Most times when it comes to pets you go looking for them. You decide the time is right and you take the steps to find a new member of the family. You go the shelter, maybe a pet store, you make yourself available to that phone call from a friend about puppies/kittens in a box outside a mall, you go online for a story.
But sometimes animals then pets find YOU. You read the tales, see the YouTube videos of animals being rescued from hell and the amazing recoveries and you imagine what you would do if, say, you were that person that saw a monster throw a kitten out of car, or if you came across a lost dog on a hike, or found one of the abandoned seemingly by chance.
I hate to say it but I didn’t think about Grayson this way, even though I had experience of being ‘found’. My Shoes (his name was Shoes) came from a pregnant cat who adopted my sister and brother and I when we shared a house together. Bella came from a shelter’s chance choice of my radio segment’s “Pet of the Week’. Benny and Merlin came from the broken promise of kittens waiting when there were none but they were left. Grayson? He seemed too ‘wild’, seemingly feral, an outside stray that would be too much for me and my Bella…I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d been ‘found’ again.
There’s a little stray gray cat who found himself to be doing what little stray gray cats do, just outside of my apartment. I noticed him a few weeks or so ago and he noticed me. It was certainly not love at first sight. He was not a fan, something he proved on Neosporin bandaid feral occasion. I would see him in my daily, scrawny with eyes seemingly tired,  filled with gunk wet and lonely. I, of course, had to start feeding him. Though surely appreciative of being fed he was aloof, solitary, sometimes combative and only seemed to mind me because of the meals.
But he became part of my daily, even setting my alarm on the weekends when the joy of sleeping in is overridden by obligation and a me in his shoes expectation. Little Bella has wondered of my new ‘friend’ and reminds me often of her wonder with her squeaks and talk and maybe even her upset, I’m not sure, not really privy, as much as I may like to think I am, to the thoughts of cats.
I initially named him ‘Gray’ even though a friend told me I shouldn’t give him a name. When I dared her to try not to do the same in a similar she ‘shussshed’ me and changed the subject. Yeh, I named him. It was, though, a name decidedly without distinction, too easy, too unimaginative. Calling a small gray stray ‘Gray’? Well that’s pretty simple Steve. So I decided on something a little more proper. ‘Grayson’
Thus, I’ve made a new friend and I see myself in him, fiercely independent but still in need of contact, a rub around some shoes, a scratch on the ear and even a wish of a belly rub with bad results. I’ve bled a few times.
Tara and Blake live downstairs below me. I try my best to tip toe around above their heads, though Bella with her wind sprints and counter down hopping surely raise an ear. My apologies you two. The only thing I requested when I moved in here was that I be on the top (3rd) floor, not a fan of folks living and walking on my noggin’, so I try my best to appreciate those that are stuck with mine. Grayson likes Tara, she has a good heart, and underneath her car is one of his favorite spots when he’s doing his cat lounging. It’s amazing how cats know that you’re cat people. I know that sounds like a bad movie title ‘Cat People’, I think it actually is one as a matter of fact though in a completely different vein. But that one surely doesn’t involve a sad mumu, a tub of ice cream and numerous litter boxes as this one might if I were inclined to wear a mumu and maybe a pair of crocs to the mailbox. Yeh, ‘Cat People’. Tara and Blake are such with their two, Little Foot and Riley, and Grayson knows that. I think he knows the same with me, but not without some damage.
Johnny is a very different older gent who lives in the building next to mine though I shouldn’t say ‘different’, gives the wrong impression, or it can. No, I’ll say unique and I have a feeling he has a life story that is well worth hearing. For now, though, he is just the older graying guy in a pony tail and Australian looking hat who has also taken a liking to Gray and will feed him on occasion and make sure his water bowl is full. He has even left cat food at my door for just such…surely I can provide the water.
