Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spooky and Puff

I'm starting to believe we have a ghost cat in the country or Papa has been seeing things or he has some sort of uncanny ability where felines are concerned....we've yet to decide. Many years ago when we lived in the city full time, there was a feral kitten that hung around the house. Coal black with the most beautiful gold eyes. He would slink here and there and startled me many times and we started calling him Spooky.

We had a housecat at the time and Spooky was sort of wild, so we never considered him to be more than a neighborhood cat but we did start leaving out bowls of food and water because he seemed to spend alot of time around our house.

After a bit, a neighbor threatened to "eliminate" Spooky who had started using their flower beds as his toilet. This distressed Fantastic Son greatly as he was pretty young at the time and had gotten attached to the wild Spooky, as much as is possible with a feral cat.

So after minimum discussion (this Grammy is a great animal lover), we decided we would try to catch Mr. Spook and domesticate him, thus saving him from any impending violence that the neighbor had planned. It didn't take long for Spooky to be robbed of his freedom (a 13 year old boy is quite adept at catching things). So Spooky started life as an indoor cat in our basement.

Since he had been living out in the wild we were concerned about disease and didn't want to infect our other indoor animals. I had spoken with the vet and he said when we could hold him for a short time and were able to get him in a carrier, to bring him in for shots and neutering. We worked with Spooky for a week or so and decided he was ready for his trip to the vet.

Our part was easy but the vet's assistant later told me that Spooky had gotten loose in the office and they had a very hard time recatching him---had to use a large butterfly net!

Anyway, Spooky received his shots, was neutered and declawed (I know some think this is inhumane but he was a big, wild boy and my small delicate girl kitty needed protection--she had her claws still.) And so we brought him home to recooperate and adjust to living inside. Needless to say he and my girl kitty, Minnie, had a few adjustment spats (Minnie got the worse one night when Spooky bit her leg to the bone---he had huge "canine" teeth for a cat.)

Then a few months later, we decided to take the circus to the country. Kids, dogs, cats, Papa and I moved to the country home where we would live full-time for the first five years before we purchased our weekday city home.

Spooky lasted one day inside the country house and escaped to live in the wild once again. We were upset that he had gotten out and no matter what we tried, we couldn't capture the elusive Spook this time. He would watch us from afar but when any of us got too close, he took off. It was a little concerning that he had no front claws but after seeing what his bite did to dear Minnie, I figured he would be fine outside. He reinforced this when we would find dead birds and small animals laying about, so we knew he was hunting for his food but we started leaving him bowls of food and water outside. We then started noticing him coming around regularly in the morning and evening for his meals.

Sometimes he brought friends....several. One time we had as many as 5 cats hanging around for the free food. But he eluded capture and made it known that he was perfectly happy being an outside cat once again.

FS would tell us of all the places that he spotted Spooky in his daily travels, some areas kind of far from the house, but mostly in the fields and woods right around the country house.

On two occasions, very, very cold nights, I did manage to catch Spooky to bring him in for the night but he loudly (and all night long) let us know how unhappy he was. So after that, I outfitted the old doghouse in the backyard with an old dog bed and hay and would put food and water in there on the really cold nights and he sought shelter there a time or two.

Spooky was still pretty wild but he got to where he would come and jump on my lap when I was sitting outside and just lay down and purr. He also went on walks with us. Papa and I and the dogs would wander around up and down the property and down the gravel/dirt roads around our house and we had to adjust our walking speed because Spooky couldn't keep up as much as he tried. Sometimes he would disappear in the woods along the way and pop back out and join us on the return route.

As he got older, he spent more and more time in the lawnchair on the front porch; his food bowl was on the table close at hand. Or he would sun himself on the hill beside the driveway where the wild irises grew in the Spring. That was always a pretty picture, coal black Spooky laying among the colorful flowers in the sun.

Then after five years, we bought the city house close to work to stay at during the workweek. Spooky was getting older and very set in his ways and we decided not to disrupt his life by moving him. The other animals learned to travel back and forth, from house to house with us, but we knew Spooky wouldn't tolerate this. So we bought large food and water containers so he would have plenty to eat and drink while we were gone. Actually we started off only leaving him alone for a couple of days at a time. We would come to the city on Sunday night and I usually went back down to spend the night on Tuesday or Wednesday (before the P's) to check the house, get the mail, and feed Spooky and any of his buddies that might be visiting.

Spooky always walked out to the driveway to meet me when I drove in, sometimes berating me for my absence (he got kind of vocal the older he got). But I would fill his food and water bowls, go for a short walk with him, and then sit on the porch with him in my lap and all was forgiven....until the next time I left.

Then one Thursday morning about two years ago, I left early for work and he was laying in the chair on the porch and when I returned on Friday afternoon, he was gone. We looked for him all weekend, searching all his favorite haunts, leaving bowls of food everywhere, asking the neighbors. But noone seemed to know where he went, he had just vanished. We never saw any evidence of a "struggle" which would have been hard to take. Thinking something had killed him. He was very road wise and avoided it at all costs (except when walking with us), so we weren't afraid that he had became roadkill. Spooky was just gone. For several weeks, every time we went to the country, we would repeat all this looking for him, but to no avail.

Puff: Papa told me a story about when he was a little boy, he had a cat named Puff. Puff was an inside/outside cat and did OK in the neighborhood they lived in but one day Puff vanished. Papa was very distraught but went on with his life the way little boys do. Then about five years after Puff had disappeared, his dad came home and announced that "your cat is outside".

Papa raced outside and saw Puff standing in the yard in a rainstorm. Puff just looked at him for a minute and turned around and walked away, never to be seen again. Papa is convinced that Puff came back just to say goodbye to him (before what he didn't know, just a goodbye in front of another disappearance).

And how, you ask, does this have anything to do with our wild Spooky story? Well, about three weeks ago, Papa pulled in the driveway at the country house and was walking to the front door and there between the house and garage, he swears to me, sat Spooky. It was dark but he said he was positive it was Spooky (mentioned some way Spooky moved or turned his head). Papa stopped and they looked at each other and then Spooky melted back into the darkness.

Of course, I was so excited. I ran outside looking around, calling his name, put out food and water on his table, everything, but I never saw as much as a glimpse. Papa is convinced Spooky dropped by to say "goodbye." Going off to wherever Puff went after his goodbye. (One wonders why these cats decide to say "goodbye" to only Papa---something to ponder later.)

Occasionally, Snoopy will take off to the barn or the back of the garage chasing something and I imagine she's chasing Spooky (that was her favorite pasttime) but I never see this ghost critter that Snoopy is chasing.

Snoopy and Spooky were quite fond of each other and Snoopy got into the habit of running full speed at Spooky and knocking into him rolling him through the yard. This scared us as Snoopy grew and got bigger and stronger and we would yell at Spooky to run when we would see Snoopy get revved up for her game but Spooky never ran and actually seemed to enjoy this playing with the dog.

Such an odd cat he was (or is, I have hope now). And think, wouldn't it would be marvelous to look out the kitchen window this Spring and see Spooky laying on the hill among the wild irises sunning himself once more.

I'll let you know what happens.

Signing off for now....Grammy

1 comment:

I Am said...

Very, very nice girl. I loved that one. I hope Spooky and Puff didn't come to say goodbye........maybe just see you later.