Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 5

© 2014 Carolyn Cott

Chapter 5 – The Morning Sun Sparking Off Her Fur

Spuds sits in the one beam of sunlight slanting in between the tall buildings. Suddenly she feels her paw needs washing, so she does that. There’s a spot on her back that makes her skin twitch, so she attends to that. Then she curls into a tight circle, wraps her tail neatly around her front paws, closes her eyes and doses.

Ollie trots down the sidewalk, turns into the alley, and stops. The ginger-colored cat is there, the morning sun sparking off her fur. She appears to be sleeping, but her ears move toward his direction. Ollie thinks of the other cats he’s seen. The skinny cats with hissing voices that live in another alley. The next door cat at the house, who had perched on the half-wall between the backyards and glared at him, the tip of his stripy tail twitching. Then he remembers-hears his children’s high voices, their clear-bell laughter. He feels their chubby arms around his neck. He closes his eyes and sighs loudly.

Spuds opens her eyes into thin lines and watches the dog, sensing him. There is sorrow and gentleness. She watches him for a moment longer, then makes up her mind. She rises, stretches slowly, and walks to him.

Ollie looks around wildly, seeking an escape route, but by then the cat is in front of him. With her tail held high, she raises her face and blinks at him once, twice, three times, slowly. With his breath held and his ears up in alert, he looks at her, then he drops his ears and almost smiles. Spuds takes another step toward him, curls her back into an arch and rubs against his nose. She purrs and does it again. Ollie takes a tentative slurp of her ear. Spuds shakes off the dog spit, then sits down and gazes at Ollie. Well, she conveys, what shall we do?

Ollie looks toward the back end of the alley where he sleeps and thinks, sleep, but then reconsiders. He hadn’t found anything but a torn-off piece of crusty pretzel last night and was hungry. He looks at Spuds, licks his chops in answer, and they trot out of the alley. Ollie leads them down the street some distance and into an alley. There Ollie sits down beneath a fragrant-smelling dumpster and looks pointedly between the dumpster and Spuds.

Spuds calculates the distance, crouches, and in one fluid motion jumps to the rim of the dumpster and into it. She emerges with the remnants of a chicken thigh between her teeth and deposits it at Ollie’s feet. He chomps into it, and when he’s mostly done he remembers the cat, backs up a pace, and stands guard while Spuds finishes the feast.

She washes her face while Ollie paces. We have to get out of here now. Ollie looks at Spuds. People will be coming soon. Not nice people.

They slip out in the street and run toward the home-alley, pausing only to lap up some dirty water pooled beneath a downspout. Then they dart into the alley just as more and more cars and trucks are rumbling by. Ollie walks to his pile of rags and cardboard, uses his nose to burrow in, circles three times and lies down. With his head resting on his paw he looks at Spuds: come here. Spuds walks toward him, gracefully jumps up beside him, and nestles into the crook of Ollie’s hind leg. As she drifts toward sleep she realizes this is the first time she’s felt something like comfort in a long time. She lifts her head, gives Ollie a lick, then settles into safe sleep.

to be continued….

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/
Chapter 3:  https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/05/04/ollie-spuds-chapter-3/
Chapter 4: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/05/09/ollie-spuds-chapter-4/

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The Starry Night Was My Blanket

My path here was roundabout, here being a place with space to roam and explore within a context of belonging.  Here I’ve come to know something I’d not known before: trust.  Sometimes it feels foreign, and I retreat back to my native high alertness.

I had lived on a ranch where I had a job to do: tending the livestock.  I took my job seriously and performed it with singular focus, but the time came when the cattle were moved and the people left.  I ran after their truck, sure there had been some mistake, until I could run no longer.  I returned to the empty place; knowing no other place else since puppyhood, I stayed.

There was a trickle of water at the edge of the property from which I drank.  I passed my days foraging for food.  The starry night was my blanket, the warm sun my companion, the rain my welcome, thirst-quenching friend.  And so I passed my time.

One day I saw a car coming from a distance, a cloud of dust trailing behind it.  People I didn’t know emerged from the car.  It was the woman who saw me first, pointing me out to the others then calling to me.  I approached her cautiously.

