Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Not long after we moved here, our neighbor’s cats came over to introduce themselves. They were siblings — Max, the big black tuxedo jumbo boy, and Phoebe, the tricolor skittish lass. Max would come right up to you and plow his head into your leg, wanting to be picked up and cradled, and he purred like an idling Harley. It took Phoebe quite a while to warm up to us enough to come inside, but soon both of them were stopping by each morning for a dollop of whipped cream and a little nap time beyond the dangers of the great outdoors. Both cats would walk with my wife out to the mailbox and accompany her back to the house.
This is the neighbor, by the way, who keeps her friendly old Bassador dog in her garage. It’s no surprise that her cats aren’t allowed inside her house either, or at least not allowed to sleep in there. They have beds and food bowls in the garage with Sam.
I’ve seen Max getting chased up trees by another neighbor’s dog, and from time to time he’ll show up at our place limping or otherwise not right. Not long ago he had a cut on his ear and a scab on top of his head, where some creature must have taken a whack at him. And though this guy had always been the friendliest cat you’d ever come across, it seemed like his trials and tribulations were finally starting to wear him down. His joie de vivre was tanking.
Meanwhile, Phoebe had pretty much adopted us, spending whole hours on our dog’s bed or lounging out on the deck. She’ll come over and hang with us while we watch TV in the evenings, and she’s always the first face we see in the morning outside the front door.
But when the neighbor went on a weeklong trip to Hawaii recently, Max decided he’d had enough. A hostile dog was there with the house sitter, making it impossible for Max to eat, drink, or sleep. He vanished for two and three days at a time, expanding his already wide territory in search of more hospitable conditions. He’d show up suddenly, walking out of the brush and waiting patiently on the stoop for his dollop, while Phoebe circled and head-butted him, like, “Where the hell have you been?” Max was more skittish now, always looking over his shoulder. He’d seen some things.
Now it’s been about a week since Max has been around. We fear he’s met his maker, at the maw of a coyote or fox, or maybe hit by a car as he crossed an unfamiliar street in his wandering. The gentlest and most benign fellow, he probably came to a bad end because his comfort zone got too uncomfortable for him.
Phoebe sticks close to home, practicing her routine and having waited out the bad times. She seems aware that something’s wrong, though, and as I held her on the front porch this morning she looked across the road at the spot where Max used to appear in the morning. He wasn’t there.