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We called her Smokie

It is the way the world works sometimes.  Without warning, even.  A gray kitty with yellow eyes and soft fur doesn’t come home one day.  She doesn’t answer to two children shaking dry cat food in a cup and calling, “here, Smokie; here, kitty, kitty.”  She doesn’t claw her way over the fence from the neighbors or come out of hiding behind our raspberries.  She doesn’t come.  She just… doesn’t come. 

There’s a certain despondency now.  Like something’s missing.  Like if we think about it hard enough, we’ll remember what it is we forgot.  But I know it’s Smokie.  And our other pets do too; they clued in long before we did. And now they navigate differently.  They sniff the air; they sniff each other; they pace the backyard; they get lost in the pantry with that I-can’t-remember-what-I-came-in-here-for look and then wander out.  They seem to ask with their eyes, “where is she?”  And when we lean down to pat their heads and stroke their fur, they persist with their gazes,  “where ya hidin’ Smokie?” 

That our cats and dog have done more than tolerate each other has always marveled me.  We’d had our German Shepherd nine years before we carried the kittens home.  Then before the dog could raise a paw to object, the kittens had curled up next to him pinning him in the middle of his own bed and elevating his temperature.  This would be the case for the whole next year–three pets on one bed, two stretched out and one panting. 

In the backyard, the cats would learn to scale the play toy, pawing at the chains on top as the kids swung below.  The dog would watch with  lazy eyes, remembering like an old man when he’d had that much energy.  Only if the action looked good enough, he’d grab his piece of wood and come gnaw it at our feet.  It’s that proximity thing.  Which somewhere somehow translates to love.  And is why three pets can seek out the same bed.  At the same time.

And which probably explains the black cat weaving around my legs just now, biting my toes.  And my children wrestling to get their heads on the same red pillow four feet from me.  We pulse with proximity. We want to be near those we love. 

Even if it’s a gray cat we once had, named Smokie.

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