Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Legend of Zorro-- Chapter 1

After my encounter with the bold, and clearly deranged squirrel playing house in my barn, I began the search for a barn cat-- actually, I began the search for two barn cats. What I ended up with was a live-in stray and a foxy, masked-avenger who defends our property (and his food dish) with great gusto.

Sometime in August 2010

Finding a kitten would be easy. There are so many cute, cuddly, barely-weaned fluff-balls up for adoption on Kijiji that it's no wonder some people end up hoarding dozens of them. I, however, am on a mission, and I won't be deterred by cuteness. The cats I'm looking for just have to be proven mousers with an affinity for the outdoors. If they're scrappy looking and un-cute, then all the better.

As I scroll through the pages, I see several adult cats up for adoption (mostly due to "changes of circumstances" beyond their owners' control), but most are Garfield-like indoor cats, many of whom don't even have claws-- definitely not what I'm looking for.

I decide to place my own ad: BARN CATS WANTED Looking for two outdoor, adult cats-- proven mousers who are preferably spayed or neutered.

The next afternoon, there's a message on my cell phone from someone saying they have the perfect cat for me. I'm busy at work though and I don't get a chance to call back right away. A few hours later, as I'm driving home, my phone rings again. It's another response to my ad. It's a man named David (and no, it's not my husband). He says his family has the perfect cat for me-- and he has been neutered.

He's supposed to be an indoor, family cat, but is adept at slinking out through open doors or windows. While out, his murderous instincts take hold and he savagely attacks both feathered friends and furry fiends. He presents his bloodied prey as trophies at the front door. This has created tension among the bird-loving neighbours and the family is getting tired of trying to defend their cat's honour.

Me: "Out of curiosity, what colour is he?"

David: "He's black with white paws, and a white nose and belly."

That's all I need to hear. I'm in love. I grew up with a kind, gentle, easy-going black and white cat. Whiskers was my faithful companion through 16 years of childhood triumphs, teenage angst, and adult beginnings, and I miss him to this day. I've had a soft spot for "tuxedo" cats ever since, and came very close to adopting one named "Socks" from the SPCA in Moncton a couple of years ago.

David (somewhat apologetically): "His name is Zorro"

I try unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle, and then I make arrangements to meet David, his family, and their cat the next afternoon after work.

I try not to get my hopes up, but I have a good feeling, so I search through some as-yet unpacked boxes and dig out the oversize cat carrier and toss it into the trunk.

It turns out the family lives in a busy, family-oriented subdivision in Eastern Passage. When I arrive, Zorro doesn't waste anytime in trying to bolt out the front door. We manage to thwart his attempts though, and I am instantly, completely in love.

I sit and chat with the lovely family for a good half hour. Within minutes, Zorro leaps onto my lap and curls up. He purrs contentedly as I stroke his shiny black coat. The parents and the two daughters are extolling Zorro's many virtues-- they seem worried that I might not like him. Little do they know that I'm sitting here worried they won't like me enough to let me take him home.

The youngest daughter (Sophie) declares that Zorro's favourite colour is pink. She promptly produces a pink headband/wig combo and puts it on Zorro. He squirms and wriggles, but is otherwise resigned to what I expect is a common ritual. Sophie pats and plays with Zorro and it's clear that she's probably the person who will miss him the most. I feel bad. I try to reassure her that I'll offer him a great home-- and that they're all welcome to visit anytime.

After a bit more chatting, they ask if I've brought a cat carrier. Feeling relieved and excited, I bring it inside from the car. I put it on the floor so Zorro has a few minutes to get used to it before I have to coax him inside. The small metal door is barely open before he shoves his way inside the big green box, sniffing at all the unfamiliar smells. As I ask for the dates of his last vaccinations, and what kind of food he likes, Zorro curls up and falls asleep in the carrier. Sophie gently slides his pink wig/headband into the carrier and tells me I can keep it so he'll feel at home.

Then, just as I'm heading out the door with him, she rushes to the basement and reappears momentarily with a square fleece blanket with a cat paw print. "This is Zorro's", she says, and so I thank her and add it to my new cat's meagre possessions. After that, I'm speechless.

For the drive home, I position the carrier in the middle of the backseat, facing the dash. I have a bag of cat treats handy, and I can easily reach my hand back to appease him if he seems unhappy-- which he does. The 45 minute drive home is filled with regular yeowls of discontent. He's not interested in the treats, but the guttural sounds ease when I shove my fingers into the cage for him to rub against.

Finally we're home and as soon as the car stops moving, Zorro becomes quiet again. I open the car door and point the cage outside so he has a chance to look around before being released into his new habitat. The dog, always happy to see me, rushes to the car, tail wagging, and barking like crazy. Zorro's not impressed. He hisses a bit, and Muscade glances in his direction, but otherwise ignores him.

I leave Zorro like that for half an hour or so, then I move the carrier into the cool, quiet tack room in the barn. I place some food and water inside, but leave him in the cage for another hour or so.

That evening, I let him out of the cage. His first night proves to be a sleepless one for both of us.

To be continued...

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