Saturday, November 28, 2009

She Got What She Wanted

Bacall came from Pam Angevine's barn on the backside of the racetrack. She was an adorable kitten, seemingly friendly and calm, born of a mother who had one litter after another, until she had a bunch of kittens that were so diseased they all had to be put to sleep.

And Bacall is the most beautiful cat I've ever seen. I've had many cats, so I trust my opinion. 

But she's not like most cats I've had. They've had heavy bones and most have had placid temperaments. Bacall's aloof, not interested in being touched, though she has always liked Bogie, often playing some odd game of tussle. Though she's perfectly calm around Krissy's two dogs, she hates cats. Perhaps because after her mother had the next litter, she attacked Bacall whenever she saw her.

She's always liked roaming. Standing at the apartment door, asking to go out into the hall and upstairs. For no particular reason. She'll lie on a box upstairs or on the work table.

She hasn't liked Tulip who is close to the same size and brown. This new dog annoys her, barking and fussing. But long before Tulip arrived, Bacall spent a great deal of time looking out of the window when she wasn't upstairs. It was clear that she wanted to go out. This summer I started letting her spend time on the back porch. Willow, the previous cat, used to climb up and down the posts, letting herself into the yard and returning, waiting patiently to be let inside. Bacall showed no such inclination to travel up and down in this way, but after having watched through the railing, she started making every effort to get out, to slip between my legs when I went out the front door.

Finally I let her out. And she came back. So this seemed like a good idea. I decided that she finally had the life she wanted. 

Then she began staying out over night. One morning I found her up in the stubby bush, the remains of a once-huge yew that Krissy and Chris had cut this summer. I called and she wouldn't come. Finally I got her, but as soon as I let her down inside the door, she slipped out again. She'd cornered a tiny field mouse, I realized, who had climbed to the top of a sawed off branch, quivering. He looked as if he was an illustration for a children's book. To her annoyance, I picked her up again and, this time, I closed the door firmly.

I thought I was giving her what she wanted. She seems like a classic barn cat, long, sleek, very light, and wanting to live an active life with interests that have nothing to do with couches or wood floors or desk chairs (though she's always had a fascination with the printer, racing in as soon as she hears it ramp up.) But a week or so ago, she didn't come back. I called. No Bacall. Chris said to wait a while and she'd probably turn up. She didn't. Krissy was teaching in New York on the weekend and I was worried about what she'd say. Bacall wasn't back that Monday and Krissy wasn't pleased. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, no cat.

On Thanksgiving, after we got back from that fabulous dinner, I was walking Bogie and Tulip, and heard a meowing from under a bush five or six houses down, on the other side of the street. Bacall. She must have heard the dog tags because she was clearly responding to our presence near her on the block. She crept out from her covering, walked ahead of us up the street, crossed the road and came in the front door...

walked up the stairs, to the apartment, where she drank a lot of water. And ate some wet food. Dragged herself over to a dog bed and went to sleep. The day after her return from all those days outside, she slipped down the backstairs and tried to run out. I was amazed she could move that fast. By then I'd noticed that one side of her jaw is stove in and looks nasty. I'm not sure that she can eat dry food, but she can eat wet. She's clearly been in a fight. Three days later, she seems to be recovering a bit, licking herself, eating wet food. I've yet to see her lift her lovely tail, but she now stretches. She doesn't look as beautiful as she once did, but she has allowed me to rub her head.  

I am hoping that more rest and more food will get her back to some semblance of her old self. I hope she carries her tail high again and that I don't have to take her to the vet and pay hundreds of dollars for her escapade.

And she's not going out again. My daughter told me so. No matter what she wants. 

Most of the cats on the backside get eaten by the coyotes except Reeses who lives in the maintenance shed and knows how to avoid the John Deeres, trucks and cars.

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