Georgia is the pretty girl that lives next door to me, also on the 3rd floor. She has a cat named, I think, ‘Zaara’. I’m not entirely sure of that as she has always seemed a ‘Chloey’ to me but that’s probably for some reason that I’ve forgotten. Maybe an ex-girlfriend I don’t know. It surely has meaning somewhere. Anyway, Zaara, is allowed to be outside during the day and often will meet me around the same time as Grayson waiting for my return from the usual. She’s a big fan of people, ear rubs always welcome. Other cats? Specifically Grayson? Not so much. I’ve buffered on numerous occasions the two of them and, to Gray’s credit, he always takes the high road and backs away at my insistence.
Bob and Brenda live on the first floor below me with their front door facing the back parking lot. The two of them, especially Brenda, have come to find a new appreciation of cats through me it seems. They don’t have one as, ‘Sandy’, their lovable but not cat inclined dog would have none of such an arrangement. I came to know them as that is where I park and find nose kisses from Sandy. Brenda was a blessing to me when my Big Orange, ‘Shoes’, was in his final days, helping me with feeding he and Bella on my late homes and just eventually, simply spending time with Shoes, welcome company for him, during the day while I worked. She didn’t know cats until my two. She marvels at them and they with me. Bob, a gruff and good man also marvels. Sandy, as I just mentioned, has no love of cats, would probably eat one if given the chance, but Bob has noticed that Sandy has a certain respect for Grayson if she comes across him in her loungings and his travels. Thus Bob has the same respect.
Why the snapshot of my neighbors in a story of a little stray Gray cat? Because he has made his presence known to all of us. He has made all of us keep an eye. He is pretty smart that way….and lonely. I’ve heard he had something of a place with some guys that lived a few spots down from mine. At least they fed him and let him in on occasion I’ve been told. But when they moved they just left him. So yeh, he’s lonely.
Though Grayson and my Little Bella have come nose to nose a couple of times I’m not sure trying to bring him in is the best of ideas yet. Bella has firmly entrenched herself in my heart, even more so than on day one, a radio segment visitor from a local shelter, tiny on my chest in front of my microphone. Upsetting her balance is something I can’t do, especially after the loss of Shoes, her best friend and mine. I don’t want to disturb what has become her house, I just serve and gladly so. Though I realize Grayson has become calmer since taking him to get neutered he can still snap at on occasion and I don’t want any hurt to come to Bella. My idea was to fashion some sort of little cat house for him, something that I can’t afford to order from online cat stuff as they start upwards of too many dollars. So, I bought a large storage container, a run of carpet and duct tape. A little MacGyvering later (minus the high speed chases, gunfire and bad dialogue) I had built something that I hope he has the presence to use. I had also built something that was SO not pretty. If not, well, I have another idea, but, for the moment, while the weather is still strong, I’m working it.
There are two parking lots, one in front and one behind my place. I use the lot behind as my neighbors are always clamoring to be in one of the first couple of spots in the front even, I’m sure, thinking, agonizing about it on the way home from their day. I was the same when I first moved in until I realized that all this jockeying for spots was just dumb. I now just walk a few extra feet from the lot behind without the stress of that silliness. Just to the left of the last spot in the front parking lot is where I came to start feeding Gray, on the other side of a tree and next to a solid rock. Behind or beyond that is a bit of woods…and his tree stump. It’s about 2 foot tall and has a wide flat cut in it, after it was felled, that allows him a perfect perch to peruse his holdings as some sort of cat land baron. ‘All of this is mine’ I imagine he says. Growing up we had cats, lots of them, and mom was of the mind that they should be allowed the outside. The only problem was that we always lived by a busy road and that ended up poorly too many times. Thus why ‘house cat’ has always been the more appealing choice for me. Grayson, though, doesn’t have those concerns. The complex here is set back from the main road and there are woods, in front and back, there are places where cats can do what cats do without the concern. This is another reason I have difficulty taking that out of him, not even that that was something he would want. But I also realize that living in a complex like this provides too many variables of people, especially those that for some reason aren’t fans of cats and might try to do him harm. It’s tough line. 
I watched the other night, from my third floor window, Gray chase a blown leaf, grabbing and clutching with delight, like Bella with the numerous little stuffed mice that I throw. It broke my heart.
