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Smidge The Hitchhiker

Watercolour Of Smidge

Smidge is a big, black and white cat who came to us by accident. We had recently moved and our daughter moaned daily because there was not a child on the block for her to play with.

She looked so pathetic that we were driven to desperation, and then we heard that a co-worker had a cat he wanted to give away. It really sounded too good to be true. A full grown, male cat, well-trained, house broken, and kind. We were skeptical.

At first glance, Smidge was impressive. He was large, probably close to fifteen pounds, black and white and a plume-like tail that was inky black at the very tip as though he'd just dipped it into an ink pot. It reminded us of the plume pens artists draw on Old-Time Christmas cards.

Smidge immediately adopted our child and began rubbing against her ankles and twining around her legs. He followed her every step, running when she ran, and crawling into her arms when she dropped down on the grass to rest. It was plainly a case of love at first sight and we took to him right away.

But Smidge turned out to be a sly, conniving rascal. He wandered the neighbourhood and spent a great deal of time outdoors and was soon infested with fleas. We reacted so strongly to the bites that I banished him outside until the vet could give me something effective; in the meantime, he learned to circumvent me in every way.

When we found him back in the house, we scolded our daughter for letting him in. Of course, she protested her innocence and she was vindicated the morning we caught him letting himself in by the kitchen door. Who said cats aren't smart?

After that, the door was closed with special firmness, so Smidge, merely changed his tactics. He ran around the house and up the big old tree in the front yard. From there it was a short jump to the porch roof where one or two plaintive miaows outside our daughter's window did the trick and soon they were snuggled up together. When I went to rouse her for school and found him staring up at me from the pillow, I was upset... and even more angry when I saw that her body was encircled with flea bites.

Eventually, we got rid of the fleas and Smidge spent a lot more time in the house where he loved to sleep underneath the dining room table flat on his back with his feet in the air. It was a bit surprising because he looked like he'd just been embalmed but he'd always slept that way and we got used to it. A bit later on, we noticed that he balked against going outside. That was a surprise because he'd always been an outside cat, absolutely refusing to use a litter tray. We couldn't figure it out because he would go to the door and call to go out but when we opened for him, he would pause and listen intently. If there was the slightest sound of a motor, or a dog barking anywhere nearby, he would withdraw and disappear. We figured that a dog had gotten hold of him in the recent past, or he had been involved in a fight with another male tomcat, because he developed a huge abscess beneath his jaw and the poor cat nearly died. He lay about and went off his food. I bought delicacies and even put his food through the blender so he could eat more easily but until the large sac broke, he was a sick fellow.

To our relief, and happiness, Smidge got better and we started out on our postponed trip to a nearby city. We'd arranged for his care with a responsible neighbour and the last we saw of him he was standing on our front steps as we drove off. We would soon find out that he'd outwitted us again!

We spent the night about two hundred miles from home and it was bitterly cold. The following day we shopped and then began the return trip. About half-way home, we stopped for a coffee break and when we restarted our journey home, the pitiful sounds of a cat issued from somewhere in the car. I looked at my husband in horror. "Stop," I cried, "we've run over a cat and must be dragging it along. Stop the car!"

My husband pulled into a parking lot and stopped. The cat's yowls were now very, loud. My spouse raised the hood and looked around beneath but we could see nothing unusual. Puzzled, we decided to go inside and have a cup of coffee, hoping that if there was a cat in there someplace, it would feel safe to emerge and go away if we left it alone.

We emerged from the restaurant about a half hour later and started the last lap of our journey. The cold intensified and as Murphy's Law prevailed, we had a blow-out about forty miles from home. We were on a lonely stretch and had no options but to change the tyre ourselves. As my spouse worked on the tyre, the cat tuned up again and became very vocal. It was a night to remember with the shuddering cold, the cat yowling like a banshee, and our teeth clattering like castanets.

Eventually we got back to our town and when we sped down our street and into the driveway, our daughter looked out the car window for her cat. Then it struck her!

"That's Smidge in the car. That's my cat. Get him out, Daddy, get him out!" We stared at her as though she'd lost her mind; it couldn't possibly be her cat, could it?

It was...

Once the serviceman had removed parts of the grill and horn, we dragged Smidge out of the curl of the fender, apparently none the worse for wear. We kept him in the house for a few days after his travel until we thought he could be trusted outside again. We watched him explore the yard and he seemed content, now he rarely goes outside unless it is a particularly sunny day.

Jaine, Ron & Daughter Jemmima  

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