Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?

Back in time 

When I walked down to the barn last Saturday and then again on Sunday I was greeted by a sight that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years. (read about Sheldon’s return here) Our barn cat -Sheldon -sitting on the patio that leads to the gym part of our barn. I almost have to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe it was real. Sheldon was back and it felt like he had never left. But he had been gone over two years.
My husband had told me he felt like he went back in time. He can’t believe this cat is back. He’s doing all the things he did before. He follows us around while we pick up manure. He lounges on the barn patio and he hunts in our back pasture.  I don’t always know where he is. He has his elusive hiding places as does our other cat Mango. You

 don’t find them unless they want to be found. But he’s around a lot now maybe it’s BC I’m taking the time to really notice him this time around.


I forgot what a cool cat he is. My husband found him as a kitten running around at a Shell gas station in the fall of 2010. He had two dogs in the car as we were just completing our move to our small farm. He called me and told me he found a kitten-did I want it. I didn’t. I was in the midst of a horrible move. I wouldn’t be ready for a barn cat for a while -if ever. I’m very allergic to cats so I wasn’t so sure.( I’m very allergic to hay too. Yes I picked a farm to live on. You can’t let a little allergy stop your dreams! )So did I want the kitten? No! But Kevin had asked around and even went to some homes near the station -nobody claimed the kitten. He could have left it there but my mind flew back to the family of feral cats we had a few years back in our old neighborhood and the number I had seen dead on the roads. (Nobody would come trap them). And the road that the Shell station was on was so busy. The kitten had little chance of survival. I couldn’t let that kitten go once it was with my husband. Nothing ever goes according for to my plan anyway-  so yes bring it home I told him. How he got two dogs (who hadn’t  ever been around a cat) and a kitten and a child home all in our smaller car I have no idea. I think it involved a kitten hidden inside a shirt or jacket and some crazed sniffing dogs. Someone may have been clawed up a bit.

The kitten arrived home and we named her Shell of course. I had examined the kitten and decided it was a female. Shell had a nice ring to it for a girl cat. Shell acclimated in our barn garage (now our gym) for a couple weeks and then she(he)  was let free to hopefully kill some mice. At about four months I realized her meow seemed more deep. Hmm …and after a quick check (pardon me) I realized I had made a mistake she was a he. Ok quick name update to Sheldon!

Sheldon was our lone cat until I decided to adopt a couple feral cats -a mom (momma) and her daughter -a tiny kitten we named Mango. They lived rather amicably for a while. Momma was our mouser and Sheldon seemed to like birds. We lost momma to a virus after Sheldon left – I wonder if he even remembers she was there.

When he left a couple years ago and didn’t return we really lost hope after a few months that we would ever see him again. We figured he was next door at the neighbor that he had run off to before. But after a year or more went by in wasn’t so sure. It’s clear someone had taken him in and I’m really glad he looked so well -ok very fat but very well.  It’s clear to me now that he is very happy hanging out with us for the time being.

When he returned  the other day it was surreal and it still is. I think Kevin and I figured he was dead so this is such a cool experience seeing him again. We did decide if someone puts flyers out we will answer them. We will explain his story. It’s quite amazing.  He’s really as much our cat as he is whoever fed him all this time. Well as much as barn cats are ours anyway. I feel like they choose us.

We joke maybe this is a spa vacation for him. Time to shed some of the massive weight he gained wherever he was before. Perhaps as the weather gets colder he might pack up and go back to what I have now imagined to be a warm window sill with great views of birds. I hope he doesn’t though.  I didn’t  realize how much I missed him until he came back.  It’s a gift to get to be with him and I find myself appreciating him each day he is here. I tell him each day how happy I am he’s here and how I hope he’ll stay. I make sure I pet him in case it would be the last time. If  he does leave I won’t take it personally but I’ll be sad and I’ll always hope he’ll return. But for now I’ll enjoy the time and I won’t take it for granted.

