I spotted the petite gray and white tabby while working on my laptop beside a kitchen window. She was staring at a female cardinal perched on the lowest branch of my ancient cypress tree.
My own tuxedo cats, Joey and Chandler, had also perked up at the sight of a visiting kitty. Indoor cats, they don’t understand food that doesn’t come from a can and wondered why this cute interloper seemed obsessed with a dumb bird. They looked at one another, exhausted by the notion of having to hunt for food and fell into deep sleep on the window seat.
When the tabby turned to look in my direction, I saw she had only one eye. Because of her markings, it looked as if the missing eye had been crudely stitched shut.
“Janine!” I screamed. Like a crazy person. She reminded me immediately of the pitiful but plucky one-eyed character in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
She looked back at the cardinal, and I tapped on the window glass, but weirdly Janine didn’t respond. I would learn later she is deaf. But I’m getting ahead of myself. She stared at the bird for a while longer and when I looked up again, she had moved on. New back-door neighbors’ cat, I assumed. We have coyotes so I’d have to tell them to keep her inside at night.
A few hours later, I was weeding some flowers and realized Janine was on my front doorstep watching with interest. I called to her. No response. I finished my work and moved on.
Janine was in the back yard again when I finally got close enough to get a good picture to text to our neighborhood group. No one knew Janine. How could this be? She was clearly well-cared for, not a typical stray.
I decided to send the picture to a subgroup of neighbor ladies. We get together once a week on someone’s porch for a catch-up. It’s a lovely tradition because it’s that rare group of women that feels no obligation whatsoever to make snacks and turn it into work. We show up with a drink, or not, and sit a spell.
“I’ve seen that one-eyed cat!” a neighbor messaged me. Janine’s picture was posted on a lost pet registry she monitored.
A minute later, she’d found the post and messaged Janine’s mom. And here’s the funny part. Janine, whose real name was “Lil Bit,” lived more than 10 miles away. How did she get from the ‘burbs to my downtown backyard?
The owner texted me immediately. “That’s my cat!!!” She had posted Lil Bit’s disappearance (with a hefty reward) everywhere and scoured her neighborhood nightly. It had been almost two weeks. To say Lil Bit’s owner had lost sleep is an understatement. A mutual friend said she was “devastated.”
I texted, “Are you sure?” Her photo of a younger Janine wasn’t all that convincing, and I didn’t want to get her hopes up.
“I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”
A public health nurse, she arrived in scrubs with a tin of sardines. A local cat rescue delivered a trap because, by this time, Janine was stubbornly hiding under our house. Deaf. One-eyed. And 10 miles from home. Duh Hubby crawled under the house with Janine’s mom. I did not. I had to, uhhhh, wash my hair.
It took two hours, but Janine was finally, happily in her mama’s arms. None of us could believe it. We hugged and jumped up and down, three strangers now bonded for life.
The next morning, Janine’s mom sent a picture of her happily in her own bed with her best pup friend who had also missed her greatly.
A happy ending in a world that often doesn’t seem to have a lot of them. Feels good, doesn’t it?