If You Get Lost, You Can Always Be Found

I saw the dark, long-haired cat sitting in the middle of the back pasture. I always think of that particular cat as a female because she has an extremely long tail, which reminds me of Stitch’s, the little kitten who showed up the day after Reyka was put to sleep. His tail would swing up over his back and touch the top of his head when he was excited. I like to think of the dark, long-haired cat as his mom. She was sitting, upright and proper, in the crunchy, sun-bleached grass, staring at the house. It’s unusual to see her sitting anywhere. Normally she’s running, her body low to the ground, her long tail streaming out behind her. When I noticed her, I decided to put a can of wet food and a bowl of dry out on the porch. I knew she’d run as soon as the lock clicked but I didn’t care. If she wasn’t going to eat it, the raccoons would get it later.

I know someone out there, four years from when I post this, is going to want to tell me I shouldn’t feed raccoons. Too bad. I like raccoons and they’re not going to break into anyone’s cabin and eat their faces, so I don’t feel any worse about feeding them than I do feeding the 3,247 cats that come around.

As expected, as soon as I opened the door, she was gone. I didn’t even see a trace of her running around the barn or into the long grass of the neighboring field. Of course, I was distracted. As soon as I opened the door I realized I’d knocked Pickwick out of the way, pushing his angry, fluffed, growling body toward the stairs. Normally he’d spin around and start trying to make his way into the house, rubbing his orange fur against my black pants. This time he stayed, hunched and puffed, eyes locked on Muggabee.

Muggabee was back! It has been more than two months since I last saw him. I can’t describe my feelings upon seeing him now. I almost thought I imagined him there for a moment. For weeks and weeks, I would look out the window every time I passed by. Then, as the probability that he’d never return became more likely, I’d look every other time, then less. I never stopped looking entirely, but I did stop expecting to see him. There were nights I cried, thinking about how sick he looked, wondering if there was something I should have done. I missed him.

I’m so thankful he’s back. Hopefully he’ll be returning more often. I don’t know where he’s been but he looked so much better than the last time I saw him, albeit a bit skinnier. His fur was smooth and clean and his eyes were dry. If he doesn’t come back, at least now I know he’s likely with someone else, or at the very least, alive.

Note: The picture at the top is not Muggabee, who you can see here, it’s Stitch. Stitch was named by, and lives with, one our vet’s assistants.

Title From:
Home
by Phillip Phillips

Where’d You Go Love?

This is the longest Muggabee has ever stayed away. I honestly don’t know how long it’s been. I estimated two weeks the last time I wrote, but I’m not certain. It definitely wasn’t more recent.

He would usually show up around 4-5pm. I’d wait to put any food out until I actually saw him so I knew he was the one eating. The last day I remember seeing him, he hadn’t come by during his normal hours. I figured he’d visit a little later, which he did. Around 7pm, I realized he was outside when I heard hissing and whatever that growling thing is that cats do that sounds like a deep, guttural rumbling, emanating from their souls. He’s the only one of the cats to growl at the others, so I knew he was there, and so was someone else.

When I opened the door, I saw the long grey hair of the cat with the bald spot on his side. He was off the porch but still close enough to enrage Muggabee, who was sitting by his bowl, hissing and channeling demons. The other cat is terrified of me, so he quickly ran away when he realized I wasn’t going to be staying inside. Muggabee continued to hiss, albeit a little less frequently. Normally, when I scooped the wet food from the tin, he would lose a bit of his apprehension. That time he didn’t. Instead, he sat in the same place, still rumbling, still hissing, showing no interest in the food. I talked to him a bit, reassured him that everything was okay, and the other cat was gone. As I talked to him, I noticed he looked even more disheveled than usual; his fur was a little thin and unkempt, his eyes were a little watery. Sometimes he looked a bit rough, so I didn’t think too much of it at the time. As much as I wanted to be friends with Muggabee, I knew my presence was only making him uncomfortable, so I gathered everything and went inside, deciding to let him calm down and eat in peace.

I watched from the window as he nervously started taking small bites, constantly looking in the direction where the bald spot cat had gone. When it looked like he was relaxing a little, I walked away. I plopped the cat food jar on the kitchen table, threw away the tin, and washed my hands. By the time I got back to the window, Muggabee was gone. He had left a little wet food, which was not like him.

As upset as he had been by the other cat, I figured perhaps he was too nervous to eat and would show up again the following day, but he’s not been back.

I’m writing this now because I’m starting to lose hope that I’ll ever again look outside and see his warm grey fur rippling in the breeze as he sleeps on our steps, waiting for his food. I’m also writing this now because the moment I say something like this, more often than not, the opposite tends to happens. It seems to work for everything but the lottery.

Title From:
Last Night
by Miner

Hoo Yip Hoo Yip Hoo

It’s late afternoon, I’m sitting in our office, the portable air conditioner is blowing a moderately warm breeze into the tiny room. It’s difficult for our portable air conditioners to counter the second half of the day, when the sun beats down on the back of our home, which is lined with windows. Fortunately, we purchased another a/c unit this year, so instead of it remaining as hot inside as outside, we are able to stay pretty comfortable. Not necessarily cool, but not, “Did you know you could sweat there?” either. It would likely be even more comfortable if I’d take my hoodie off and stop drinking hot chocolate.