Funny how the beings in our lives can teach us so much -human or animal. Sheldons return made me realize we don’t often get second chances with those we love and we best make sure we really see them each day -acknowledge them- and give thanks for their precense in our lives. Tell them we love them. Because one day they may not be there. Thank you chunky,sweet, barn cat for returning and opening my eyes and heart. I hope you stay but if you don’t that’s ok because you gave me a gift of a second chance that I won’t squander.

Thanks for reading.

The prodigal cat returns

  
You know how when you lose an animal and you might wish from time to time that you could stroke it’s fur again or just look into his eyes one more time? I get that way anyway and when I am feeling those feelings I often get a visit from that beloved pet in a dream. I feel comforted and maybe a bit sad when I wake up. I like to think maybe my pets spirit visited me in my dream and that we are still connected. 

Well this morning my wish came true in real life. Our very first barn cat SHELDON the one we called Shell at first BC we found him at the gas station as a kitten and I misdiagnosed his sex as female -then we realized she was a he and he became Sheldon (deep breathe) he returned! Yes he came back after over TWO years. Closer to three. 

Sheldon was always a wanderer. He shared the barn with our two other barn cats Mango and momma. Sheldon would come and go and sometimes was gone for a couple weeks. Once he was at the neighbors and was stuck in their shed. That time -BC he had been gone a week -we had put flyers in local mailboxes with his photo. He was lucky that the neighbor decided they needed a tool in the dead of winter or he may have been dead. When that door opened Out he shot -the neighbor reported -and home he came. 

We got used to his absences and didn’t get too worried BC they usually only lasted a day or two. Then a weird thing happened. We had gotten chickens and had had them for over a year. At the time they were free range.  I had gotten a new batch and had just let them out to roam free. Well we realized on hen was really a rooster. Sheldon didn’t seem to like this at all. He was the car that would lay on top of the coop and watch all the hens and ducks.  He kind of backed off as the rooster grew.  I never saw an altercation but I did notice that the cat wasn’t watching the hens like he had been. Then one day Sheldon was gone and he didn’t return. We were used to this but his normal time away extended into a week and just as I was considering putting some flyers out again we got a note in our box from a family who found a cat. They lived two houses down and their land touched ours out In our pastures. 

Kevin went over and sure enough there was Sheldon. Kevin brought him home but in three days he left. Maybe he was put off by that rooster. We decided that maybe life was better at the neighbors. They had fed him so yeah there was free the food thing and no chickens and no rooster. So we left it alone. If the neighbors didn’t want him there they knew where he lived. 

Barn cats are an odd bunch. They live a tough life. Our cats (we have had only one for a while) have a big bin of food at their disposal. They don’t have to find food but they do live in our barn. They come and go. Our cat Mango lives a secret life. Sometimes I see her head in the field looking into the crops waiting for some vermin to kill. She lives in the rafters in the barn and on the hay. She loves to be petand gets  overstimulated  and will scratch when you stop. She comes out when she feels like it -she’s her own “person”.   

Over the last couple years since Sheldon has been gone we all wondered about him. We missed him. One day after he had been gone maybe a year my neighbor on the other side of us told me she found a dead cat in her shed. She though it may have been ours. I chose to believe it wasn’t and that he was living at the other neighbors but as time went on I wasn’t so sure. 

The neighbors where we hoped he was living had been in upheaval for a while as the older resident there Lou had been very ill. There was a lot going on there. I often wondered if Sheldon was still there. But we just felt that if he was still alive he had chosen where he wanted to live and I respected that but I sure hoped I would see him again. And today I did! 

I heard the buzz that says I had a new text on my phone at about 6:55 am. I suspected it was my daughter letting me know one of my sons had missed the bus-but instead there was a photo of a cat with a caption “is this Sheldon?”  Holy cat! It sure looked like him. She had to get in the bus but told me he came from across the street and was rubbing up against her. 

