We've been pet-sitting for my brother this week, hence the reason I'm short on WIP photos. He has, in addition to his border collie mix, Nikki, his GF's Jack Russell Terrier/Australian Cattle Dog mix, who is, by far, the most high-energy dog I have ever met in my entire life (thank God she's the size of a JRT, anything bigger would bounce off the walls), and eight cats. Yes, eight. I thought I get overwhelmed by three. Eight is daunting. But, there's a reason for it. They had one cat, and friends of the family had a litter of kittens, then couldn't find homes for them. The husband mentioned he was going to "get rid of them." We all know what that means. My brother couldn't live with the idea of seven kitties getting killed because their owner didn't see fit to spay the mama, so he took them. All of them. He was supposedly going to take them to the pound and get them adopted. I couldn't take any because a)HTB is severely allergic, b) Shocka and Beazer are not socialized to cats, and I can't risk it, and, oh yeah, c) I have three cats already that Mom keeps for me and, if I can't bring them home for reasons a and b, why do they get shoved aside for a baby kitten? And then he fell in love and couldn't give them up. He's a good man. A soft touch. He did a good thing. He's my big brother.
Anyway . . .
We've never seen all 7 kittens at the same time. The big cat comes around. He and I have an awkward relationship. We babysat him a few years ago; he whomped my Gus, clawed me, and irritated Lily. But he's a nice cat in his own home. His name is Dinky. Another cat bops out, Sylvester. Sylvester is always running for the door. He's the first cat I've ever known to not be scared by "Tsssk, tsssk." Even my cats run for the hills at that. There's another one, we call her Charlie (Mom thinks that's her name), but she probably has another name. I know there's one named DG, and one named D-day. I don't know who is who. In true Pennsylvania barn cat fashion, none come for "Here kitty kitty." They just stare at you, like, "That's not my name." My cats do it too.
My mother is a worrywart. Her life revolves around making sure living things don't get out of the house. When they happen, I'm supposed to fix it. Remember this? Yeah, I do!
So when she wasn't able to see all of these half-grown, half-wild kittens, she convinced herself that at least four of them ran out of the house when she wasn't paying attention. I figured it was more like they got in somewhere and got stuck, but I did see vague shadows in the crawlspace, heard rumblings near the ductwork.
Last night, we were sitting very quietly in the basement, watching Might Be Charlie, Sylvester, one of the "Don't call me Kitty Kitty" kittens, Dinky, and the JRT, Delilah, playing. Somebody was in the opening to the crawlspace, looking. And then I found the featherstick.
One thing I've learned is that kittens LOVE feathersticks, by and large. Especially barn kittens. Gus has jumped in the air with Felix hanging off him for one. It's crack for kitties. And so I started playing with it. Just waving it. Occasionally letting someone grab it. It was a challenge. They were enraptured. Even Delilah.
And . . .
one by one . . .
they all came out.
I kept calling to Mom, "Hey, is one all grey? Does the fluffy tail look like Kody."
And soon, I was surrounded by them. All the big eyes looking. Whiskers at the attention. Paws up, in case it got close to them. Sylvester danced with delight. My mother couldn't believe it.
I've had a rough week. Sometimes, despite my best efforts to find the best parts of life, reality is harsh. But . . . I know that, when I look back to this week, to this month, the thing I'll probably keep in my heart longer is the look of sheer, utter joy on those little faces. We need to remember the moments of magic. They are fleeting. They get us through the bad times. They are important.
May we all dance with kittens more often.