She stooped down, holding her hand out to me.  I looked into her eyes then walked to her.  She touched my forehead, my ears, my neck and spoke to me quietly.  I didn’t understand her words, but I understood her.  She placed her hand on my spiny back, each finger resting in an indent between my ribs.

They took me to their house.  I hung behind as we walked in, as I’d never before been inside a house.  A cat at the far side of the room arched his back and widened his eyes.  I looked toward the woman for reassurance, who nodded.  I moved slowly toward the cat, my head hung low to show respect.  I reached my neck forward and touched his nose with my nose.  The cat sat down and began bathing his paw.  I went back and stood beside the woman, glancing up to her to make sure I’d done the right thing.  She placed her hand gently on my head.  I closed my eyes.

These days, there is a cedar-smelling bed near the woodstove and bowls of fresh food and water for me, always.  Sometimes I walk to the far edge of the property and sit on the bluff.  From there I gaze out toward the place I used to live and back toward the place I now call home.  I almost always lay my head on my paws and, under the big sky, doze.  Later, I rise, shake myself off, and follow the familiar path home.  There, I am greeted with love, always.

•photo by untoldanimalstories.org co-founder Cherie Damron, http://cdamron.exposuremanager.com/

Frank Sinatra

Why they named me Frank Sinatra, I am not sure.  The neighbors laugh every time they say the name.  From what I understand, Frank was a singer.  Perhaps they named me because of my voice.  I wouldn’t say it’s mellifluous, like the birds that live at the borders of our pasture, but to my ears the intake breath sound of Hee and outflow breath sound of Haw have a nice, solid sound, like large farm machinery scraping across the floorboards of the barn.  I like that.  It makes me less lonely for my kin.

I do have a friend.  He’s a horse who shares the pasture and barn with me.  His name is Fred.  No last name.  Wherever he goes, I follow.  Mostly he doesn’t mind, but sometimes he swings around toward me with flattened ears, so I back up a few paces.  A little later, when he’s not paying attention, I sidle up and stand near him.  I’m quite a bit shorter than Fred, but I feel that my being near him somehow adds to my stature.

We came here from different places—here being this roomy pasture with a barn, and a man and woman who live in the stone house.  Fred traded hands many times.  He made friends at the first few places, but with each subsequent trade he kept more and more to himself.  He told me, What’s the use in making friends when humans can decide at any time to send you somewhere else?  Horses have no choice.  We’re compliant, and we withstand all sorts of things.  But that doesn’t mean that our hearts are resilient.

Fred came here five years ago.  I don’t think he or I are going anywhere.  That’s the feeling I get from our people, and I’ve overheard them talking about letting us live out our days here.  Still, Fred keeps himself a little apart from me, just in case.  Once in a while, Fred touches my neck with his nose and I bow my head in gratitude.

The man and woman take him on trail rides now and then.  Sometimes I go along, led by a long rope.  I like the change of view and I’m happy not to have all that saddle and gear strapped to me.  We go down to the end of the pasture, out through the gate, across the cool stream, and up into the woods.

Unlike Fred, I wasn’t so much as bought and sold as shunted from one place to another.  Children at one barn rode me a few times before becoming bored with me, so I went to another place where men in straw hats and suspenders and women in long, dark dresses worked me hard.

I pulled some contraption across a field, back and forth, back and forth.  I wasn’t fast or strong enough to suit them, and more than once they lashed my back harder than necessary to get their point across.  I strained and tried and sweated, but it was never good enough for them.  They believe that animals were put on earth by god for their use.  Never once did they touch me with kindness.  I closed my mind to it, but I never got used to it.

Eventually they stopped working me and brought in a broader, stouter donkey that pulled whatever they strapped to him.  In the pasture, though, he always stood with his head hanging low, his eyes half-closed.

I was sold at auction to the man and woman I live with now.  They coaxed me into the trailer and then out of the trailer, down the ramp, and into a pasture of tall, sweet grasses.

I kept waiting for things to unravel—for the food to become meager, for a command to pull something far too heavy, but it never happened.  Gradually I came to trust them.

