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June 05, 2005

Kitty Girl's Story

Being a Backyard Horse Owner brings enjoyment on many different levels. For me there is a very tangible satisfaction just dealing with the logistics of cleaning, building and moving hay; in other words the daily facets of taking care of the horses.

There is also the intangible side filled with the wonders of life, relationship, and our connection to all living things. Of the many gifts of horse owning, developing relationships with a variety of animals has been one of the most profound. The story about Kitty Girl is an example of one of those gifts.

KITTY GIRL’S STORY

Kitty Girl came into our lives not long after Buck and I found our first “backyard” home. We hadn’t been there long before I noticed her outside the fence in the adjacent flower field. She was a small-bodied cute little tabby cat with a notch in her ear from some previous mishap.

Kitty Girl took a VERY long time before she’d stay within the half acre where Buck lived. I actually think she accepted Buck long before she accepted me, because many times I would arrive at the pasture in time to see her make a hasty retreat from what looked like a place where she’d been napping. Our chance meetings continued for at least 2 months, but I was always polite and called to her when I saw her.

One morning I happened to be mucking the pasture when I saw her; she was on the south side by the fence while Buck was up in his pen eating breakfast. I stopped mucking, got down on my haunches and said aloud “Hey, it’s time we formalize this, come over and let’s meet each other.” She very calmly walked over and allowed me to pet her after a short sniff to see if I was OK. At this point, I realized with horror that she was too skinny. Up until then I had assumed she was a local pet. I stroked her for a couple of minutes and once again spoke to her saying “STAY HERE; I’m going to go get food for you. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

So I drove to the nearest market, a 7-11 about 3 miles away, and got some dry food. Not a cat’s favorite, but this kitty would appreciate anything to fill her belly. When I got back she was where I had left her, so as I went through the gate at the upper end of the pasture I started calling to her. I was a little surprised that she didn’t understand “here Kitty-kitty” which to me was a universally guaranteed “kitty-call.”

Now here is where it gets kind of spooky. Buck was in a three-sided shelter with no visual contact with Kitty-girl and since he's deaf he wouldn’t have heard us either. As I stood there calling, Buck started to back out of his shelter and move away from his food (as most of you know, horses don’t usually leave their food without a very good reason). I watched as he walked the length of the pasture in a direct line for KITTY GIRL. I actually began to get worried for her, and as I stood there, my old Buckman walked straight up to this cat and nudged her with his nose. She jumped, and the next thing I knew she came trotting all the way up to where I stood at the shed. As soon as he had "sent her to me," he turned around and went back into his shelter to finish breakfast. I don’t KNOW why he went to her….it’s still a wondrous mystery.

Kitty Girl settled in slowly after that. She grew to enjoy being held for longer and longer periods and I know she appreciated being fed regularly. When I began to have problems with ants, I decided to tackle the problem of moving her food into the shed. Kitty Girl was really quite uncomfortable in the shed. I think being in close quarters triggered a real “flight-response;” she was always aware that she was “hunted” as well as a “huntress.” Knowing all of this I got a real surprise one morning when I opened the door to the shed and she ran out. I couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten in there, and I couldn’t imagine that I’d accidentally locked her in there the night before. This happened about 2 more times until I finally got wise and saw that she was “letting herself in” through a small window. It was always left open and there was a ladder leaning on the outside of the shed that allowed her to climb up and in through the window. After this discovery I put a fairly good sized tack box on a shelf near the window, spread a Navajo blanket on it along with a bowl of food and deemed it “Kitty Girl’s space.”

Kitty Girl proved she was worth her weight in gold. The barn mouse population diminished to nothing and she did a great job with the gophers. Having lived on her own for so long she was a very skilled hunter and she didn’t waste her catches like many house cats do. I did have to have a frank discussion with her when she brought a young cotton tailed rabbit in the shed. I told her that if she was going to be a “big game hunter” she’d have to leave her trophies outside.

She was also very good around the horses; they seemed to have a mutual respect. I think Kitty Girl and Buck had the closest bond; maybe it was established that first few months when Buck was there alone. More than once I saw her rubbing back and forth on Buck’s legs while he stood very still.

Buckwheat and Kitty Girl had a different kind of relationship. B.W. has that playful side of him and I know he’s a bit of a tease. I watched him very carefully put his nose on Kitty Girl’s back right near her tail, and sort of wiggle it back and forth like a whisk broom the way horses do. She seemed to think it was OK for awhile, but then she gave him “the look” and the way he pulled back quickly, I knew he’d been on the receiving end of those sharp little kitty claws. Maybe 2 or 3 times I saw B.W. with little telltale scratch marks on his nose that proved he had pushed Kitty Girl a bit too far.

Kitty Girl was a part of our lives for 5 years. After I moved the horses to a ranch, I continued to feed Kitty Girl on a daily basis. She stayed in her little shelter for months until one day I went and there was no sign of her. I called all of the shelters and asked around, but never saw her again. Kitty Girl was a wonderful part of our Backyard life, and her personality and spirit truly enriched my life.
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