Nature Abhors a Vacuum

July 26, 2013

Sandy was the first proper pet Amit and I had. When I say “proper”, I mean, aside from various stray dogs who inveigled their way into our hearts (but not our homes) over the years. And when I say “was” – I mean, she is no more.

It was heart-breaking.

She was the sweetest little thing that ever came into our lives, a ray of eternal sunlight, a perpetual joy. But she wouldn’t sit still for long, at least not at night. A couple of cold, wet, miserable nights we let her into our room with every intention of letting her stay. But she dug her claws into my legs, purred noisily, chewed my hair and generally kept me awake until I was forced to throw her out. I still had not come around to giving her a third chance. I thought I would, eventually, some day, especially when it was cold and wet, or if she were sick, but that day never came. One morning, when Amit was out of town, when I opened the balcony door and called to her, she didn’t come. It was a first, and I was a little worried, but I put it down to an adventurer’s spirit and left some food out for her and went to office.

But she never came back.

Our neighbours told us. She was lying on the road, a few houses away, dead. The street dogs got to her.

As the days crawled by and time waged a silent war on our guilt and sorrow, we decided we would get another pet. Maybe a dog, this time. Dogs are easier to restrain, to keep indoors and to allow into the garden without allowing them to escape into the big bad world out there beyond the gate.

Soon enough, there was a posting on the CUPA page on FB – 25 day old pup for adoption. I called the number. The pup was a street dog, either abandoned or orphaned by its family. Black, male.

It was Wednesday. I told the lady that we’d decide by Friday and if we were going to take him, we’d be there on Saturday. Meanwhile, don’t hold him for us.

On Wednesday evening, I was about to drive the kids to tennis when Tara said, “Mummy, in that house over there, I saw a kitten, just like Sandy.”

My heart skipped a beat. Of course, it can’t be Sandy, I thought. Two neighbours had said they’d seen her dead and both of them knew her well enough to have recognized her. Besides, even Tara didn’t think it was Sandy, it was just a kitten that looked like Sandy.

All the same, I drove very slowly past the house on the corner… but we saw nothing.

As soon as I reached the tennis court, I messaged Amit. “Did Tara tell you that she saw a kitten like Sandy in the house at the corner of our street?”

In five minutes, I got a reply. “I heard.”

Hm. Ok. We were both being very nonchalant. It took another 25 minutes for Amit to say, “We can get the kitten.”

And so we did.

He went to the house on the corner and looked around for a cat, which appeared soon enough and came and rubbed against his legs as if she’d known him all her life. This cat is a lot like Sandy, but a lot bigger. We still don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl, though Mrini has examined its nether regions carefully and pronounced it to be a girl because “it doesn’t have the sticking out thing.”

For the moment, she’s been christened Polly – Tara’s choice, since she was the one who saw her. She looks pretty happy and purrs all the time, even when she’s alone and asleep, apparently. She’s quite different from Sandy in personality, of course, being far less playful and much more mature and cat-like. She hasn’t played any scratchy or bite-y games with us yet and I suspect she may not. She looks completely self-assured and at ease, considering she is in a new environment and surrounded by a whole lot of new people. She wandered all over the house without showing the slightest sign of nervousness.

We haven’t let her out at all so far. For one thing – once bitten, twice shy. Our facing neighbour has informed us that they have lost three cats to the street dogs outside, so we obviously don’t want Polly to be the fifth. For another thing, Polly, having grown up quite a bit already, presumably has an area that she considers home and if we let her out she might make a beeline for it, leaving us high and dry. I fancy Polly is a little puzzled by this development. She slept blissfully curled up among the pillows in the guest bedroom last night, so I don’t think she’s complaining, exactly. All the same, she sits by the door or window and looks outside as though she would very much like to be out there. One part of my heart says she should be out there – cats belong out there; why should we take away her freedom and imprison her in a gilded cage? She never asked us to, and we haven’t exactly got her permission or consent. But then, I think of Sandy. I wanted that kitten to have her freedom and she wound up dead. Keeping Polly locked up indoors might be a mistake, but at least it’s a different mistake. I can’t make the same mistake twice.

The kids took Sandy’s tragic fate in their stride, quite unperturbed by it aside from wondering what would happen to all the cat food. But for Amit and me, it left a huge hole in our home and hearts. Polly doesn’t exactly fill that hole; Polly doesn’t bring Sandy back to life; but, sitting in my lap and purring contentedly, she makes it a little easier to bear.

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