Grayson waits for me daily, knows the time after his morning feeding. If I’m to be late Brenda downstairs lends a hand. But a daily is just that. A daily. The daily’s pass and Spring and Summer don’t last. Seeing the weather alerts at work had me worried beyond worry. Freezing temps with snow and sleet. Yeh, the summer was done but Gray was still outside.
I’m a big fan of Ocean State Job Lot (a company name I’ve never understood), a monster store filled with…filled with just shit really…but in a good way. Craploads of non name brand stuff that function just a well as all the stuff it’s imitating. Anything you need you can find at Ocean State and cheaper. Kinda like the other store I’m a big fan of, Dollar General, the mini Walmart, but Ocean State is just bigger, more warehousey. When I go in there I always take the same route no matter what I’m looking for. All the way to the right of the store and then a hard left all the way to the other side. Kind of forward sweep because you never know what ‘new’ item you might trip on that you didn’t know you needed. Well that all the way to the left always brings me to the ‘pet’ section. Discounted food, kitty litter, pet beds, cat towers you name it….and pet cages. I had seen them, checked the price, had an idea but the weather was still good.
Then it wasn’t. Back to those freezing temps, snow and sleet weather alerts. I checked the only credit card I had, almost maxed out from Shoes and his surgery and final months of whatever comfort I could bring him. It had a $123 available. A large cage, a litter box and a cat bed came to $80 and change.
When I got home he was waiting, as always, this night curled up on the welcome mat cold and hungry. He got up, found my legs to rub around, grabbed a scratch on the ear and waited on the porch while I brought a big box in the house. After putting the cage together and setting it up with the litter box and pillow I went downstairs and led him inside to his dinner at the top of the stairs for the first time.
Grayson had his spot. Bella nosed. He ate and then slept like a stone.
His eyes seemed lazy. Lids half closed. I worried he was blind, or at least partially so. Every morning when he would be waiting for me in his spot on the porch, just outside my door I would look at those eyes and worry. I would wipe away what he would allow before a swipe of a paw. When I dropped him off at the local shelter to be neutered I asked if the Doc could look at his eyes, make sure he didn’t have an infection of some sort.
Picking him up later in the day, neutering done, I asked of his eyes. There was no infection I was told, but it was his eyelids that were the issue. The doctor shaved them down (at no extra charge). He wasn’t partially blind as I worried, the everyday lazy wet was not an infection. No, it was the eyelids and after that bit of work from a kind doctor? Grayson could now see the world in full, for the first time. I couldn’t imagine the same.
He was also slightly cross-eyed. Kinda funny actually after all that.
He was like the homeless you see depicted in the movies looking for shelter. Will Smith and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ comes to mind. As long as they get there at the right time and are early in the line they will get a spot. Grayson was the same way. He knew that as long as he was around when I got home he would get his room. And he did. Our clocks were worked. But I knew that this arrangement would only last so long. He WOULD get antsy. There was only so much of little Bella roaming and nosing that he was going to take. For me this was part of the process, Bella and he would get used to each other and I would get to a time where I had the money to take him for a blood test. But for him this process was getting cramped and, I’m sure in his mind, unfair. I didn’t blame him. I would have felt the same.
Because of this I decided to let him out and to roam the apartment on a couple of different weekends, all the while minding his interactions with Bella. The time spent every night at the top of the steps in his ‘room’ had grown them accustomed to each other but I still kept an eye. In the long run, though, I knew they would be alright. I knew it from the first time they were nose to nose at the bottom of the stairs when Grayson was still outside during the summer. No flat ears, no hissing, no backwards steps with fat tails. Just curiosity.
When I got the call from the doc on Grayson’s clean bill of health I was ecstatic. Not just because I knew he was not a danger to Bella from any cat disease but because I could finally stop the dance, the nightly choreography of Grayson, cage, litter box, Bella, cleaning his bed after one of many pukings, mornings followed by all day worries of him outside in the cold. No, I could now get to just being comfortable again, finally return to a two cat one human home, and he could do so for the first time.
