Drawing something imprints it on my mind.
Back in the summer a furry black and white cat was living wild in our neighbour’s back garden; clearly visible from our bedroom window she was there day and night, curled up in the long grass or sheltering under bushes. I started to feed her under the fence.
This was not an attempt to befriend her but simply to supply her basic needs until we could find a better solution. (We already care for another neighbour’s elderly cat who doesn’t much like other felines and who has decided she likes our all-day company better than an empty house.)
As autumn approached we got her a weather-proof kennel and thought our garden might provide better shelter, so I approached her with cat-treats and talked to her, softly. She didn’t move, but when I was within striking distance she put her ears back and gave me a powerful left hook, claws out, catching me on the fleshy part of my outstretched hand. Bruised and bleeding I retreated and we both left it at that for a few days to think things over.
Black and white, and wild – so we called her Pinto, like a feisty little mustang. But every morning before breakfast I practise tai chi in the garden, and before long she started to appear over the fence and join me, weaving herself round my legs, and waving and curling her tail in the shape of a question mark. We fed her outside the patio door and she took up residence in the kennel, peeping out of the door like a miniature guard in a sentry box – black fur as soft and bushy as a bearskin helmet.
Finding a place for a stray cat in a rescue centre isn’t quick or easy. We tried to trace her owner without success and got her on a waiting list in two different centres, and meanwhile day by day she became more and more a part of our lives.
She must have thought so too because one morning she left us the gift of a freshly killed rat on the garden path. Still limp, its ruffled fur was slightly damp and I wondered at its long, strong tail and exquisite ears like tiny crumpled petals.
Last week one of the rescue centres offered us a place. For the next few days we let her into the house in preparation for her new foster home and she was calm, collected and perfectly behaved. I started sketching her as often as I could because I knew saying goodbye was going to be like losing part of myself, and I wanted to make the most out of our connection and remember every part of her.
Pinto has enormous paws. They’re like boxing gloves and she uses them like that – though softly now, without claws. Her silky black back is smooth and soft and rounded, and crouched over a food bowl she looks like a tiny black bear. Stretched out on the sofa she’ll roll on her back with her front paws folded under her chin and reveal her perfectly white chest and tummy. Watching her I could feel my heart soften and melt…..
The drawings aren’t important themselves, though. They’ve done what they were supposed to do, and imprinted the memory of her more clearly in my mind.