when the cat comes limping home

our sweet old cat is a wounded soldier. one who all week has needed me to be his nursemaid, his nanny, and his doting ambulator.

the old fella has had many a page-turner in his time.

the spell, long ago, when he was holed up in the down-the-alley gang-bangers’ drug-dealin’ den, and, in search of him, i tiptoed through the pitch-black cellar with the dealer himself, who lit my way with his bic-flick lighter. (it wasn’t till i’d safely rescued the rascal that i realized i’d been alone in a dark place with a dude with a penchant for trouble, although during my time with him he was a downright gentleman; i baked him brownies, dropped them on his doorstep later that day.)

or the time that ol’ cat took a stroll out the third-story skylight and lived to tell about it, after a rather bumpy ride down to the sidewalk.

he’s been caught and wedged and upside down aplenty. he’s come home with a nip to the ear, and minus a few tufts of fur.

but, until last week, he’d never come home limping.

and he’d never ever needed me so very much.

i fell swiftly into the role of nursemaid; after all, far as he’s concerned, i am his not-so-furry mama.

once i realized he couldn’t even step down from his padded orvis bed, why i concocted a pillow staircase, one that led gently up or down, depending on where he was headed.

soon, he was headed nowhere. just lay there curled up like the cutest old cat that ever there was.

i bought him cream. opened cans of albacore tuna. he lapped up that cream like any kitten would. he turned up his nose at the tuna.

and that’s when we knew we were sinking deep into trouble.

all week i carried him wherever i deduced he wanted to be: the litter box, the outside bird bath where he insists on drinking (i know, it’s gross to think about, and i pour him fresh pure water twice a day, swirl it around the shiny silver dish, but he refuses. apparently he likes his water murky. and so it is. i try not to think about it).

i ferried him up and down the stairs to all of his favorite curled-up places, the rug by the bathtub, the blanket on the window seat, the old chair by the furnace down in the basement.

i was quickly becoming a cat whisperer.

at last, the vet, whom i’d been talking to every coupla days, thought it was time for a look-see. i got up at the crack of dawn, drove darn near to the edge of creation.

but the vet, you see, is an old, old friend. a wonderful fellow. one you’d drive to see, too, if you had a cat with a limp, and no clue what might have happened out there in the jungle that is our leafy backyard.

seems the old tabby got a few nips to the shoulder. nothing huge. but enough little bite marks to make it all swollen and quite a bit sore. (now if that cat could talk, and i sure was wishing he could these past few days, he might tell you and me that “sore” didn’t begin to tell the story, more like the biggest pain in the arm he’d ever imagined.)

old guy had a fever, too. which accounted for all of that snoozing and the two pounds he’s lost in the course of a week.

he’s on the mend, we now hope. though i still get to play nursemaid, for as long as he needs me.

i’ve been told to put warm moist packs to his sore little shoulder, at least twice a day. and that’s where the hot water bottle comes in. just like a baby whose tummy is achy, our sweet little cat is purring under the spell of the oldest trick in the doctor bag.

it’s an uncanny thing how deeply we fall for the sweet little critters who call our haunts home. one night i barely slept a wink, so worried was i ’bout the cat curled up beside me. i kept peeking to make sure i detected some sort of twitch and knew he was still among us, alive.

two days i stayed home from the office, worked here in the typing room, just in case he needed me. just in case.
we humans, i hope, employ our hearts rambunctiously. pay heed to the call to tend to all creatures great and small.
that ol’ cat has given us chapters and verse, whole yarns of adventure and mirth. we owe it to him, to the universe, to give it all back, whatever he needs.

if only these seeds of pure love and devotion would catch and grow into a world-wide bumper crop….

if only….

in the meantime, i’ve a new jug of cream in the fridge, and a whole stack of tuna tins there on the shelf.

whatever that ol’ cat desires, we’re here to attend to his every last whim. so long as he sticks around, and gives us reason to purr.

i happen to know for a fact that we’ve got some of the most dedicated creature keepers here at the table. i bump into one nearly each week at the farmers’ market, weighed down with her bushels of leafy greens. she has hardshells aplenty, some who are nearly 100 years old (and i am not kidding). the stories she tells about her deeply devoted ways nearly always have me in tears. maybe she’ll share a few here. you’ll be inspired. i promise. and anyone else with a story to tell about a sweet creature you love, and nursed back to vim and vigor, we’re listening…..