Cat People

I was never a cat person.

I still have a scar on my left index finger, the gift of the irate Siamese who bit me when I was four.

And I was allergic to cats when young. I was allergic to many irritants, actually, but cats were among the worst. My eyes would begin to itch, then leak and swell, and finally, my sinuses would shut down completely, leaving me gasping through my mouth like a carp.

I grew out of most allergies by the time I was 30.

But I still avoided cats.

Habit, you know?

Daisy was intended for daughter Jessica, until Jesse went off to school in another state and left her with me.

I don’t claim Daisy was ever my cat. I’m uncomfortable using possessive pronouns to identify others – animal and human, alike. I’m not even comfortable with the term pet. But Daisy and I found close companionship in the 14 years we were together.

Then, she died.

I lost my mom two months before, but we were well prepared for her passing, Mama and I.

But Daisy’s?

No.

I’d left her in my stepdad’s care for a week to attend an astronomy event in Big Bear, California, the same event, in fact, from which I was returning when I had the life-changing encounter west of Flagstaff with the bicyclist who inspired the Pedaling Astronomer Project.

Daisy died, trembling in my lap, the night I got home, and I felt I’d betrayed her for even considering a multi-month bike journey she could not join.

Worse, I wasn’t there for her in that last week, when she surely needed me most.

On Father’s Day the next year, daughter Rachel brought Kitt Kato, the attack kitten.

Kato and I were companions for just 11 months,

Until I abandoned her to Rachel’s care and pedaled away at the May 2016 start of this project.

Now Rachel and Kato are companions, as are hound Annie and Kato. Very much a family, full and complete, those three.

Ever forgiving (or forgetting), Kato remembers me fondly when I visit now. More likely, sweet Kato would show affection to any dusty old man.

Before I began my initial bicycle journey, Ian, the bike-shop owner who supplied the Big, told me about another perpetual bike traveler, who pulled a trailer behind his bicycle to carry the two adult cats who accompanied him.

I had, by that time, logged thousands of local miles on the Big, preparing for my first out-and-away journey, and I’d already discovered that among my greatest challenges would be packs of dogs.

Alone, dogs were rarely a serious threat. Most just run beside me with tongue-flailing grins, rejoicing in the chase.

But when in packs, they were often emboldened and dangerously aggressive – even without cats in tow.

I couldn’t imagine subjecting Kato to that.

But, still, I should not have left her.

Rachel texts photos of Kato, from time to time, always captured doing something achingly cute.

And I know she’s happier with Rachel and Annie,

And I’m still not a cat person.

I swear, I’m not.

But damn, damn, damn,

I miss Daisy,

I miss Kato,

Terribly,

Still.

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