I threw one end of a shoelace at him one night. If you know cats, well, you know shoelaces (anything stringlike) is wheelhouse stuff along with crumpled paper balls, bought stuffed mice, things with bells, even the rings from the tops of Gatorade bottles will work for playtime. For Grayson though, other than that time that I watched him lunge and dart after a blown leaf this stuff was kind of alien. He was alone for so long. No one bought him stuffed mice or crumpled up some paper or threw one end of shoelace at him…until now. He bounced! Bounced, front paws up, bounced like a tiny bucking bronco and ran right out of the room only to return two seconds later with his eyes wide. “Holy fuck!” I imagined him saying in his large gray head “Is this what cat’s do!?” He definitely liked the shoelace, though he treated it like it was live snake who said something about his mama. He also liked anything I eventually threw his way.
When I first took him to the vet to be neutered the doc estimated him to be just a couple of years old. He was now catching up on lost kitten time.
I was going to name another one ‘Sneakers’ in honor of Shoes. I had made some trips to the Dutchess County SPCA in search of company for Bella and I had had some nice conversations with an old radio acquaintance in Florida hoping to make a move if a job could be got. ‘Sneakers’ was going to be a new addition to the house, a long haired orange fella I met at the shelter. I had everything planned. Get the job, grab ‘Sneakers’ from the shelter, hop in the truck with he and Bella and start fresh in the sunshine. Leave NY behind again finally.
I was, though, feeding Grayson at the time and I won’t lie to you, I wasn’t thinking of him. If things had worked out I was going to try and get him to a shelter before I left or, worse, do the same thing the guys in the apartment down the way had done. Hope someone else would pick up the ball.
I’m not a fan of myself for that fleeting thought because I was so desperate to not go through another winter but I also knew that I could never have done that. Turned out it was Grayson who got me through that ‘another winter’.
The job didn’t happen, ‘Sneakers’ had issues I couldn’t afford and Grayson? Well, he kept me centered and reminded me of me. He gave me a purpose through the cold and the greatest of rewards. Obligation, a friend to teach and a friend found, weather be damned.
There’s a couple of swaths of brown paper covering the living room floor that I refer to as ‘crunchy’ paper, the kind used to pack things for mailing. They’re layed out on the living room floor like long crumpled throw rugs. This is a sort of cat bouncy castle just minus the bounce. Throw a stuffed mouse on the paper? Cat fun happens. Grayson has even figured out how to make makeshift ‘forts’ under raised parts of the paper where he waits to attack my feet as I walk by. He really is catching up fast on that lost kitten time.
When I first moved into this apartment, single again after a couple of years and a breakup that could easily be solely pinned on my inability to marry my solitary nature with contact, Bella and Shoes were my strength, my daily, especially Shoes as he was just my cat alter ego. Bella deferred to him but he also served as her foil and best company. She also knew, though, that she was my girl. But when Shoes passed away? We were…we were just missing. He was the glue.
So I had concerns about how Bella would deal with an addition and I didn’t think Grayson would be that one, feral, sometimes combative and extremely solitary? How could he be the fit? Yet I always knew he would and Bella agreed. Doesn’t make much sense does it?
You kind of have to drag it out of them but Tara and Blake downstairs will admit, occasionally, to the ‘slight’ noise. The tiny elephants that dance and wrestle and wind sprint above their heads. The ‘slight’ noise. Gotta love tiny elephants.
He nosed my nose and I flinched. I was used to Bella waking me nose to nose in the middle of the night and wanting to lie on my arm under the covers. Grayson? Not so much. I flinched because I still flinched. He was still a fan of swiping at me and making me bleed. But this night he nosed my nose, waited for me to pick up the covers a bit, burrowed his way against my chest and layed his head on my arm. 
I let out a breath, relaxed and Grayson? He was home.

7 thoughts on “Grayson

  1. This design is steller! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job.

    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you
    presented it. Too cool!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s