Thanks to the Pooch, I get to see dawn's first light this Monday morning.
Early Sunday morning, despite explicit instructions from me the night before about sleeping in, he meows at five am. Then he snoozes on the hallway carpet and occasionally moans, groans or grunts. At six thirty he soundlessly jumps on the bed and snuggles up to me. I sleep with one arm under my pillow. He uses the crook of my arm as his armrest. Then he slides one of his paws under my crooked arm and encircles my forearm with his other paw. This is his version of a cat hug. Then he licks my knuckle. The tactic works. It gets me up and he follows me downstairs. While I stop to use the bathroom, he snatches a quick bite of dry cat food and waits for me at the door. I let him out the deck door. I prop the outside storm door open with the slide on the plunger. I need a few more winks. If he wants to come in, the door will be open. The bugs are either sleeping or wet from dew and aren't a problem.
That was the last I saw of the furball. By mid morning I'm getting worried. I walk up to the neighbors to ask if they spotted the Pooch in their haymow. I tell Ron that for the past two weeks the Pooch has been punctual. Regular as a clock. He's missed his breakfast and is late for the morning nap on his favorite chair in Dawn's studio. Ron says he hasn't seen the cat. The rest of the afternoon I go about late July business in the garden. It's been almost a week and the lawn is getting shaggy. If it gets too long, I'll be making hay.
In the waning afternoon I turn my attention to cabbage and kimchi saurkraut. I pick five cabbages which have a total weight of 17 pounds. Turning to the Joy of Pickling, I convert the recipe for 6 3/4ths pounds of shredded cabbage to a double recipe and 13 1/2 pounds of shred. Dawn's been making pickles. She calls me inside. I'm in the middle of a stupid project trying to clear off my work bench. The domino effect says I must move ten other things before I can move two table top compartment cabinets of screws, washers and nails off the surface of the bench. Dawn says the cookbooks call for a complicated series of steps before she can make sweet pickles. I scan the recipes and frown. " The Amish don't have ice, " I tell her. Make something else and I'll talk to them in the morning.
When the pickles are finally taken from the hot water bath, she joins me outside in the area between the house and garage where we begin the messy side of food prep. While I shred cabbage quarters, green peppers, jalapenos, seranos and garlic, Dawn dusts each of three- 4.5 pound batches with caning salt, shredded ginger and crushed red pepper. She mixes the ingredients and presses the mix into a five gallon bucket. We go about our business mindlessly keeping an eye out for the cat.
He's been gone before. A year ago, raccoons ran him off. He was gone for two days. On occasion, he wont' come in at dusk and spends the night under the deck. This is the price we pay for having an outdoor cat. He lives to hunt and roam the property. When he comes inside either to eat or for the night, he jumps in the window, afraid that he might miss something important outside. When he jumps on the couch to curl up on the back rest, he faces the window.
I get up at 11:30 pm after being awoken by the phone. Dawn's on call. If someone falls out of bed or stubs their toe, the staff at the retirement home will call her. The answering machine takes the call. I don't replay the message. I assume it wasn't important, because Dawn doesn't get up to answer the phone. I stand at the deck door and whistle for the Pooch.
In the morning, the hills to the east are shrouded in a medium dense haze. It isn't wet enough to classify it as fog, but it hides everything in the background. The highway is invisible. By 5:30 am a rosy glow appears over the hills. The solar lights in the garden pulse red, green and blue. The light at the peak of the garage is still lit. I stand at each cardinal direction in the house and look for a gray tabby. I whistle some more. It's a waiting game. I push thoughts of him hurt or lost out of my mind. I stifle childhood memories of animal trials and tribulations. The Pooch is my constant companion. Without him, this place is a huge, empty space.
I've foregone having pigs, chickens, and ducks. Been there, done that. Chickens can't carry on a conversation. I don't want to get attached to the pigs because they become chops and roasts too soon. I raised rabbits which was a lot of fun until four rabbits became a hundred and forty. When we first moved here, a beagle puppy wanders into the back yard. He's cute as a bug and friendly. I call him Scratchy because he scratches at the back door to be let inside. Taking him with me to the post office so he doesn't get into trouble in the garage, he falls asleep in my lap. We can't afford a doctor bill or extra food bills, so I give him to the neighbors across the river.
The Pooch changes everything. We spend hundreds of dollars on vet bills, Frontline, and special cat food because he's such a joy. Now he's gone.
I'm not happy. I don't know what to do to fill the void.