Not long ago I went outside to check for Muggabee, which is what we decided to name the little grey cat. He hasn’t been around for the last two weeks. Before that, he was looking a bit rough. I hope he’s okay. Occasionally he disappears for a while so let’s hope that he’s just adventuring. He hates the other cats who come around, so it’s possible he’s just avoiding them.

There are a lot of cats now. There is a black tortoiseshell with a fat, stubby tail, a black one with a long bushy tail, a grey one with long fur and a bald patch on his side, a short-haired grey one with a white face, and two giant cats we’ve named The Little Raccoon and The Big Raccoon. I’m done naming them. To name them is to adopt them emotionally and I don’t want to have six cats in my heart. I don’t even like cats.

Pickwick, on the other hand, is here every day again. He’s a little skinnier than when he emerged from wherever he was holed up over the winter. He’s growing on me a bit but his moodiness is absurd. A few days ago he bit me, swiped at my arm, then proceeded to rub against my legs as though he hadn’t just morphed into a fluffy feral monster. Let’s hope he doesn’t have rabies.

The sun is finally dropping behind the hills. The warmth of the day is fading. The weather in Montana is amazing. While it’s occasionally blazing hot, the heat is dry, and the evenings are cool. Tonight, for example, we should drop to 52°F. How can you not love a summer where you can open your windows in the evening and listen to the coyotes howl?

Title From:
Coyotes
by Don Edwards

Little Lights in My Heart

I just deleted nine drafts — nine drafts of posts I attempted to write over the last five months. I am still at risk for bursting into tears, so I’m going to make this return to the blog a list that doesn’t really go into any detail.

1. On September 29th, Reyka was put to sleep. I have to write that out without much thought or this will become the tenth draft.

2. The day after Reyka died, a tiny kitten showed up. His innocent joy and desperate desire for love helped to temper our sadness and pain. I would have loved to keep him around but fear Levee’s chasing drive would have gotten the best of her. Now he lives with one of our vet’s assistants. I think about him from time to time.

3. Pickwick was missing for months. I didn’t know if a coyote got him or someone took him in, but he was missed. A few days ago I heard the familiar thud of his jump from the porch railing to the floor. I was glad to see his pudgy little face. Wherever he was, he was cared for, and I’m glad he was out of the bitter cold.

4. The nameless grey cat is still hanging around but we haven’t made any progress. I’ve accepted that this may be as close as we will ever get.

5. A large black dog has stopped by our place multiple times. The first night it was 12°F. We didn’t have any place he could stay inside, but we couldn’t leave him outside either. We ended up putting him in our well house overnight with the electric smoker running (without wood) to heat the room up. He wasn’t very happy but at least he was safe and warm. He was here again two weeks ago, hanging out on our porch all day. If he comes by again, he might be welcomed as a new member of our family.

6. Why is everything about animals?

7. It looks as though we might be stuck here another year. We’ve been approved for a home loan but cannot find anything that fits our must-have list: twenty acres, a small house, forty-five minutes or less of a commute, all at an affordable price. What can you do?

8. I feel like I have to reach 10 on the list and I have no idea why.

9. I am seriously contemplating chickens. Or a Scottish highland cow. We need more animals in our life and I need more excuses to wear my Sloggers.

10. Pictures will be missing for a while. I can’t bear the thought of looking through them and seeing her face.

Title From:
All The Little Lights
by Passenger

The Longer I Run

The window beside my desk overlooks a huge thicket canopying a substantial ditch. Six months ago I noticed a tiny bobbed tail cat using a small passage through the brambles to sneak around to the back porch and steal Pickwick’s food. The first time I saw him I opened the window, said “Hey ki…” and the cat bolted. Weeks went by and I repeated the process until finally he stopped running.

The next step was to sneak outside before he got to the back yard. More often than not he would hear the door squeak open and run back to the protection of the thicket. Occasionally I’d manage to get outside without him noticing, but as soon as he rounded the corner and saw me, he’d flee. More weeks passed with me sneaking outside and frightening him with horrifying hellos and terrifying offers of food. He eventually stopped running but would just sit at the corner of the house until I went inside, never getting any closer.

I don’t know what prompted him to come over after being petrified for so long, but one evening, as I sat outside with Pickwick, peripherally I noticed the movement of soft grey fur as he slunk his way to the porch, stopping at the foot of the stairs. I said, “Hello,” and continued to pet Pickwick, picking new burrs from his fur. The little grey cat sat tall, unmoving, head turned to the side, eyes partially closed, but still watching. He stayed there until I stood up to go inside twenty minutes later, then he ran to the corner of the house.

That was the day I started putting more food in Pickwick’s bowl.

It’s been two steps forward and one step back since. Each day he gets a little braver but the whole routine starts off worse than it ended. He’s now on the porch with me, licking the cat food gravy from a spoon I hold out to him, and allowing my hand to rest six inches from his plate. He’s so excited about the new wet food that he’ll stretch his neck to get at it as I’m spooning it out, which has allowed my hand to brush lightly against his ear a few times. We’re getting there.

Now for a name…

Note: Birds frighten the little grey cat, so I can’t imagine a giant black camera is going to go over very well with him, so there are no pictures yet. Instead, here is one of Levee as a puppy, four years ago.

Update: I was able to sneak a picture with my phone this afternoon, moments before it went from 46% to dead. Does anyone else’s phone do that? I want all life to work on iPhone battery time. Forty-six minutes left to work? Leave right now! 46 is the new 0. Anyway, you can see the kitty on Instagram.

Title From:
Longer I Run
by Peter Bradley Adams