samedi 28 février 2009


Baccarat found it. Leave to her. It was not really very difficult, though. Not much of a hunt, nothing at all of a chase.

I returned from the gym and a stop at the grocery store -- eh, oui, il faut bien --, took the dogs out to pee and let Baccarat and Rapide free in the garden in the full sunshine. Spring is coming. Then, I went inside, opened the windows and the French door and set to getting my pot au feu simmering. I was just begining to peel the carrots, when I heard Baccarat start in with her deepest "woof!"

"Baccarat, tu te tais." I placed myself directly in front of her, still woof-woofing intensely, "TAIS TOI." She shifted around on her paws like an anxious three-year-old who needs to pee, her eyes darting from the mound of junk at the base of the linden tree to somewhere just to the side of me.

"Bacs, regarde-moi. Tu te tais. Sh!" She tried. She really did, but she looked about beside herself with worry. It occurred to me that there might be something; she wasn't looking fixedly out over the field below like she usually is when she gets to barking. An animal. I turned to look where she was, and I saw the big, beautiful marmalade cat with long hair, resting under the partial shelter of the fake leaded stained-glass window the workers had leaned up against the linden tree, alongside their stock of lumber. It looked back at me placidly. It didn't get up to run. It didn't tense. It gazed back at me, while Baccarat went crazy, hopping from paw to paw, trying to butt her head past me to get to the cat. Rapide wandered over to see what was up and went into maternal-mode with Baccarat.

My brain slowed way down. Why was this animal just lying there? It looked fine.

I walked back into the house, and continued to peel carrots, which was absurd, I thought, picking up another anyway, peeling it and dropping it into the pot au feu. "You can't do nothing. Go get the camera."

That made more sense.

I grabbed a bowl of cat food on the way back out, and returned to the cat, fighting for space near it, pushing dog heads out of the way.

"Va t'en, Baccarat!" I commanded the excited one at my elbow. She turned her head to gaze like a cow at me. Rapide. "Va t'en, Rapide. Allez." I snapped a picture as the animal looked calmly at me. I backed up and took two more, the black bodies of my two Labs wiggling all over the place. "Allez vous en! Allez!"

I knelt again to look at it more carefully. There was a small pool of blood on the bit of plastic sheeting next to her. Blood. Fresh. It had to have come from the cat, but it looked fine. What I could see, at least. But it wasn't moving. If it were fine, it would have amscrayed long since. We looked at each other, as I fought to elbow my dogs back.

"Allez! Allez vous en!"

That's when I noticed the smell. It smelled like something rotten. And pee. I felt the queasiness start in my stomach. I couldn't just leave the cat there. Go back into the house and finish my carrots. I'd have to get it out of there. I reached in and stroked its head. It let me. Baccarat wanted to pet it, too, with her muzzle and big old tongue.

I took the cat by the shoulders and began to lift it, gingerly. It howled. It didn't claw or bite. The hind end didn't move right. It seemed limp. It was a huge and heavy cat, which wasn't going to help if lifting it hurt it. I went for a towel someone had left at the pool last summer, left out since then by the petite maison, and worked it under the cat's body. Every time I got anywhere near its rear legs, it howled in pain. I tried to look. There were traces of blood on a bit of lumber against which it had rested its haunches lying there. I peered in the leaf-matted long fur of the rear legs, and there appeared to be black sac-like things in the fur. Injuries? Pooled blood under some kind of bites? Had it been mauled? I couldn't see. The back didn't seem to be broken; it could move its legs, weakly.

I needed something to support it. The travel cage was out of the question. I'd never get so large an injured cat into it without really causing it pain. I spotted one of the shallow pans for mixing the chaux, emptied the tools from it, tucked the towel as best as I could under the cat, like a sling, while it hissed at the frantically concerned dogs, and lifted it into the pan. All I needed now was to get the dogs into the house, grab the keys, close up and head to the vet.

The cat howled and then fell silent again.

I talked to it all the way to the vet's on the far side of Mantes. Right turns seemed to be the worst. I was a mess from the gym, not having had time to change. "They'll think I'm completely crazy," I thought to myself, feeling for a brush in my bag. I spend my life at the vet, between the animals we added intentionally to our menagerie and those we have found and added.

Maybe someone can explain it to me.

