The Mysterious Lives of Godfrey
|Godfrey in the Ferns|
|Charming Man of Mystery|
Paul and I were sitting at our dining booth in the kitchen waking up with our morning coffee about a month ago. I was keeping tabs on the bird feeders while also keeping up my end of the conversation with Paul. I had spied a new woodpecker spilling seeds from the red feeder. The doves cooing in the oak tree couldn't wait to do the ground clean-up in our yard. Spilled seed meant a quick breakfast for them. I turned back to getting a refill on my coffee, but when I sat down again, it wasn't the birds that caught my attention, it was the presence of a large orange and white cat. The red-headed cat sat charmingly on the outside windowsill looking in at me. Putting a paw up to the window in a friendly greeting, the old redhead meowed loudly. I felt like central casting in a Disney movie. Unknown animals usually didn't communicate with me in such an obvious manner. I was not only surprised but delighted as well. I suddenly had an urge to meet this mysterious stranger.
I exited out the front door and walked around to the last place I'd viewed the cat. He was rubbing his furry face on our shrubbery by the window where I'd last seen him. With a raspy growl of a meow, he stopped the dance with the shrubs and came over to say another hello. I then noticed he was a male cat while he sprayed the shrubs in a hasty retreat. I called to him. Here, kitty-kitty! That usually worked for me with my three cats. He stopped and looked over his shoulder, giving me more consideration. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat? I kept talking to him in a low voice that signaled that I wouldn't hurt him. I guess his hunger won out because he came right to me and then rubbed on my leg while I bent down to pat his head. I noticed right away that he looked like a fighter; he had scars on his face and ears. His coat seemed shabby and dull. A stray cat on his own. Maybe he was lost. Maybe someone dumped him in our neighborhood. He wasn't a feral cat because he did allow me to approach him. But, it was apparent that he had been sadly neglected.
When I meet a stray dog or cat, I can't help but wonder what their story is about. If they could only tell me. I'm sure it would be a mix of adventure and sadness. If only this new guy in my front yard could talk. It would easily solve the mystery of his sudden appearance. I wondered about all of this while retrieving a bowl of dry cat food from the kitchen. I also brought out a bowl of fresh water. I barely put down the bowls when the old redhead leapt in and started gobbling. He seemed ravenous.
Making friends with stray animals seemed as natural to me as falling off a log. I had been doing it since childhood. One after another of our family pets on the farm had been ones that had followed me home or that I'd discovered on our place. I had a habit of begging to keep them, promising to take care of them, and keeping it up until my family gave in and let me keep the dog or cat. One of my favorite pets of all time, Rusty--my orphaned mixed collie dog, was a dog that matched that description. Another favorite was Charley. I found him under a bridge down by our pasture's creek. Later, I had to rename him Charlene; she delivered a litter of kittens a few weeks after the "official" adoption.
I decided to not bring my new arrival into our home, but to continue to feed him. I also decided to give him a name. He reminded me of a childhood radio and television entertainer I remembered, Arthur Godfrey. He too had a certain amusing charm paired up with a round face and a mop of red hair. Yes, Godfrey. I repeated his name and it stuck.
Godfrey kept returning to our back deck each morning where I kept his bowls of food and water. Sometimes I'd also hear him meowing loudly in the afternoon or early evening. He seemed to be looking for me. I'd pat him and reassure him that he was welcome at our place. He didn't have a collar or tag and no identifying microchip so I assumed he really needed a friend to count on. As I got to know him better, some morning encounters were particularly rough. He'd greet me with a bloody face, scratches on his legs, and even missing patches of fur from his coat. He was a mess! Again, I had to play detective and make some deductions. I'd guessed that he was fighting other male cats for territory or getting in scrapes with wild animals while hunting the night before. He would allow me to clean up his wounds with alcohol, soap and water. After a really nasty battle, he'd laze around for the day instead of head out for his usual rounds. Paul told me that he'd spotted him all around the neighborhood. He'd seen him blocks away when walking our dogs or driving home from a nearby errand. That cat had a huge territory for wandering. One day we found him in the greenbelt while hiking with our dogs Rusty and Phineas. He was napping near our neighbor's flowerbed, looking quite content. I greeted him without the company of dogs and he seemed to be happy to see me. See you later, Godfrey. I called to him over my shoulder as I rejoined Paul and the dogs.
