Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Calla and Lily

A few years ago when I lived in Thornton, I surprised myself and my family by bringing home twin kittens.They were barncats but I didn't rescue them from the barn. I found them under a bush.
I saw them first when I went out to groom my horse and saw them burrowed into the spaces between bales of hay in the barn. I boarded my horse 'Teddy Bear' there for a while so I saw them daily. One day I didn't see them anywhere.I looked for them for several days.There were lots of hiding places. Eventually I found them under a bush in front of the house, quite a ways from the barn. It was a pretty nice fall season till it wasn't. In Colorado things change fast.One day it is a warm beautiful golden day the next day snow comes in sideways.I worried about them.
We have always been a home with animals, our own variety, plus those belonging to our kids when they had to find places for their animals from time to time.
Once we captured a neighbor's cat that had been left behind to fend for itself when they moved to Florida. It had disappeared as they were ready to pull out of their driveway in their U-Haul. They were devastated. When we found her we packed her up, took her to the airport and shipped her to them. I do things like that.
As time went by and the cold fall began to turn quickly into a colder winter I thought more and more about those kittens under the bush.
The day I thought about which ones I would take home if I could, I did. I chose two black and white mirror image twins. Lily had white on the right side of her nose, Calla had white on the left side of her nose. They were inseperable. Twins were a big thing in my family since I was a twin and my husband was also. I named them after my mom's favorite flowers.
I remember I had to stick my hand under that bush several times before I was able to grab and hold on to one of them. I carried one struggling black and white form after the other to the cat carrier in the car. I felt bad, they had no idea what was happening. Whatever grabbed them was not their mom. Being carried into Pet Smart while I bought up their furnishings wasn't that much fun for them either. Even the admiring smiles of other pet lovers didn't faze them.
Calla and Lily were characters. When Lily groomed her sister she would actually chew her whiskers off. I had to watch her all the time! When they both fit on my lap they sat and watched the words move across the screen on the computer in tandem. They were pretty good editors! I let them come up on my bed, come under the covers and snuggle. They slept there, one in front and the other behind my knees for a week (or so). No wonder I woke up stiff.
That was ten years ago and we live in Fort Collins now. And I only have Lily with me. She is still a character. It has been two years since Calla got out one day and never came back. The other day Lily caught sight of one of our barn cats through the window. Moonbeam looks a lot like Calla. In the past whenever Lily saw a strange cat outside she made a huge racket hissing and growling. But when she saw the other black and white kitty she sat transfixed, not a sound. Then when the cat moved out of sight she ran from window to window looking for her... meowing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Searching for Shadow

This is not one of those regular run of the mill lost and found animal stories. It is about people, about us, all of us who have decided that taking care of pets is a calling. And at the same time accepting the reality that we are not in control of their lives. They are animals that have their own way of being. Their own ways of living lives that are happy and sad, tragic and fulfilling. My sister said to me one day, "we do not own them, they are on loan to us." And as long as I can keep that in my mind I can be reconciled.

This is actually about Cookie. Cookie is her pet name, a name given to her when she was a kitten by my grandchildren. But as I have watched her grow up I have named her Shadow. She sometimes moves like a squirrel, low and low to the ground, her wild tortoise-shell coat with black front feet, half her face and long silky tail with brown blended stripes make her very difficult to see, especially at night. And this is good because of the three 'house cats' I have now, she is the one who takes her time coming home for dinner. Once in a while she stays out all night, or till she can sneak into the house through the back door I have left cracked a bit. Then when I find her in the morning I heave a sigh of relief.

She is the one who becomes a door dasher when there is too much kid commotion from grandchildren or dogs that are often sharing space in the house. If that happens she usually shows up after I walk around the fields with a flashlight. That is thankfully what happened recently after she had been missing 3 or 4 days while I was out of town.

But the most memorable time so far was once when the minute I walked out of the house to look for her I heard a strong "whooo whooo" 'goes there' question filling the night air. This was only the second time in two years I had heard the fabled owl that lived close by. I had not seen it before and I was disturbed as well as excited. I was looking for Shadow, my hunter, to get her back into the house.I had a new high-powered flashlight with me that had such a strong beam I could see all the way to my daughter's house that was situated on the other side of the barn and riding arena.

It was one of the coldest nights of an already cold winter and just the end of November. It was forcast to be below freezing that week. A true arctic front had powered its way into northern Colorado and our front range community. I walked my regular pattern, front trees by the road, back around the barn and toward the new house, in snow deep enough to leave tracks.

But tonight I also followed the voice of the owl. It seemed to get louder as I walked north. Then I saw it in the beam of my flashlight...the pale grey and white form sitting on the highest point of the roof of my daughter's two-story house. His head turned toward me not at all distressed by the spotlight thrown on him.

After my startled moment I found my own voice and informed him there were lots of rabbits and mice around, he didn't need a skinny 7 lb. cat for his dinner. He then lifted his huge wings and flew north, away from the farm toward a line of trees in the distance. I was awed.

Swinging the flashlight quicker now I trudged through the snow toward my house calling 'Shadow...dinner...Shadow...dinner'. I made one more circle of the barn and arena, and all of a sudden there she was, rubbing my legs and purring.

And I had that same old conversation with myself..wondering again how I could keep the delicate balance of allowing her to be a cat, a hunter and still protect her from being the hunted.