A stray cat adopted me several years ago and allowed me to feed her. She had arrived exactly one week after I had had to put my 12-year old Roxanne to sleep. Although I still had Mimi the Siamese, the stray must have sensed that our home had a feline deficiency syndrome. The stray had a remarkable resemblance to the recently-departed Roxanne, long silky hair with tortoise shell coloring and a no-nonsense attitude towards life.
I named my new dependent Mitzi, feeling that the ‘z’ reflected her honed edge and spiciness. It was many months before she would actually eat in the house, preferring instead the spot by the door that gave her a 360 degree view of her environment. She always ate quickly with a predator’s ferocity. Mimi the Siamese, whose forays into the outdoors were now quite limited, gave Mitzi a wide berth and her blue eyes shot out dark, piercing looks.
The other member of our household was Miss Emmie, a lovely, mild-mannered shepherd mix who had long since learned the ways of cats and knew to show the proper respect. Every morning Miss Emmie and I would go for a short walk around our condo complex and it wasn’t many weeks before we were joined by Mitzi. Emmie always made a lot of stops to investigate intriguing smells so our rate of travel was leisurely.
It was soon apparent that Mitzi had a special affection for Emmie and would walk beside her, winding in and out and around in a cattish way every time the dog would make a sniff stop. Mitzi rubbed her face in Emmie’s fur, watched observantly when she peed or pooped, then sniffed the spot before we moved on. After a while, neighbors started to notice our little procession – Emmie on a leash in the lead, Mitzi circling around and I bringing up the rear. “Never saw a cat go for a walk before,” was the typical observation, followed by much head shaking and smiling.
And so the years went by, one by one. Early one summer, Miss Emmie grew too tired and too ill to stay with us and I had to make the decision all pet owners dread. Our little world was diminished and for several days no walks were taken. When I resumed my morning stroll and called to Mitzi to join me, she looked around as if searching for our missing member and on not seeing her, declined.
I walked alone for many weeks until one day Mitzi joined me. Being a cat she did not crave exercise as a dog does, nor care to venture far out of her territory. Without Emmie’s sniff stops to slow me down I wanted to move faster and go further so an accommodation was reached between Mitzi and I. She accompanied me on the short walk to the edge of our complex and I proceeded on a brisk walk around the block.
When I returned I would find her waiting where I had left her, her tail twitching in annoyance and her brow sternly furrowed. Chirrup-like meows erupted as I approached. She rose at my approach and soon her majestic tail swayed in the breeze as she turned to lead me home.