This story, about one of our numerous pets, happened many years ago, but it is one of those unforgettable events that leave a lasting impression. I hope you enjoy it.

My shadow fell at an eighty-five degree angle behind me as I passed the gravel pit, but I barely noticed. I was exhausted after having climbed the two-kilometre hill from where my car had decided to go on strike. "And to think, I still have two or three more kilometres to hike before I reach home." I sighed. My mind was already on flopping down in my lazy-boy chair, a large glass of ice water in my hand, kicking off my shoes, and closing my eyes.

Thinking about it, my eyelids drooped. As I shuffled along the gravel road, I had a creepy feeling that someone was following me. My eyes popped open; I spun my head around; I froze. After looking in every direction, but seeing no one, I continued my walking. But the feeling of being stalked increased. Again I spun my head around, slowing my pace. That’s when I saw him, his size exaggerated by my fright. He crouched, just at the tip of my shadow, when he saw me turn my head. My hand flew to my heart.

"Oh!" I said, taking a step toward the object of my fright. "You scared me half to death!" As I walked slowly toward the big grey cat he began to retreat. "Well, if that’s the way you want it, fine." My heart still pounding, I changed direction, heading once more toward home. Every once in awhile I would turn my head, to see if the cat was still following me. He was, always just within my shadow. If I stopped, he stopped. If I turned around and walked toward him, he walked away from me. If I ran a few steps, he ran a few steps. It became a game to him. I decided that his intention was to become my shadow. So, like one ignores a shadow, I ignored the cat.

It wasn’t until the following morning when I went out to do the chores that I thought any further about the cat. But there he was, hiding in the shadow of the house. How had he managed to manoeuvre his way around the geese, the ducks, the turkeys, the chickens, the dog, and the two about-to-be-mother cats, to even enter our yard? And how had he been allowed, by the menagerie to remain? Picking up a dish of cat food I crept toward the shadow. He tensed, slinking a few feet away. I set the food down and stood back to watch. As slowly as a shadow turns with the sun, the cat moved toward the food. Our big Malamute, Skipper, wagged his tail, as if approving my decision to let the shadow stay. I gave the big dog a pat on his head. Then and there he took it upon himself to become the cat’s personal bodyguard.

Two weeks after The Shadow’s arrival, "Sugar" and "Cinnamon", on two consecutive days, presented the family with three kittens each. Then a strange thing happened. "Shadow" - as I decided to name the cat - for the first time since allowing us to adopt him, entered the house and began to explore. This time it was I who did the shadowing. And it was when I was following him around that I discovered that "The Shadow" had not come alone, and that "he" was a "she", and she was looking for a place to deposit her litter. An hour later she produced two kittens, one dead, and one as grey as herself.

At the same time as the cats were having their kittens; the hens were hatching their chicks. Fourteen lively, fluffy chicks followed behind their respective mothers. But one chick, not so lively, lagged behind, peeping at the top of its lungs for its mother to come back and get him. Mother hen had no time for an offspring who couldn’t keep up, so she ignored him. The peeping grew louder. Leaving her kitten in the safety of its box, Shadow trotted off in the direction of the distressed chick. Picking him up in her mouth, as gently as she would have, had he been her kitten, she carried him back to the house, depositing him in the box beside her own sightless baby, then nestled in beside them. For two days, until it died, she showered on that chick all the love and devotion she had reserved for her own dead offspring. Every time she tried to wash him, he wobbled and tumbled over onto his back, peeping his protest, unresponsive to her love. Try as she may she could not make a kitten out of that fluffy yellow chick.

A devoted mother to an ungrateful chick, Shadow remained aloof and  distant, watching and following us in secret. One day, like a shadow on a cloudy day, she disappeared, perhaps to become someone else’s shadow. But left behind was her one remaining kitten, who, strangely enough, could often be found in the chicken pen, snoozing contentedly in one of the nesting boxes.

Helen Dowd - Copyright © 2004

Illustrations by Laura Dumm and you can see her website here:

www.dummart.com

Do Kitties Have Angels?

Living with a Blind Cat

Finders' Keepers, Losers' Weepers

The Tale of the Blind Cat

 


 

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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