  
I yelled to my son Luke who wasn’t feeling well today and is staying home that Sheldon might be outside. He ran out but didn’t see him. I was still in bed (mom doesn’t get up that early BC mom doesn’t have to catch a bus!) I heaved myself up got in sweatshirt fully determined to find this cat. I open the door and there was Luke sitting on the porch with the cat in his lap. It was Sheldon! No mistaking him as he has a half mustache that is his most identifiable feature. Our cat was back. 

I scooped him up and holy heck he was like lead! I realized our cat had been well taken care of in his absence. He was very friendly but not sure he wanted to be held. I am very allergic to cats but I wanted Kevin to see him. (And I wanted to take him further from the road)   Kevin was training in our gym so I walked in with the cat and the look on Kevin’s face was priceless. 

Sheldon didn’t want to stay in the gym but he was interested in checking out the barn. He didn’t seem to want to run off too quickly. We got to pet him and hug him. And notice how freaking fat he is. We joked that he had been sitting in a cushy window for the last two years looking out at the world getting fat. Then he broke free. We laughed BC he had trouble jumping down from the work table where the cat food is in the barn. A feat that would have been nothing to him a couple years ago. Our boy got soft. Did he even have barn cat sense anymore ?  He didn’t have a collar on but that was no surprise the the couple years he was with us he shook every collar we got him.  We decided finally that barn cats may be safer with no collar. 

Will he stay? I’m not placing a bet on that. I am pretty sure he will go back to whoever has been caring for him after realizing the barn cat life is pretty hard. But maybe I’m wrong       I respect the choices of barn cats (or former barn cats). They are never really “ours”. You can’t make them stay.  But I’m sure glad he came back for a visit at least. It’s like a gift -the chance to touch a being you really missed and it wasn’t a dream. 

Thanks for reading. 

Strangers in the night – the three amigos

We had porch visitors last night. This might explain why two of our dogs got out of our yard the other night. They must have seen these two prowlers.  We will be spending much time this week shoring up the fence. You think you’ve secured the perimeter but then all it takes is one smart dog(Pierce) to figure out the easy way out. All was well. Lemon and Rudy alerted us to the escape and both dogs came to us when called. All was well but we have to get the fence made into a fortress I suppose!

Back to our visitors. They were in the form of cats- plural. Remember, we only have one barn cat. And I wrote previously about the little visitor we saw from afar a few weeks ago. Now the last time I saw this cat it was smaller but the white markings were very visible as in the photo below. But we have had another visitor too and I do not think they were the same cat as I saw no white marking- I will get to that in a minute.

When I first saw them on the porch I didn’t realize that the giant ball of puff in the front (see picture below) was Mango our barn cat that we’ve had four years. I thought it was another cat bc she never comes up to the front of the house. At least I thought she never did. Sitting so very nicely at the edge of the porch behind Mango was her new friend Will Feral who we have yet to meet. When you go into the barn you only meet up with Mango not a sign of another cat. I keep listening for any noise that would alert me – but cats are stealth.

Mango and her new friend must have been up to no good. Why on earth would they just sit on the porch looking into our window? I hate that window!  In order to watch TV you have to sit with your back to it and the couch is right up against the wall. I sometimes feel that if we were in a horror flick someone could crash their hands through that window and grab me. In our other home our couch was up against a huge window and I never worried about the hand thing. Maybe bc that window faced the fenced in back yard and this weird window opens to the porch..I don’t know but it has unnerved me since we got here. And I am right to feel leery bc now menacing nocturnal felines are staring in at us. We spent a minute or so looking back at them and I took the pictures and they became leery of us (the nerve) so they ran off to stare at something else.

My dumb dogs never even registered that they were there…these are the same dogs that go ape when they hear a branch brush against the house..or the doorbell on the TV. Just as well bc they would have wanted to head out back to probably scale the fence in chase of their nemesis (s) – How does one make that plural?.

And it gets better – the other night we saw a cat outside the barn but it wasn’t the cat in the picture here. This one was bigger and all black. I got a photo of that cat too- see the last photo below. I guessed the bigger cat was a male bc in the barn there is an odor of male cat spray. If you have smelled a male cat spray then you know it when you smell it! Pungent! My other clue -the food is getting eaten much faster! They better be good mousers!

