It's all wrapped up in animals. I flinch outside and cry inside whenever I see a dead animal in the road. We have 11 cats, and all but three of them are rescues, dumped at the festival or brought to us in a box. If I'd known such a thing existed when I was young, I might have wound up running an equine rescue. I've always had the impulse of kindness and care toward animals, sometimes to the point of, well, craziness.
So I've been caring for a feral cat for five years. She lives on the festival grounds. Three of her kids live in our house, and I've adopted out the rest of four litters over the years. In the summer of 2009, a friend and I decided to stop the madness of endless kittens. We trapped her and had her spayed and ear tipped.
I found out then that Harlot, as I called her, was about 10 years old. After her spaying, she eased right into a life free of one-night stands and became semi-attached to her gravy train -- namely, me. Harlot will never cross over to the dark side, where we humans live, though. She will always be wild.
I spend the winter months telecommuting to work, which is a nice thing, but I've never been able to relax into it because of Harlot. Even though I had an automatic feeder and a heated water bowl for her, I worried too much. I had bad dreams about her during the worst nights of winter and often ended up driving to the site to give her a warm meal and check her supplies.
This year, as the festival ran its course, I began to fret about Harlot. Arthritis has slowed her, and she's become insistently dependent on me to feed her. I worried about her ability to survive another winter of bitter cold, not to mention the coyotes and huge raccoons trolling for snacks. I stayed at my place on the site until the last possible day mostly so I could look after her. Then, during a trail ride a couple of weeks ago, my madness spurred me and I blurted out to E, "If I can catch her, could Harlot come here to the farm?" And she said yes. My heart just soared.
On Friday, I set the live trap for Harlot, but she's wise to it. The last time she got in it, she came back missing part of an ear and all of a uterus. She chose not to eat. The belly always wins, I reminded myself as I slowly drove away, leaving her without food for the weekend. The belly always does win. I got her today, not five minutes after baiting the trap. Tonight she's snug in the hayloft, her feeder and water set up in a dark corner. It always feels good, the will to care, especially when you can do something about it. Welcome home, Harlotta.