Our House Sit Kitty in Portland
It's been almost three years since I've had pets. I haven't kept a cat since I had my farm. So, when we were offered the opportunity to take care of a cat, a male Siamese, seventeen years old. I jumped at the chance. Why not go to Portland during the riots and protests and check out what was really happening with my own eyes.
The last cat I owned was a semi feral black cat. She was exquisite. Black. Sleek. Young at two years old. A powerful hunter. She was dropped off at my farm by a local rescue. I remember the phone call asking for help. I offered my cottage in back of my farmhouse. My nephew had just moved out. We could set up her food, water bowl and litter box in the cottage. It was fully furnished with a soft couch, my "new" writing area with a desktop computer and a window that I could leave open for her to climb in and out of at her discretion. My hope was that she would assist my resident barn owls with rodent control.
The black cat and I never really bonded or became friends. She eyed me warily if we crossed paths on the farm which was not often. She made use of the window, rarely used her litter box, and barely grazed the food I left for her religiously every morning after I fed the horses and farm animals. She lived with us on the farm for almost three years.
When the foreclosure notice was delivered and the loss of my farm was imminent that Summer of 2010, I called the rescue, the same rescue that had dropped her off, to come pick her up. There was no way I could take her with us. The rescue was kind and forgiving. They were fielding dozens of calls a day from people losing their homes in the Great Recession who needed to place their animals as well.
I felt bad. I wasn't one to give up or give back animals. The rescue assured me the cat would stay with them. She wouldn't be adopted out again. She would stay at the farm, the farm where they ran a doggie day care rescue and grooming shop to earn money for the adoption facility.
That evening, when the cat returned to the cottage. I quietly closed the window before she could jump out, left the door unlocked for the rescue, and left the farm. I wasn't able to bear seeing them take her.
A couple of years later, after I returned to town with my horses, dogs and herd of goats to start over again, I decided to stop by the animal rescue to leave business cards for my new pet sit business I had opened to make money to support my animals. As I parked my car in the almost empty lot, I looked out at the checkered farm fields, the sun was setting, a pink glow bathed the green vineyards. It was quiet, the barking dogs had been picked up earlier from their owners after a long work day, and most of the employees had returned to their cottages beyond the kennels to unwind for dinner except for the closing staff. As I gathered my business cards and flyers, I heard a noise coming from the rooftops above the office. I looked up and there she was. The black cat, sleek and shiny. She looked down at me from her perch above. We acknowledged each other for a few precious moments and than she turned and walked away. I knew in my heart she wanted me to know she was okay. I never saw her again.
In Portland, heading to our house sit, I didn't see the riots or protests. I did see a colorful, powerful Black Lives Matter mural painted on the side of one of the high rise buildings downtown. When we arrived at our house sit, I didn't leave until the day before we left. I spent all of my time with our house sit kitty.
At night, he curled up and slept with us. In the morning he sat on my lap while I searched for affordable housing and jobs, in the daytime he watched my partner water the gardens and clean the yard, he followed us everywhere we went. He was a part of us and we were a part of him. When the hurricane winds came, and the fires that followed. I contacted his owner to let her know not to worry, we had his carrier ready to go. For three nights while the trees whipped in the winds, the sirens screamed, and the smoke descended on the Portland suburbs, we set up our alert systems and took turns staying up most of the night. We kept our eyes on our friend making sure we didn't lose sight of him in the house if we had to leave at a moment's notice.
Luckily, the fires never reached the neighborhood. Our Siamese friend's owner arrived safely home and we headed to our new home in the forest. Later, she texted us to let us know she could tell the kitty missed us.
We missed him too and talk of him often. I went to Portland thinking I would experience a moment in history, instead I spent time with a cat on my lap.