Sometimes at night the man and woman sit on their porch playing wooden stringed instruments.  The woman sings.  Her voice is like a wisp of wind spiraling up into the sky.  Sometimes I’m inspired to sing along with her.  When I do, Fred stands nearby and listens attentively to the sound of our voices in harmony and the kind, kind laughter of the man.

-UntoldAnimalStories.org – We tell animals’ stories from their perspectives.  Gentle in our approach rather than shocking, we invite connection, compassion and, from that, action.  We also provide tips on what you can do to help animals, and we seek new action ideas, as well as animal and rescue stories, from you….  Please contact us at untoldanimalstories@gmail.com or via our contact page

The Raleigh Dama

raleighI was born under a porch where I nestled with my mother and siblings in the cool, shaded dirt.  We stayed put when she left each night; she didn’t tell us to do so, but she made it clear somehow.  We weren’t inclined to wander anyway—there were odd sounds at night beyond the latticework that separated us from the world.  So we chewed on each other, and climbed on top of each other, and silently curled around each other, awaiting her return.  She came back before first light.  We nursed happily and slept.

One morning there was commotion outside our hideaway.  Our mother stepped in front of us, tense.  There was a wrenching sound, then the latticework fell away and sunlight streamed in.  A man and woman stooped down and peered at us, making friendly little sounds.  My mother, wary, moved toward them, her thin body silhouetted against the glare.  She sniffed their hands then allowed them to pet her.  She turned to us and meowed, and we came to her.  The man gently scooped all four of us kittens up at once in his arms and placed us in a crate.  He called to my mother, who looked at us in the crate, glanced to the side toward freedom, looked at us again, then climbed into the crate.  We pressed against her body on the jostling ride.

We came to a place of meowing cats and barking dogs and talking people.  A woman carried us to a cage in a back room.  Another woman draped our mother across her shoulder, petting her, and brought her to join us.  There was a bowl of water, into which I dipped my nose and sneezed repeatedly.  There was a bowl of food that my mother ate, all at once.  There was a soft blanket on which we slept and passed the time together.

People came and went—tall people and little people, high voices and low voices, kind hands that pet us and fed us.  My mother grew less boney.  We grew bigger.

An older man came one day, white haired and angular.  He opened our cage and petted each of us with exquisite tenderness, then the spoke to our mother.  They regarded each other for some time, as though something was passing between them.  Before he took her away, he held her near each of us.  We touched noses with her, and then she was gone.

Two days later, two of my siblings were adopted by a young couple, and three days after that, my remaining sibling was adopted.  The cage had a lot of space to move in, but I missed the sense of belonging and deep comfort that came from my family’s nearness.  The people who cared for me were kind, picked me up, and spoke to me, but mostly they were bustling about caring for so many cats.

At night the shelter grew quiet and peaceful.  The moon came through the bars of my cage, bluing the floor and my black fur.  In its soothing light, I slept deeply.

One day a woman came and paused before each of the cages.  I liked the way she moved, like a blade of tall grass in the wind.  She lay her open palm against the door of each cage and talked softly to the cats.  When she came to my cage I stretched my arm out toward her and blinked slowly—the language of cat love.  She asked someone if she could hold me.

When the door swung open, I walked into her outstretched arms, settled in, and reached up and touched her face with my paw.  She laughed, a lovely, silvery sound, stroked my fur, and said something to the shelter person.  I went home with her.

Sometimes I dream of my mother and siblings, a far-off memory now.  In my dreams each of them has someone to love.

Some have the mistaken belief that shelter cats aren’t adoptable, that they’re in the shelter for behavioral and other problems.  Generally this is not true.  Cats land in shelters because 2% of lost cats ever find their way home… because unscrupulous owners abandon them…because their people die…. Please consider adopting from a shelter.  There are 70 million homeless cats in the U.S.

About www.untoldanimalstories.org —We tell animals’ stories from their perspectives.  Gentle in our approach rather than shocking, we invite connection, compassion and, from that, action.  We also provide tips on what you can do to help animals, and seek new action ideas, as well as animal and rescue stories, from you….  Please write to us at untoldanimalstories@gmail.com