Ch. 210 Walking My Cat
I was taking a walk on the road by my home the day after Pat died, my collie Levi twenty feet ahead and my cat Blackie twenty feet behind. My neighbor Andy drove by, stopped, and joked about me being the only person in the neighborhood who walked cats. I told him Pat had just passed away, watching as his casual smile disappeared, replaced by a look combining startle, sadness, and embarrassment. Since Andy is well-known and active in our 1,000-person farm/small town community, I asked him to let others in the area know what happened and he agreed. I told him I appreciated that because right then I wasn’t up to talking with anyone.
Now, just over one year since Pat’s death, I’m still walking Levi and Blackie on that same road. Levi, getting old, is only a few feet ahead or behind me, panting in his determination to keep up. Blackie, still young, walks more steadily but turns frequently to ensure that nothing is sneaking up on him. Blackie is terrified of moving vehicles; walking with us he is no longer the stalker but the stalked. It amazes me that he keeps following Levi and me despite his fear. But sometimes it's too much and he meows weakly; Then I walk back, pick him up, and take him home.
By the way, Blackie only walks in one direction, toward our neighbors’ homes. That’s his familiar territory. Kent and Linda, whose house sits past my first neighbor’s home, a farm field, and a feed mill, told me they often see Blackie hunting rodents in their front yard. “I guess he follows Levi,” I said. “No,” Kent replied, “He comes by himself.”
I used to worry every day about Pat. How was she feeling? Was she getting worse? How much longer would she live? Now I have shifted my anxiety onto Blackie and Levi. Levi is my daytime worry. Will he recover from Lyme’s disease? Is his hip dysplasia getting worse? Is he becoming incontinent? How will I survive without him?
Blackie is my nighttime worry. Where is he? Has something happened to him? What if those howling coyotes catch him? He’s the creature for whom I wake up at midnight to switch on the outside light and open the door, hopefully to watch him slowly and almost defiantly amble in. Or not, in which case I’ll try again at two a.m.
I wonder how often Blackie and Levi worry about me. It’s easy to imagine Levi’s concerns. “When is he coming home?” “What if it storms and he’s still out there?” We are a two-person pack and pack animals look out (and worry about) each other. But I don’t want to underestimate Blackie. I think cats are far more affectionate and bonded with their humans than they are given credit. Perhaps the difference is that when my car pulls in the driveway Levi thinks the equivalent of “Thank God, you’re home” as Blackie thinks “Well, it’s about time.” It’s each their way of saying I matter to them.