One day, several years ago, as I started to walk out the back door, a gray flash streaked by me. I followed the gray blur into the house and was surprised to find a very large, very fat cat.
This cat was a stranger. I had never seen him before, and we don't exactly live in a neighborhood for it to have been a neighbor's cat. He walked in that day, straight to the bowl of cat food, and has been here ever since.
Of the many cats we have had, Smokey is by far the laziest, most content cat. He is more like a dog than a cat in so many ways. He hangs around the guys when they are out working in the barn. He comes when you call. He will tolerate rowdy kids as he sleeps on your lap. He is calm, cool, and collected. And fat. If Smokey isn't in the house, he's never very far away. Actually, he's never more than about 6 feet or so from the food bowl.
But a couple months ago, Smokey was gone.
The first night, we knew something was wrong because he's always around. Always. Then the second night came and went. Still no Smokey. Had he gotten hurt? Did he finally wander too far from the food bowl? Was he just old and left to die? There were many unanswered questions.
A couple weeks went by with no sign of Smokey. We finally accepted the fact that he was gone and wasn't coming back. We stopped looking. We stopped calling for him. We knew.
A few days later, I drove the kids to daycare. Daycare is a few miles into town, across from where the kids go to school. It was early in the morning, still dark out. I pulled into the parking space, got out, and opened the door for the Little Miss.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gray streak. A large, gray blur running toward me, and then past me, right into our car.
It was Smokey.
Words rarely escape me. But I was speechless. Our big fat cat was back. I scooped him up, cuddled him, and let him purr away in my arms.
We walked into daycare, me with tears in my eyes, and a very fat cat in my arms. The lady who runs the daycare met us at the door and all three of us started talking loudly explaining that this was OUR cat! She was stunned, to say the least. She went on to tell us that Smokey had been lurking around the daycare and school for a couple weeks. The neighbor ladies were feeding him. And he had a warm blanket on the porch of 3 separate houses.
The only thing we can think is that he somehow hitched a ride with us one morning. Either in the car or in the back of the truck the one morning I drove it. And he knew we would be around to bring him home. I wish I could capture the look of determination and relief in his face when he jumped up into our car. And I can't help but wonder how many times we just missed him. Or if he ever saw the kids playing. All I know for sure is that we are ecstatic to have him back home where he belongs.
Believe me when I tell you he is always in the house, warm and safe. I don't think he will venture much further than the food bowl since his little adventure.
Oh, I forgot to tell you the funniest part. We stopped and talked with one of the ladies who had been taking care of him. She was so happy to hear he was back home. When I started talking about him, she said, "Oh, it's a HIM? We all thought SHE was PREGNANT!"
Ha! I did mention he's fat, right?