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Excerpt - Best Ever Pasha
After I had adopted my second—and in my mind definitely last—cat from the little animal shelter serving the Arkansas lake-side community I had blithely and blindly moved to from Southern California, I was inevitably recruited to volunteer there. Ostensibly, just to help socialize the cats (having told them straight away that I was deathly afraid of dogs).
Not too much time went by before I found myself cleaning cat cages three times a week.
The flaming-orange tom had been reported scrounging around a neighborhood for anything he deemed edible. His owners were supposedly in the process of moving and had left him to fend for himself. Being a friendly sort of fellow, he was easily caught and brought to the shelter by the town’s Animal Control Officer.
I had been wondering about a roomy wire enclosure outside the shelter that had a plaque affixed to it. It read ‘ACO.’ There was also a small letterbox hooked onto the wires. For the longest time, I honestly believed that some large literate dog named Aco must be living there, perhaps receiving his own fan-mail—although I was a bit puzzled why I never saw him.
Delighting in my apparent ignorance when it came to shelter procedures James, the otherwise dedicated shelter manager, liked to weave long tails into shameless tall tales for me. Only when staff members and volunteers grinned and twitched their eyebrows at each other, did it dawn on me that I’d been had once again. Ah, the burden of ‘being earnest.’
A good laugh was always welcome though, especially after reading the sad annotations left in that letterbox by the above-mentioned A.C.O. when he had to lock animals in that enclosure after hours. ‘Found starving in ditch,’ ‘Hit by car,’ ‘5 puppies tossed from speeding truck; 3 survived.’
Sometimes it was worse, sometimes it was better. Always it meant that another little life—lost, tossed, abandoned or abused—might be saved and eventually given a loving forever-home.
After the ACO—by now I knew that this was a city employee with a truck and a trap—delivered the cat, there was the customary bath to de-flea him. He was messy (the cat, I mean). And he stank (still talking about the cat). So much so that James placed him in a large cat-cage located out in the dog kennels. This was no reflection on the dogs, most of which held their business bravely overnight until they were walked the next morning. It was that the cavernous room was large enough to handle an unaltered male cat’s odiferous presence a lot better, whereas he would have blown everyone out of the “cat motel.”
I diligently scooped and scrubbed and wondered what they, my far-away city-friends, would think of all this ‘if they could see me now.’ With the cat cages gleaming and sweet-smelling again, I checked and swabbed dozens of pointy ears ridding them of mud and mites, and clipped the very tips off their ‘meat-hooks.’
As I went about my chores, I could not help but glance through the glass-door that separated me from the dog kennels and from Cody, as the approximately year-and-a-half-old tom had been named. The usual waiting period for an owner to claim an animal is five days. We even put his picture on the local TV station. Still, no one called or came for him.
Cody was whisked off for the ignoble deed every shelter animal is subjected to before it can be adopted out. When he returned from surgery, he thankfully was no longer the pungent tom we had come to approach with wrinkled noses. Still, to give him room in the larger cage, he stayed in the inside dog pens from where I could see him while attending to my chores inside the ‘cat motel.’
Lastly, I had to clean his cage while he was placed into an adjacent empty one.
That darn cat never took his eyes off me. They were not quite green and not quite yellow; they were round, and alert, and reflected light like precious stones set in orange gold.
“Don’t even think about it,” I told him. I already had two cats at home.
I named him Pasha.
October 27, 2016 - R.I.P. SWEET PASHA