The night I began writing this true tale is in the middle of December, just a couple of days before the coming of the shortest day of the year. We are so busy this month as we prepare for a final relocation to Phoenix. There is so much to do when moving and especially when downsizing. The biggest job of course is the rummaging through 2-3 decades of ‘stuff’ – do we keep the three bins of the kids’ kindergarten artwork? What gets sold on EBay? What gets donated to Goodwill? Should I send my name and address to this guy in Jackson, Florida so he can send me a check for my wife’s curio, the one he just loves from my Craigslist ad? And what about Blackey, the outdoor cat who adopted us 12 years ago?
Soon after we moved here in California back in ’04, I found a stray black cat occasionally hanging around our backyard. A couple of times I chased her off but after speaking with the cat lady across the street, (the one with open cans of cat food on her porch), I found that this particular cat was a neighborhood celebrity. Apparently she showed up one day at the house a block down the street. They tried to keep her around because she was so friendly. Things didn’t work out there however as “Jinx”, (her first name), did not care too much for the dogs who were there first.
So Jinx found the cat lady who lived across the street from us. I’m guessing that was in ’02 or ’03. I was nicer to Jinx when I found out she was a local celebrity. I’d see her wandering around our cul-de-sac, looking for someone to visit with, not really caring who that someone was because Jinx was friendly with everyone. Being a cat lover, I started being friendly with her myself and would lay out some food for her now and then. As she aged, she began spending more and more time in our backyard. Hey, who wouldn’t? Nice pool…plenty of cat treats…feline Palm Springs.
Eventually, I began putting collars on her and renamed her. She was now Blackey. Blackey has been wearing the same red collar now for about 4-5 years. It looks frayed all around the edges, but it’s intact and at this point, I figure it’s good karma. Outdoor cats live on average only 8 years while indoor cats live twice as long. This puts Blackey in a special category as I’m estimating her age at 14-16. So as to protect her from the occasional coyote, I’ve been putting her into our garage at nights now that she’s more than 75 (in cat years).
Here we are now, a month away from moving, and now we’re beginning to wonder what to do with Blackey. Do we take an aged cat with us, 600 miles away or do we encourage the local residents to treat her like the royalty she’s become to feel she is? As I got to pondering over this quandary, I stumbled upon an almost forgotten memory of a pet that my parents relocated for me as a child.
When I was only 4 or 5 years old, my parents got me a pet….rabbit. I don’t know what got into them or why they thought a baby bunny would make a good pet but apparently some people do have pet rabbits. I named him Bucky.
As a sidebar, I don’t know if it’s law or even still common practice, but when I was younger, if you bought rabbits for food in Indiana, it was commonplace for the seller to leave one furred paw on the rabbit so as to ensure to the buyer that it was indeed rabbit and not cat. Apparently the body of a cat is extremely similar to that of a rabbit when skinned.
But anyway, Bucky grew in size very quickly. My parents didn’t dare eat Bucky. Just imagine the childhood trauma. Although, had the rabbit urinated on my dad’s work shirt, Bucky might have one day found himself trying to live out on his own (story link). Not wanting to keep the rabbit at our house any longer, my Mom suggested that her dad, (my grandpa), could raise Bucky as a pet on Grandpa’s farm. So Bucky was loaded up in the car one day for one of our regular Indiana vacations.
I don’t remember much about Grandpa. He died when I was only 7 years old, in 1965; cancer. Like a lot of people back then, Grandpa was a tobacco user. He was born in 1905, so when he agreed to accept Bucky, he would have been around my age today. Hmm…I never before considered this. It’s a sobering thought when we each reach our fifties and sixties and we look back on the lost lives of our loved ones. We never know, do we. Though never a tobacco user, I could be walking around with cancer right now…..but for now, on with the story!
Anyway, either when my mom was a baby, (or before she was born), Grandpa raised rabbits for meat and sale. One day they incurred some sort of flood, (no, my grandpa was not Noah), and he had about a hundred rabbits on the ground that he had to save. Thinking about this scene makes me chuckle – picture it. Mom claims that all the rabbits were lifted to higher ground and soon were relocated to their new homes, brand new rabbit hutches.
By the time Bucky arrived to his new home, there were no rabbits and no hutches. There were chickens, however. Bucky’s first home there was a small hutch on the path to the barn so that Grandpa wouldn’t forget about him. That one rabbit was enough to spur Grandpa back into raising rabbits and he blamed my mom for getting him back into the biz.
Don’t worry though, he had told my mom that Bucky had become such a fond pet that he didn’t have the heart to kill him. Instead Bucky was given the chore of ‘hutch stud’. Some guys have all the luck. Eventually the chicken house was converted to a nice sized hutch for Bucky, his harem and all the babies.
Each time we traveled to Vincennes for vacation, I’d have to go out to the hutch to see where he had a corner room. As soon as I walked in, he was on the left, (or so I was told). Would a 5 year old be able to tell the difference between one brown rabbit versus another, I doubt it. But no matter, to me Bucky was alive and well cared for.
And so….that brings me back to Blackey – take her with us 650 miles away to Phoenix where she will be unfamiliar with the new surroundings or leave her here in California where she’s lived for her entire life, some approximately 15 years. She’s always been an outdoor cat so bringing her inside is totally out of the question – she would not adapt. The neighborhood here in California does not have any cut through traffic. This probably helps to explain her longevity. I think I could get her acclimated to our house and yard in Phoenix but there definitely is traffic there and I suspect the first time she ventured across the street, we’d find her flattened.
Either way, I will get to worry about Blackey. No hutches for her. I take her to Phoenix and worry about her old self getting killed in traffic or I feel guilty for leaving her here in her “home”, having to figure out a new routine for getting fed. Likely we will leave her here and say goodbye. I’m thinking I will make up a dozen flyers for the neighbors, asking them to feed her and seeing if one of them has room in their garage at night as she has become accustomed to, (also if I see the cat lady, she’s a possibility as well, just haven’t seen her around for a long time). We’re leaving our youngest boy behind here in California too, so I can ask him to come by the neighborhood from time to time. I feel like I’m leaving behind two kids to worry about.