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the incident of the sunbather and the prodigal cat

It is a rainy day. Jazz the cat is sleeping on the couch not six feet away from me as I write. I just paid my hydro bill online, answered a few emails, and my cup of chai green tea is empty. Pause. Okay, the cup is full again.

My summer schedule has been going well. The boss is firm but flexible, and has let me change up the hours on occasion as long as I get my work done. So on days when the 12-3 writing schedule just doesn't work due to a dentist appointment such as I had on Monday or an online lecture that I participated in yesterday, I work a little later or split a shift.

Just before my writing shift began yesterday, I had a little incident involving Jazz. If you are averse to stories with embarrassing personal details, you might want to stop reading right now. It was a beautiful sunny day and I thought I would lie outside for a bit and get some colour on my skin before I sat down at the computer for the rest of the afternoon. I have been sitting inside way too much this spring and the skies have been mostly overcast for the past few weeks, so I wanted to take advantage of the cloudless day to get my dose of Vitamin D happiness and even out those funny tan lines from my sunburn when we were in Florida.

I was lying out on my third floor terrace, enjoying the warmth on my back, when I heard Jazz scratching at the patio doors inside. I make it a point not to leave her outside unsupervised, so I thought it would be fine to let her sit there with me for the last 10 minutes of my sun break. I opened the door and she lightly stepped onto the bright balcony. She settled down in the corner under the patio table and looked out over the neighbourhood. I watched for a bit and was content that she would not run away. The sun was bright and beautiful, so feeling free and summery, I undid the back of my bathing suit.

Five minutes later, I heard some animal howling, but it was far away, so I relaxed and soaked up some more sun. After another minute, the yowling came again and then I realised that only one cat made that exact sound. It was Jazz! I leapt up, remembering to grab my bathing suit top just in time, and peeked over the railing of the balcony. Jazz and another cat were circling each other in a parking lot 2 buildings away. It didn't look like they were physically fighting, but the sound was definitely hostile. How did she get down there without me noticing? I called her name and she looked at me, briefly disengaging, but I knew she would not back off unless I came down there.

I fiddled with my bathing suit top, but those clasps are difficult to close at the best of times, and impossible when one is in a hurry. What to do? Just run down and get her, barefoot and half-dressed? Or go inside, throw some clothes on, and hope a bloody fight doesn't happen in the meantime. I chose the latter, you will be thankful to know. I ran inside and up a flight of stairs to my bedroom, pulled on shorts, a top, and my sandals. Then I hurried back outside and flew down the 5 half flights of stairs. Jazz and the other cat were on the lawn beside the neighbouring parking lot, fur high and backs arched.

I called out to Jazz as I walked toward them and to my amazement, she immediately turned and started to trot in my direction. I kept talking to her the whole time, calling and encouraging her to do the right thing. And she responded! She ran right past me, across the back lawn, and started up the stairs, all without much intervention on my part. When she got to the last landing before our balcony, she flopped down and started to pant, as if to say, "I'm done!" I was pretty impressed with her quick return, so I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way inside. There was no hissing, no fighting me, just a limp body in my arms, ready to come home. Amazing! I gave her a treat when we got inside and she spread herself out on the kitchen floor, spent from the ordeal.

I like this change in Jazz. She has become more attentive to my voice and less stubborn about getting her own way. She still has a very strong territorial instinct which makes her unloving and ungracious and ridiculously protective of her space and her stuff and her food, but my voice got through that beastly selfish urge yesterday and she responded with obedience instead of anger. She didn't fight me. She came home of her own will. She trusted me instead of herself.

Jesus, help me be more like Jazz.

This is a picture of my view today.


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