A couple joins forces on a skating pond to rescue a black cat.
|Rowan was on hands and knees, peering into a dark tunnel in the thick brush. She’d been skating past when she’d seen a starving but very pregnant black cat slink off the ice. She had a soft spot for strays, especially those abandoned and alone and “in the family way” that soothed a hurt place in her heart.
“Kitty, kitty, kitty,” she called.
“Meow!” said a man behind her.
She backed out of the brush and looked up past skates, long legs and a lanky sweater-clad torso into smiling brown eyes. She’d seen him earlier, helping kids learn to ice skate on the frozen pond. He’d been gentle and encouraging and the children seemed to be having a great time. What a nice man, she’d thought.
“Crawling in to hibernate for the winter?” he asked as he crouched beside her.
She laughed. “There’s a skinny, pregnant cat in there. She’s probably starting to nest, and with the forecast for record low temperatures next week, I’m concerned she might not survive.”
“October is late for kitten season. Possibly she had a second litter close to the first, without enough time to recover.” He offered his gloved hand, “Angelo Reyes.”
“Rowan Oakes.” The sight her small pink mitten in his hand awoke feelings that had slumbered since her divorce. “Nice to meet you.”
Angelo poked his head into the hole. “In here?”
Rowan pushed her way into the brush beside him. “Off to the left. She’s a black cat so she’s really hard to see.” It was actually quite cozy, and she overcame her initial discomfort to enjoy the feeling of the two of them side by side.
“I see her now. She’s crouched and wary, probably scared of two big monsters invading her privacy. What will we do when we get her out?” They backed out of the brush into the sunight.
Rowan noted that he’d counted himself in, and said “when” not “if”. She liked that positive attitude. “We take her to Animal Rescue Mission. She’ll be safe there.”
He touched her arm with his gloved hand. “I have half a tuna sandwich left from lunch. I bet she’d come for that! If you’ll stay here and talk to her, I’ll be right back” He got to his feet and skated across the pond. She admired his swift and graceful movements, the powerful thrusts of his legs, then turned back to cajole the cat.
“Oh, mama, you’re a pretty kitty. I bet you’re hungry and thirsty, scared and uncertain. We want to give you a safe place to have those kitties and raise your family. We aren’t going to hurt you, baby. Come here, kitty.”
She heard the crunch of skates on ice, then the crackle of grass and brush as her co-cat-catcher crawled in beside her, bearing a strong scent of tuna. He tore off a morsel of sandwich and tossed it halfway down the tunnel. The cat ducked back and gave a long and piteous meow. It sniffed eagerly. At last, it darted out, grabbed the sandwich, and retreated to its nook.
“Here,” Angelo gave her the sandwich. “It may feel less scary if only one of us is here.” Rowan wasn’t certain he was referring only to the cat. She gave him a gentle push and he backed out onto the pond.
Rowan continued tossing bits of sandwich, and gradually the cat crept closer. Finally it came and rubbed against her legs while it finished the remains of the sandwich. She gathered it up in her arms and backed out.
“Here we are,” she showed the cat to Angelo. “She’s actually a friendly kitty. She was just lonely and hungry and scared.”
He leaned over and stroked the inky fur. “You’ve found some friends now, Puss. We’ll see that you’re looked after. Then you can take good care of those kittens of yours.” Rowan melted at his caring look and gentle touch. She imagined those fingers stroking her hair, and moved a little closer to healing.
They skated back across the pond to the parking area, where laughing couples and excited families were grouped around fires and tailgates. The smell of roasted wieners and hot chocolate had the cat wriggling in Rowan’s arms.
“You’ve got your hands full of cat, and my car’s just over there. I’ll drive, okay?”
At the rescue center, they received some good news. “She’s a bit malnourished, but generally healthy,” said the veterinarian. “We’ll give you some food and dewormer and a pamphlet about birthing. Bring her back next week for her shots.”
Rowan looked at Angelo and they both laughed. “Well, it seems we’re about to be parents, Rowan.”
“Don’t you think we should at least have dinner, first?”
He smiled. “Wonderful idea. Are you free tonight?”