They seem to come to us, the lost and the suffering, and we take care of them, from Cunégonde Mouse to the yellow Lab I took to the shelter for adoption, Wisp, who Audouin found dying of hunger on a trail in the woods along the sand pits in the center of the boucle, and our own, in need of care, getting sick, dying.

"Ils sont bien chez vous," said the young woman at the desk.

"Mais comment savent-ils de venir, de se mettre dans notre chemin?" I asked, knowing she would not have an answer.

Do they talk amongst themselves, word spreading through the gardens and fields, from village to village, "Hey, if you are hurt or hungry, abandoned, go to them, and they will help you."

She noticed the cat had a tattoo in the ear. They could find the owners, "Call at the end of the afternoon, if you would like, she told me, and we can give you news of the cat."

I thanked her.

"No, c'est vous qu'on remercie de vous en êtes occupée, et d'avoir fait le déplacement jusqu'à ici."

"Mais, c'est normal. Je ne pouvais le laisser là comme ça."

"Oui, mais il y a plein de gens qui l'aurait mis juste un peu plus loin, pour s'en débarrasser du problème." How, I wondered, could anyone just move an animal, hurt and alone, to let it fend for itself or die -- a little farther along?

"Je vous appellerai. S'il n'avait pas un tattoo, je l'aurais gardé. Mon mari serait furieux, mais je me dis que si un animal vient auprès de moi dans son besoin, il faut que je le garde. C'est le destin."

She smiled like she didn't think I was crazy at all.

Although I am. As mad as a hatter.

When I returned home, Shadow was waiting in the entry court, and Wisp scampered across the garden to come inside with me. That's when I noticed that Wisp hadn't been alone. There was a smallish cat, very like her only darker, bounding toward the stairs to the bottom of the garden. I called to it, and it stopped and turned around, sat. We looked at one another through the open kitchen window.

"Kitty, kitty. Hey, kitty." It continued to look at me. I went and got the camera, amazed at this congress of felines at my house on this fine day, and it was still sitting there, right where it was before I crossed the room and back. I took its picture and came out the door to approach it, but it turned on its heel and headed to the lower garden, by way of the box hedges along the stair. Not afraid. Not perfectly at home.

The Ad-dressing of Cats

T. S. Eliot

You've read of several kinds of Cat,
And my opinion now is that

You should need no interpreter
to understand their character.
You now have learned enough to see

That Cats are much like you and me

And other people whome we find

Possessed of various types of mind.

For some are sane and some are mad

And some are good and some are bad

And some are better, some are worse -

But all may be described in verse.

You've seen them both at work and games,

And learnt about their proper names,

Their habits and their habitat:


How would you ad-dress a Cat?

So first, your memory I'll jog,

And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.

Now Dogs pretend they like to fight;

They often bark, more seldom bite;

But yet a Dog is, on the whole,

What you would call a simple soul.

Of course I'm not including Pekes,
And such fantastic canine freaks.

The usual Dog about the Town

Is much inclined to play the clown,

And far from showing too much pride

Is frequently undignified.

He's very easily taken in -

Just chuck him underneath the chin

Or slap his back or shake his paw,

And he will gambol and guffaw.

He's such an easy-going lout,

He'll answer any hail or shout.

Again I must remind you that

A Dog's a Dog - A CAT'S A CAT.

With Cats, some say, one rule is true:

Don't speak till you are spoken to.

Myself, I do not hold with that -

I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.

But always keep in mind that he

Resents familiarity.

I bow, and taking off my hat,

Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!

But if he is the Cat next door,

Whom I have often met before

(He comes to see me in my flat)
I greet him with an OOPSA CAT!

I've heard them call him James Buz-James -

But we've not got so far as names.

Before a Cat will condescend

To treat you as a trusted friend,

Some little token of esteem

Is needed, like a dish of cream;

And you might now and then supply
Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,

Some potted grouse, or salmon paste -

He's sure to have his personal taste.

(I know a Cat, who makes a habit

Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
And when he's finished, licks his paws

So's not to waste the onion sauce.)

A Cat's entitled to expect

These evidences of respect.

And so in time you reach your aim,

And finally call him by his NAME.

So this is this, and that is that:

And there's how you AD-DRESS A CAT.

Or, take it to the vet for care,
Have the clumps removed from its hair,
And that hope it comes back to tell
It's adventure and stay a spell.
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