Concerned about his penchant for gangster trouble and courting the ladies, while possibly supplying our neighborhood with even more stray cats, I decided to make an appointment with the SNAP Clinic in San Antonio. They do honorable work in spaying and neutering cats and dogs for free or a reduced price, depending on your financial situation. They are also just 15 minutes away since they are located in my Northwestern part of the city. Plus, they have a large number of clients since they take care of feral animals, strays, and people's pets. They emailed me that it would be another week before I'd get an appointment. Meanwhile, I kept on taking care of Godfrey, hoping that he'd get tamer and wouldn't go missing. I worried that someday he wouldn't return from his nocturnal battles. I would have no way of knowing what happened to him unless I found his body. I crossed my fingers that the date for his neutering would arrive soon and then we'd just get it over with.
The call came. Godfrey's surgery would be done on Friday morning. I needed to secure him the night before with no food after 10:00 p.m. I put him in the garage so I could keep an eye on him. Reassuring him before I went to bed, I prayed that he wouldn't yowl all night like a trapped lion.
Bright and early the next morning, I put him in our well-used pet carrier and headed out to the clinic. Even at 7:30 a.m. the clinic was already full of people along with their cats and dogs. A cacophony of animal and human voices greeted me. Then, a strong smell of urine and disinfectant shot up my nose as I filled in the needed paperwork to make the surgery happen. Godfrey and I waited over an hour until we were called in for his pre-surgery exam. The female vet tech assistant cooed over my cat. Wow! What a big guy! Let's see how much you weigh. She took him into another room and then returned. 13 pounds! Yes, that confirmed it. He was a bruiser. A regular Arnold Schwarzenegger. I bid a last farewell to my all-male cat and wished him luck.
I had to work later at the gallery that day so Paul picked him up from the clinic at 5:00 p.m. He was still groggy and recovering from his anesthetic when I returned home at 7 o'clock. I let him out of his cage and he walked around the garage like a drunken sailor. I offered him food and water, and he greedily ate and drank since he had suffered from several hours of fasting. Overall, he seemed fine. I tucked him in for the night, reminding him that he had a week of recovery in our garage. Doctor's orders!
The cries of an animal not used to being confined nearly broke my heart. Godfrey hated being in the garage so I placed a large wire cage left over from puppy kenneling days in the side yard, hoping he'd enjoy the fresh air. He kept on howling. A guilty reminder of how unhappy he felt. He was a free spirit. Couldn't I see that? He reminded me every single day how much he despised being locked up. A poor prisoner. I continued to feed him. I also bought special kitty litter so it wouldn't irritate his fresh surgical wounds. I brushed him to help his dirty coat get some resemblance of normalcy. I stroked his face. I talked to him. I serenaded him with soothing sounds from an old FM radio station. He seemed to like Tony Bennett best. Poor Godfrey!
Finally, his release date had arrived. He had been recovering for a full week. Now he could go outside and have some freedom. He had survived his captivity and his new-found identity as a neutered and adopted feline. Paul stood by while I pushed the button to open the garage door. Godfrey gingerly walked toward the light. With a lighter step, he walked out of the garage to freedom. Stopping to sniff the shrubs just like when I first found him, he then turned around and hesitated. I offered some advice. Then sauntered around the backyard with him. He marked his territory. Some habits die hard. Godfrey, you made it, I chirped. He meowed and looked at me with his yellow eyes. I know I still can't figure out what his past lives were like. But, I hope that his future ones are considerably better.