Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Friend the Cat

Those of you who know me, know that I love my cat Rory. Without Rory, I surely would have gone crazy working from home while Anna was finishing up grad school, and during the week I still spend more of my waking time with him than with Anna.

Before, I had scoffed (literally, at times) at the concern other people showed for their pets. But now, cuddling and playing with him, taking care of him and watching him grow from a tiny kitty to a larger kitty, I understand. He is my friend, as much as an irrational animal can be called that.

And I wonder whether he is so irrational after all. I wonder whether animals have souls: After all, since we do not believe that human consciousness is confined to the physical phenomena, there is no reason to make that move with animal consciousness. And I wonder what will happen to Rory. I wonder what will happen to this mischievous cat, full of personality, who loves to look through windows, who will seek me out for nap time, whose eyes seem to laugh during play time. I wonder what will happen to my friend when the consequence of human failure and sin catches up to him.

But that is not really what this post is about. Because during Thanksgiving weekend we lost him, and we almost Lost him.

We have to keep him at my parents' house when we visit Shafter for more than a day or two. Anna's parents own a dog, who would almost certainly kill Rory out of mere curiosity. However, my parents' house is full of people coming and going, and all it took was one door opened for a half-second too long, one window left open by accident, and Rory was gone.

We don't even know when he left. All we know is that we left him napping under a spare bed, before we went to spend the night at Anna's parents'...and when we returned to the house at lunchtime the next day, he was gone and no one could remember seeing him that day at all.

We live in the country. We own an acre or two of garden, which houses 3 dogs, 2 puppies, and several cats of varying degrees of domestication, all of which absolutely terrify Rory. And the house is surrounded by almond orchards for miles around on every side.

As soon as he left the house, whenever that was, he would have smelled the dogs and cats. And it would have been mere seconds before one of them approached him, drowning him in terror. We don't know when that happened, or the exact circumstances.

We just know that he ran, and we could not find him for over an hour. I prayed constantly, that God would protect Rory and return him to us. My parents prayed with us, as did my friend Monica, recalling the time of Noah and God's call to the animals, and asking him to do the same with Rory.

Then, as the last thing we felt we could do, Anna and I walked to the nearest cross street, about a quarter of a mile away. We passed our dogs, barking from the pen we'd placed them in. We passed two obnoxiously vicious dogs behind a fence, who followed us as much as they could, barking the entire time. We looked ahead to the next house, also guarded by a barking dog (this one without any kind of restraint at all). And I wondered what had become of Rory, surrounded by so many barking, teeth-filled, scary-smelling monstrosities.

We reached the cross street, and we looked down the road, and there was no roadkill, no bodies on the side of the road as far was we could see. And we slowly turned and began to head back to the house.

I continued to pray as we walked. Ahead of us was the home of the two obnoxious dogs, and I was about to suggest to Anna that we cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. Before I could say anything, however, I heard something. Half a meow. A sound barely indistinguishable from the background.

I stopped, and Anna did too. "What?" She asked.

"I heard something. A meow."

"Are you sure it wasn't a bird?"

I don't know if I answered. I walked into the orchard, scanning the trees, stepping softly. One row in. Two rows in. And--


Unmistakable. Anna heard it too, and we continued. And then--


There he was. Sweet, merciful God in heaven, there he was: Seven feet up, in a three-way fork in the tree, looking the saddest and most frightened we had ever seen him.

We got him down. We took him back to the house, and put him in a separate building where he wouldn't be let out by mistake. And even though it's been a few days, I still look at him and marvel at the evidence of God's grace.

How many hundreds of trees in that orchard? How many thousands of trees within just a half-mile of our house? How many thousands more beyond the road? And he was in one of the few where we would be able to hear him. He meowed at exactly the right time: A moment earlier or later and we would have missed it, and he would never have found his way back. He would never have gathered the nerve to brave the dogs again, to go past them and endure their barking.

If he had crossed the road, or gone in the other direction, or chosen one of the other hundreds of trees, we would even now would be anxiously hoping for news that would never come. Rory would have died out there, sad and alone. But he didn't, because the Creator of the universe and everything in it chose to hear our prayers and return my friend to me.

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