A few years ago, we lived in an older neighborhood near a college. The trees were large and shady and home to many a roaming cat. Those older neighborhoods seem to attract a number of stray cats for whatever reason... Our neighbor across the street had a few rescue cats and she was devoted to them. My studio window faced her house and each morning, her kitties would be allowed out for some sunshine and exercise. I watched her kitties prowl the yard and sunbathe on the driveway. It was a pleasant thing to see the cats in some stage of recovery from their circumstances. She was a good mom to them.
While at my painting table one day, I painted one of her kitties and outfitted it in a coat and sneakers. It was winter and a bit cool outside. Her kitties would fluff themselves in the chill and wash their faces. We did not have a cat. We had not had a cat in years. My husband was allergic and the litter box was a deal breaker. So, I watched the kitties from my window and let that be enough...
I grew up with cats. I was fourteen before I realized anyone ever went out and bought a cat. I thought they just showed up at the doorstep, hat in hand.
I continued to paint these watercolor cats for years. I named them the "Vagabond Cats" and kept them in my studio for my own amusement. I considered doing something with them one day and if successful, I would donate a portion of the proceeds to the local shelter. I hope to do that in the near future.
Let's shift this story to present day... just a week after I had sent the first run of "Vagabond Cats" to the printer for the "brush and twig" cards, six kittens surfaced from under our fence into the backyard after a pretty heavy rain. They wrapped themselves under one of our newly planted evergreen trees and stayed out there all day. We were amazed that out of nowhere, a variety pack of cats arrived in our fenced backyard. There were two orange and white tabby cats, one calico, one brown tabby, and two solid orange tabbies... After our chihuahua discovered them, they scattered to the wind and showed up in pairs in the evening for the dry food we put out under their tree. I had hoped to gather them up and find a no-kill shelter to house them until they found homes. For two weeks, we only saw their eyes glow at night as they snuck into the yard for a meal. But, it was not going to happen... these kittens were scared. Our neightborhood is new and under construction. These cats are dealing with delivery trucks, construction crews, constant hammering from roofers and concrete delivery... it would be difficult to even survive here. So, I was sure they had scattered in the western side of the property where the trees and creek would hide them from all the noise. We gave up on them.
A few weeks ago, my husband heard the faint meow of a tiny kitten outside our fence. Starved and lame, this tiny kitten was behind the air-conditioning unit at our next door neighbor's house. We gathered the little kitten and fed her... no doubt, this one was the runt... we put her in a warm box with an old quilt and she stayed on our back porch for a few days. After it was clear that she had a broken leg, it was time for a vet visit. I named her Gracie on the way to the vet. I knew they would want a name. It appeared we were going to adopt a cat. I knew if this leg was indeed a true break, the shelter would just put her down...
The vet informed me that Gracie was a boy. Oh. O.K. New name. Oliver. That's what came to mind and it stuck. Of course, the break was bad and needed a pin and lots of attention and a charge card. Oliver has now bonded with Molly, our chihuahua and after just three weeks, we now are the proud owners of a very tiny kitten with a rod sticking out of his hip. He is eating us out of house and home and has brought great delight to our little nine year old chihuahua who lost her companion chihuahua four years ago. They play and bathe each other and frankly, I've never seen anything like it. They play. They bathe. They nap.
So, after collecting watercolor cats for years, a real one came along and stole our heart.
We are smitten with this kitten. Something about the empty-nest heart... we are natural nurturers and tend our roses and flowerbeds with determination these days...we wash our cars too much and have just the right wreath for our front door in a timely manner. Our neighbors comment on how nice our yard looks... we have more time since the kids grew up...
It wasn't always this way. While raising two very busy boys, we were behind on everything. I was always finding the holiday wreath two weeks too late and my car was filled with sandy baseball equiptment for ten solid years. I was constantly trying to keep up with the laundry, house keeping, and raking the leaves. I couldn't keep a plant alive.
But, now, we have time to tend to an injured kitten with a broken leg. We are adjusting to the new member of the family. But, the sweetness of an affectionate and grateful animal is endearing and all the extra effort is paying off in sleepy purrs and a happy little dog.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!