Sometimes, our cat, who had been a semi-feral stray before we adopted him, likes to sleep in the barn, rather than come in at night. He’s mostly an indoor cat, but because of his origins, he was wretched at being kept in a hundred percent of the time. So we let him out, and he follows McIrish in the garden, or sleeps on the porch, flicking his tail, watching the hummingbirds with one eye. The barn is full of strange napping places (and mice), and he loves it in there as well. We often find him sleeping in the middle of a patch of flowers, crushing them, the only creature McIrish tolerates messing with his garden.
Last night, McIrish checked to see if Huck was on the porch, gave him a call and thought he was spending the night in the barn. (I was unaware of this…I always get him in, no matter how long it takes).
Around 3:00 a.m., McIrish bolted out of bed saying, “Huck! Huck!” and dashed outside in his boxers. I caught the end sounds of a cat in distress.“No!” I wailed and followed, taking the time to put on my boots and a jacket. McIrish was already in the valley with a flashlight, calling our cat’s name. Our woods are thick and go on forever, and my heart was already sinking.
We have coyotes in our woods, and fisher cats, and owls. In fact, an owl was hooting, and I thought maybe the owl had tried to swoop up Huck, then dropped him somewhere, so I was heading toward the sound, hoping to find my kitty. Hoping my flashlight would catch the patch of Huck’s white fur in the darkness, or the gleam of his eyes. I was already picturing his injuries, and imagining how long it would take us to get to the 24-hour vet in the next town…or if it would be too late.
After ten or fifteen minutes of tromping around, I decided to change directions.
“He’s gone, honey,” McIrish called from another part of the valley.
“Was it a coyote?” I asked.
“I think so.”
I could hear the sadness in my husband’s voice. Huck likes him best, and not one evening passes without the cat sitting on his lap, purring. Only when McIrish isn’t home are the kids and I graced with Huck’s presence. If it was a coyote, Huck was dead already.
The kids would be so sad. We would all be so sad. I started to cry.
And then… “Huck!” McIrish called. “He’s here! I got him!”
By the time I had thrashed my way back to our yard, McIrish and Huck were inside. Our kitty wasn’t hurt at all. Apparently, he’d been sleeping on the porch, right outside our bedroom window, and a coyote ambled past. Huck had growled, then yowled, and when McIrish dashed out, the coyote ran one way, and Huck ran another. His fur was still all puffed up, and he tried to wriggle away as I checked him for injuries.
“No more sleeping outside!” I said to both husband and cat.
“No,” McIrish agreed sheepishly. “I did tryto get him in.”
Huck jumped up on his lap and started to purr. “He’s thanking his hero,” I said, watching the pair, feeling slightly snubbed. “There’s no A for effort where Huck is concerned.” But McIrish had been the one to hear our kitty, had been the first one out, scaring off the coyote, had been the one to find Huck crouched in the underbrush.
“You were great,” McIrish said generously, petting his little buddy. Outside, the birds started to sing. We put Huck in the cellar on his kitty bed and went back to sleep (eventually).
I’m so glad on this Father’s Day we didn’t have to deal with the loss of our friend. I’m glad we didn’t have to tell the kids our cat was gone. I’m glad to have the type of husband who will charge out into the dark woods in boxer shorts to save the cat. Imagine what he’d do to protect our kids.
Way back when, on our first date, I asked McIrish if he had any pets. He did, he said—a kitten named Joe, who had approached him in the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn during a thunderstorm, tiny and soaking wet, mewing. “If you come inside,” McIrish had told him, “you can be my cat.” Joe agreed.
I think that was when I knew we’d get married.
Happy Father’s Day, honey—from me, the kids, the dogs, and Huck especially this year.