As I ate breakfast with my husband this morning I noticed a wild turkey walking across the back yard.
“Is that a turkey?” I asked, surprised. “I see a very large bird.”
My husband also stared at the bird, somewhat startled, as we’d never seen a turkey emerging from the little bit of woods that corners the southwestern border of our acre of land.
Later this morning, I noticed a red squirrel nuzzling the sliding glass door track to our bedroom. It glanced at me and kept licking the metal. I stilled myself, watched, wishing I had my phone so I could shoot a photo, but afraid to move lest the animal frighten and disappear.
After a minute or so, I risked it, getting some close-up photos of the squirrel, who eyed me inquisitively but continued its activity without evident fear.
After a time, it wandered off the deck, and I thought that was the end of that. Likewise, I left. Coming back a short time later for a basket of laundry, I saw the animal had resumed its activity on the other side of the glass.
One day this week I had noticed a possum scurrying away in the leaves near our garage in the darkness of the morning; yet another day my husband and I saw a brown rabbit nibbling the green grass near our deck.
Delightful. And all evidence that our outside cat, Tiger Lily, is gone.
Pets — like children, actually, or maybe even all relationships — are an interesting phenomena. They incur some expense and require some attention and are sometimes simply aggravating, and yet we are sad when they leave us.
We adopted Tiger Lily from the pet rescue when my son Adam was nearly a year old. Tiger Lily was too, and we forever dated her life by his birthday, April 9. She lived to be nearly 18 in our years, which is rather ancient in cat years. She shrunk as she aged, became a petite featherweight, developed a surly attitude, begged to be petted and then scratched in response, perfected the art of crying and scratching her nails on the glass to get whatever she wanted, and still terrorized the local wildlife, bringing her last mouse to the door just weeks before her death.
One year, when we often left the side door to the garage ajar, a family of robins had made a nest inside, laid eggs, and attended them carefully. We had eagerly awaited the arrival of those babies and delighted in their wide open, crying mouths as they demanded food from their hard-working parents — and we were devastated when Tiger Lily came to the door one day with a dying baby bird in her jowls, meowing for our praise. A flying lesson had been preempted by our cat. I didn’t like Tiger Lily very much that day, my heart broken for the baby robin and its proud family.
The last months of her life were spent fighting the Florida cold, with the help of a heating pad we had purchased, as well as fighting diabetes, evident by her ability to eat mountains of food and still lose weight, and her excessive drinking (and urinating) habit. As she had her entire life with us, she made the hoods of our cars her bed of choice, but now we had to remove her as she made no move to remove herself when we were ready to drive away.
In fact, that was the last time Adam saw her alive. She had parked herself on his parked car when he had ventured home between classes, and he carefully placed her in a warm spot on the driveway before he left. My husband found her there a couple of hours later.
Over the next days, little by little, we removed the evidence of her life. Washed her food bowls and stored them. Cleaned the heating pad cover and put it away. Did a thorough cleaning of her kitty litter box. (We had pampered her a little during the cold of winter, giving her a litter box despite having the yard as her toilet, and filled her bowl with bottled water, which she seemed to prefer.) Though we knew she was gone, we found ourselves looking toward the door where she’d scratch for attention, glancing at the little den we’d constructed for her comfort during the winter, thinking we’d need to turn on the heating pad, refill her water, offer her more food. She was gone. She’d lived a good, long, happy life, an ever presence for my teenage son, and a longtime presence for the rest of us, and her sudden disappearance left in us an empty spot.
But today, I am happy as I recount the wild animals that have added joy to my days — without incurring a cost or requiring action from me other than taking the time to stop and admire them. Although should a rat or snake get in my path anytime soon, I’m sure I will miss Tiger Lily even more.