I suppose you could call it a gift.
The first stray cat I remember coming around arrived when I was three or four. I called him "Tommy the Tom Cat." He lived outdoors, except for one brief foray into the old house on State Street, alledly to catch a mouse. He panicked and wedged himself behind the piano. Not good.
My dad and sister are severely allergic to cats, so Tommy the TomCat went right back outside. (Coincidentally, 21 years later, my sister would meet and marry Tommy the TomBrother-in-Law, but I digress.) Tommy the TomCat wasn't around long, but he is captured in my "First Day of PreSchool" snapshots. Then the neighbors got tired of him spraying everywhere and hauled him away, supposedly to a farm nearby. The nice thing about growing up in a small town completely surrounded by farmland is that that IS what happened.
Shortly after that, we moved to the house where my parents still live. With a month or so, Marble showed up. Marble was a calico cat, female, adorable and incredibly sweet. At this point, I had a revolving door of pets my parents called "Angie's Menagerie." We intermittantly had gerbils, rabbits, parakeets, a hermit crab, a Russian hamster, goldfish, frogs, a tiny turtle (years before Senor Tortuga) and a salamander whose hatching I oversaw myself from a gelatinous batch of eggs, and of course, Canis, the family golden retriever. Eventually, the neighbors two doors down put a flea collar on Marble and took responsibility for her yearly checkups and vaccinations. I guess she become "theirs" after that, but she was an outdoor cat who hung around a lot.
My junior year of college we lived in a fantastic sublet when we got back from London. We heard the harrowing meows of a cat- loudly- for about ten days. At one point, it woke Jillian up at night, and she was certain the cat was under her bed. It wasn't. Kinda creepy? indeed.
I stayed home sick from class one day, and the meowing was so loud, I was determined to find this cat once and for all. I checked under the porch, the bushes, everywhere I could think of. Finally, exasperated, I went into the basement to throw in a load of laundry.... and saw a slinking orange tail disappear behind some boxes. I brought down food and called Animal Control. They told me they had a four week waiting period. The cat, probably crazed with hunger, hunkered down behind a mattress. Stephen spent the better part of an evening keeping it company. The landlord came over, took one look at the 5-inch space by the dryer fog vent to the outside, and insisted he didn't need to fix that, and the cat certainly didn't get in that way, it must be slipping in behind us when we opened the door (WTF?) and then banged a ladle on a frying pan until the cat freaked out and streaked into the frigid Syracuse night. I have never stopped feeling bad about that.
It's partly due to that guilt that led me to chase 15-pound-puppy Bella away from Ostrom Avenue on Move-In Day senior year. She ran into our backyard, got stuck in a rose bush, and ten minutes later, I had her in my arms. I opened the back door to tell Jo I would be out front, waiting for Bella's people (she had a leash and a collar, no tags). I hadn't even gotten a word out when Jo said, "Ang, NO." Bella's people never came, and we all know how that turned out.
Fast forward to Florida , finding Fred and George, helping George find a home, keeping the Fred, trapping Fred's crackwhore cat of a mother, getting her spayed and releasing her to her feral colony.
Then one day a gray cat turned up on my porch in Florida. Fred, just a kitten then, was staring out the sliding glass door, and I thought he was looking at his reflection... until the reflection moved, and he didn't. I named the Reflection Cat NoEsMiGato (NEMG), got him fixed and brought him in the house for one night... during which I discovered he was really smelly, and no amount of bathing him could eliminate the funk. He ultimately adopted one of my neighbors in the apartment complex, following at her heels as she walked her yippy little dogs.
Fast forward to living here. Stephen and I spent our last holiday together chasing a stray dog around on New Year's Eve, trying to get him off the street. He ran from us, and it was all a little sketchy, and we had to let it go eventually. I saw the dog again a year later, but he wouldn't trust me then either...
Last year at Rehoboth, we were in the beach house one night when a stray cat came right up to the sliding glass door and pummelled with its paws. I was the only one awake and was starting to get freaked out by the drumming noise until I saw him on the other side of the sliding glass door. Anyone else seeing a pattern here? Damn cat brought me a frog.
Then there was Jack, though admittedly, I pulled him out of traffic deliberately.
Things got so crazy-busy about a month ago that I never did get around to blogging about the *second* dog we found, a Jack Russell terrier who was crouching in the bushes in the front yard. I swear to God, they just show up. They just show up! Much like the day she found Fred, Bella went lurching and pulling to a bush, and the dog trotted out. Bella liked him a lot. They slept together in our bed that night. Fred, on the other hand, was the very model of a Major Freaked Out Kitty Cat. We took the Jack Russell Terrier to my favorite no-kill shelter. I hope he found a new family, but I suppose I'll find out tomorrow-
This entire entry has been prompted by a certain male domestic short hair cat who followed me home tonight when I was- wait for it, wait for it- out walking Bella. I saw him in the shadows near my car, thinking he was Rogue Skunk. He was all tense when he saw Bella, who was doing her traditional Dance of Leapy Leapy "I see a kitty! I see a kitty! Fred is a kitty and he's my friend and I-see-a-kitty-be-my-friend! Be my friend! BE! MY! FRIEND!" Joel walked Bella away, and the cat rubbed up against my legs. He let me pick him up and starting purring instantly. He has no collar, but there's a house at the end of the road that has a lot of outdoor cats. I walked him down the street, set him down in their yard, and patted him on the head. He followed me back up the street. I crossed the street. He crossed the street. I walked. He walked. I stopped. He stopped to dart in and around of my ankles. No collar. Street dirty, but not malnourished. No visible fleas, young looking, clean ears and clear eyes.
At the moment, he's confined to our bathroom with some food, water and a disposable casserole pan full of fresh litter. Fred is somewhat dumbfounded that his litter box is outside the bathroom, but is otherwise oblivious. Bella on the other hand, has been chasing her tail and hopping up and down for the last 45 minutes doing her Kitty! Kitty Kitty Kitty! Dance.
Fuck. This little guy is really cute.