In 2008, I baited a live trap and caught her. I got her spayed and ear-tipped, knowing she would always be wild. In fact, she broke out of my office the night I locked her there to recover from the spay. But she came to expect the food. We worked out an understanding, of sorts. I wouldn't try to tame her, she wouldn't run from me.
Each autumn, I left the fair to move back to the city, knowing that I would worry about her making it through the winter. I left an automatic feeder, outdoor heating pad and a heated water bowl. It was never enough, though: I had to drive down and check. I think the moment I got her spayed, I had to assume responsibility for her.
So in 2010 I trapped her one more time - it took days because she was wise to me by then - and moved her to the farm where I kept my horses. Up in the hayloft, I released her from the trap. She darted to the wall opposite of where I crouched. "This is where you live now, Harlotta," I told her. "I can feed you every day and you can be master of all you survey. Please stay here."
And she did stay. Even when that farm blew apart and I had to leave, she stayed. It was impossible for me to catch her and take her with me. Instead, someone very kind there took over for me. I brought food out from time to time, and I knew she was all right, but it haunted me that I'd left her. It didn't matter to her, though, and why should it have? Her needs were met, and they continued to be met after I was gone.
She listened to me. She never left that farm, and that's where she died, in her sleep, on Sunday morning. Now I can let go of her in the only way I ever wanted to, with peace of mind and relief. Hers was a life lived so roughly, but still, it ended in a better place.