So it appears we have three cats. The three amigos. Two ghosts and one real one. Perhaps the ghosts will come to meet us sometime. Well one got as close as the front porch so we are getting somewhere. Anyway. I’m happy that Mango has a friend or two. She has been alone since last May and I had thought about getting her a barn cat friend but we just hadn’t found the time to get one and acclimate it to the barn etc. It appears my dreams of getting her a friend came true.

That’s what I love about living on the farm. Things are always changing. I like the dynamic of something always going on. So now we have a new cat or two. Well they aren’t really ours – the farm is theirs to prowl and they will stay if they like it enough I suppose. Barn cats are funny. We had one that up and moved next door when he found out we had a rooster. Well I am only guessing thats why he left- but his departure closely followed my hen beginning to crow- “honey that’s not a hen” I told my husband. There will always be food and water so it must be better than some other digs they might find themselves in. At least we know Mango has some friends and that’s a nice thing for her. Maybe we will actually meet our ghost cats sometime in the daylight. And I hope the new ones are male – Mango is fixed but if the others are male and female we don’t want the three amigos(though I have yet to see all three together) to turn into multiple amigos! I will keep you posted!

Thanks for reading.


The other cat !

The other cat ! This cat appears to have no white.

Little Visitor

We have a visitor on the farm…or perhaps a new resident.  I have only seen he or she from afar- like an aberration. Little tail sticking up…little body skittering about. The likes of which looks like a black and white kitten.

I have not been able to get a clear photo. This kitty is stealth. I am assuming this is a feral kitty because of it’s evasive behavior but comfort around other animals. I have seen the little bit hanging near the chicken coop – I went out to it check and it was gone as if nothing had been there- nothing responded when I called “kitty kitty” (except the chickens). My husband had seen this kitten the other day very quickly. He was close enough that he swore the cat didn’t have any ears. (maybe a genetic thing? There is a breed called a Scottish Fold that has folded ears.)

Scottish Fold

Then the other night he was sitting with our other cat, Mango, by the barn door. Horses nearby and my dogs barking like crazy on the other side of the fence did not seem to bother him. I watched in the low light (could not grab a picture it was all blurry) as he followed Mango to the little opening in the the barn door made at one time for goats. Mango disappeared inside and the kitten stayed outside for about 30 seconds trying to decide whether to head inside or not. But in he went and I haven’t seen him since. There is a big feeder in the barn full of cat food so he may be head deep in cat chow!

I had been secretly wishing (well not so secret since I voiced the wish) for a kitten. I knew we really could not afford to get one- even from the feral cat people. It would require extra money for donations and such that we really can’t afford now. But I felt like Mango might like a friend. We had three cats not long ago but the life of a barn cat can easily be cut short early on. One of ours just left one day and had been at one neighbors hanging out -another neighbor thinks he may have died in her shed – he had been known to venture into sheds. I choose to believe he is living happily at another home!  The other one had a terrible virus and we let her go last spring. Mango was the lone cat left. Mango is shy but not feral. Once she knows you she wants you to pet her when she chooses to share her presence with you. She is one of those cats that bites and scratches you when you stop petting her. So she has to be pet quickly- she will beg for affection and then she zaps you! Maybe she needs a kitty friend to keep her company. I was glad to see our new visitor sitting with her. They seemed content. So we will see- or maybe we won’t! This little kitten may stay under human radar. I will try to have a proper meeting but I have a feeling it will take a while if it is to happen at all.

I decided our new friend needed a name and a versatile one – one that can morph into a male or female name.(In the event I ever can get close enough to determine it’s sex.). So I chose Will Feral – or Wilma if needed. I will report more on Will if I see him! I sure hope I do because I want to see if he has ears!

Thanks for reading…

3-25-15- We had a sighting! Ran out of the barn around to coop and then turned around and ran back into the barn. My husband saw ears this time! and Will has black with white paws – like my cat Mittens from my childhood. I hope Will will begin to surface when we are in there but it might be a while!