72. The Prodigal Cat

Dear Tera,

The days get longer and the sun warmer.  Winter still keeps a few blasts in reserve, just to remind us to be grateful for the days when the snow melts and new smells rise up from the mud.

A season when the sap runs and the urge to travel rises among many of us.  You may have noticed:  the telephone poles have been festooned with lost pet announcements.  Some have pictures of wayward animals who have wandered off.

Usually cats, you’ll notice.  This time of year, the cats are on the prowl.

A family had two pets.  The cat said to the Alpha, “Hey, you!  Give me all the pet food that is my share,” and the Alpha divided all the food between the cat and the dog.  And not that many days later, the cat gathered everything and went on a journey to a distant neighbourhood. 

But she squandered all her food there, and when she had no food left, and there was a severe famine.  Not even a mouse to catch. 

So the cat went and hired herself to watch the infants in a daycare. The toddlers would pull her tail for their entertainment, and squeeze her tightly. And she would gladly have filled herself with the milk in the baby bottles, but had to make do with the scraps tossed her way.

So she said to herself, “What am I doing here?  Back home, the family treats even the dog better than this.  I will go home and say to that guy with the can opener, I am no longer worthy to be called your cat.  Treat me as a dog.”

So she found her way back to her neighbourhood.  But when she was half way down the block, the Alpha saw her coming down the sidewalk, and he ran and scooped her up in his arms and stroked her sides and scratched her ears. 

And the cat said, “Alpha, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  I am not worthy to be called your pet.”

But the Alpha said to the rest of the family, “Quickly, bring a ball of catnip.  Bring her cushion and put it on our own bed beside our pillows.  And open a tin of salmon and let us celebrate.  For this cat of ours was dead and has come to life; she was lost and has been found.”  And they began to celebrate.

Now, the family dog was in the park fetching sticks, and protecting the children from squirrels.  When he approached the house, he heard the celebration.  And the neighbour’s dog said to him, “The cat has come and your pack has opened a tin of salmon.”

The dog became angry.  He did not want to go in.  And he said to Alpha, “Look!  For so many years I have served this family.  I have slept by the door to guard against strangers.  I have fetched balls and sticks and brought them back to you.  I have sat when you said sit; lain down when you said lie down; hung my head when you called me a bad dog; jumped with joy when you praised me.

“But when this cat returns, who has taken your generosity for granted, and treated us all with condescension, you open a tin of salmon for her.”

And Alpha said to him, “Dog, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours provided you don’t try to put your paws up on the furniture.  But we need to celebrate and rejoice, for this cat of ours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”

That’s the way of the world.  We accept our lot, and we hope that all those families who have posted notices on the telephone poles will be opening their tins of salmon very soon.

                                                            Off to guard the door,