty pound cat, no matter how well mannered she is. Regardless, we were overjoyed to have her back, and for the rest of her life our father looked at her with a certain amount of respect.

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