09 March 2008

If Home is Where the Heart Is...

Some companion animals here have a status which I haven't seen in the US. Maybe it's a small town convention, but there are cats and dogs who have no roof of their own, yet may have several humans who know and look out for them. In some cases, there just isn't anyone who can take them in.

Silvano came from the pound as an old man, a biggish blend of a dog. He has no padrona (literally landlady) and lives in a fenced area attached to the public works storage building. His arthritis saves him from wanting space to run and he has at least three different people who take him for walks every day and fill his bowls. Last fall he had a small dog house and a nice hammock bed under a patio umbrella. Before the rains came for winter, someone built him a larger house with his name on the door, moving his hammock inside. Another woman takes him into her house at night. He's a friendly dog with a gimpy gate, rheumy eyes, and a grizzled muzzle, not the one a child would choose to take home. But given those prospects, he has landed well. Like many pensionati, he sleeps a good deal, sees a few friends every day, and gets out to read the news around town.

Then there is Micia. She's an old black cat who lives near the piazza. I don't know where she spends her nights, but days are spent on warm pavement when there is sun or on satin cushions inside the coffee bar when there is not. The bar's proprietor has spoken of her refined tastes, what she will eat and what she disdains. Someone, including the pizza place two doors down, must provide enough suitable foods, as she is none too scrawny. There is always a dish of milk set out for her. She, too, is a friendly creature who enjoys her quiet retirement.

And some wouldn't deign to be "let in." Some, like Ricky the Red, keep more on their plates than morsels. They have business to take care of, things to do. Ricky was one of my first friends here. I saw him sitting in the middle of a ~much coveted~ parking space like he owned it. I suspected right then that he had some protection racket going on. Ricky was huge, pulled upright on his back feet, he was as tall as my legs, a long-haired marmalade tabby monster. He'd lost both canine teeth on one side (you should see the other guy), which allowed his little pink tongue to slip out, ruining his tough guy persona. His voice didn't help either, such a quiet mew, a lover but evidently an accomplished fighter. He'd earned quite a territory, which included a piazzina, a private parking lot, a Vespa on which he napped away siesta, and a shop where he had hired a nice lady named Angela to run while he sat in the entry to keep an eye on his street. He made his rounds, the pasticceria, delicatessen, seafood restaurant, and various shops, being greeted by name and fed generously. Angela told me that he'd had his picture in the paper once, so loved and popular he was. But he was no one's cat.

So when Ricky became ill last fall, Angela went out of her way to have the vet stop by and spent much time and energy getting medicine and food into him. He came through it, but wasn't the swaggering cat-about-town I'd met a year before. He decided having a bed inside mightn't be so bad. He was getting tired. At Christmas, I brought him tins of kitty delicacies to celebrate his regained ability to eat. I also gave a plate of cookies to Angela for being so good to him.

When I returned after a vacation last month, I stopped in to see him. He was fading, but not suffering. Knowing he wasn't long for this world, I sat down by his cardboard box bed to talk to him and cry. I overheard Angela telling her friends how I brought gifts to Ricky at Christmas. Crazy cat lady. There are worse reputations to have. When I went back the day after next, Angela said, Non c'e piu. "He is no more." The day before, he'd called out to her, not in distress, but perhaps to say "Good bye" or even "Thank you," then slipped away over the Rainbow Bridge.

Homeless? People care for these creatures and they go about their lives freely. Those lives are shorter and colder than they would be indoors, but some prefer the freedom and I'd wager they all prefer this to the fate which awaits those whose options are more limited. Living on the streets is not the answer to over population ~spay and neuter, people (spay and neuter people being a topic for another day)~ but it is a solution, after the sterilization, for some right now. I think it is good for the human soul to recognize other beings who share our spaces, to remember those who are smaller and look to the more powerful for a bit of kindness.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

Brant has a neighbor who feeds and provides wooden crates as shelter for many, many strays in their small, townhome neighborhood. The next time I see the cat's lurking in the parking lot, I will have to think more kindly of this "crazy cat lady" who is lovingly caring for these beings, but obviously can't take all of them in.

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