I write this blog, from the little yellow house in the big woods. It is prone to a very personalized picture of the way rural life can work. We have bears and coyotes wander through, raccoons who become quite familiar, and over time our inside four leggeds have switched from dog heavy to a cat bonanza, small gifts from the big woods. The interesting thing is, I would never have described myself as a cat person, famous last words. One spring a young feral cat pushed her way under the boards of our old house at a bit of foundation retreat and in the underspace had her kittens. We determined their lifespan outdoors would be very short and over the space of several weeks when making friends failed we used the friendly trap and one by one we brought in the kitten pack, including mom who was barely more than a kitten herself.
The transitions were not all smooth, we had to gain their trust as furless two leggeds and the stories are many but the one I want to share is Isaac’s story. Isaac was a beautiful little sleek black kitten who would be all but invisible in the shade of a leaf as he napped in the daytime. He was an explorer and a wildly playful one who would blindside his mom as she sat watch for her brood. He climbed the trees and used small branches to leap from one spindle of the hedge overhang to another, he was the first kitten to come inside.
He was so small, though we do not know their dates exact we thought about 8 to 10 weeks old. We brought him into the laundry room and when we opened the trap in his frantic race to escape he sprang head first into the freezer, not once but twice before hiding behind the fridge. My daughter stayed in the room and tried coaxing and bribing and eventually cornered him and picked him up to her sadness his response was to detach and become limp, to give up. Feral cats are not picked up by things that aren’t planning to eat them, so, it took a while before he started to understand that wasn’t the outcome plan. He broke us the first night when he would go the the register above the crawl space and cry into it for his siblings. Those first few days he became so wonderfully attached but his understanding was like pre toddlers in the space where they do not know you are still there if they cannot see you. He wanted a constant companion. When the next kitten came in a few days later we were relieved he had a mate. We did not plan to have a bunch of cats, we planned to get them people ready and re home. It took a huge investment of time and trust, months for the mom, and by then we surrendered to life with the cat pack. Isaac, laughing one, had the first of many laughs on us. He is the Alpha cat . When any stressors come up, he takes the foreground and the others fall in behind him. We have learned so much about their communication systems by being a parallel pack of beings now fully integrated.
Around february, Issac started losing weight. At first we thought it was a good thing as we had been trying to bring their sizes down, one thing you will know about ferral to tame is the trust in abundance is never really there and stress eating is not just a people thing. By March we made an appointment and had first check up, nothing seemed wrong, but the weight kept dropping. In April we did a senior blood screen and everything seemed pretty normal but the weight kept dropping. We bought a scale and monitored the weight, increased calories to see if he could gain some but it wasn’t going well so on the last appointment we agreed to a surgery that would either allow us to go forward and have the next expected five years of life, or know we had made one more strong try. Everyone including the vet was hopeful. I was hopeful. Tuesday morning at my yoga class during savasana I found myself with such a clear visualization it was as though watching through a window. Izzy, his little self at about a year old, walking in blowing sunlit grass, a hazy gold to the sky. His face alert, exploring, he was alone again without his pack, an alpha first to check out this new place and I knew in my heart no matter how much i wanted not too, it was a good bye. I could not stay with the meditation, or in the room, Tears fell and fall still. I truly hate good byes.
It might seem when whole towns have burned to ash – when countries become unsafe for their citizens and perilous re homings are daily news, when there are so many things of magnitude to consider, to be fixated on the life of a small feral cat an indulgence. I understand that. The thing is though, when you learn that all life is precious, that life interactions teach us a love story that enriches our spirit and that all loss includes grief, there isn’t a sliding scale for value. life is life, love is love and while this story is not wholly over, its end not fully written, we understand recovery isn’t part of it. Izzy comes home tomorrow to be with his pack until he lets us know it is too hard to stay and then we will let him go the rest of the way.
Before the kittens came in, I felt it absurd we were so committed to their rescue. I was losing my mom in pieces at the time. Ed was in transition with work and health both now strong and better than we had imagined, but at that time I felt like saving one thing I might be able to impact might get me through. In a lot of ways, it really helped. In the course of being less focused on human demands, we took a turn at learning to be more humane and that is a gift I will keep always.
I am trying to reconcile the sorrow i feel with the image of a kitten walking through tall grass, beginning a next adventure in a new place, and knowing in part when the next pack mate leaves us, they will not end up somewhere alone, .