Fog socked in the bay, the first hint that the end of summer might be near. Jogging along the path that hems the bluffs, I repeated thankful prayers that the heat might finally be ending. All the talk of pumpkins and colored leaves would no longer make me angry once the heavy blanket of summer temperatures lifted.
As I approached the familiar faded sign threatening a $500 fine for anyone who abandons a domestic animal, a moving shape in the brush caught my eye. Slowing down to a walk, I recognized the leonine gait and tiger stripes of a cat.
Ordinarily, I’d have resumed my earlier pace and not given the cat another thought. This one, however, looked just like our cat Simon, who had been hit by a car three years ago. Any time I see a Simon-cat, I pause and compare; probably out of habit, but possibly because if any animals are capable of reincarnation, it’s cats.
Simon-cat stopped and stared at me, and that’s when I noticed the movement behind him. Some kind of metal bench had been erected in the hillside thicket of dry bushes, and atop it a gang of cats hovered. I ended up counting nine, all various types of tabby and tiger-striped, save for one token gray kitty. They all stared at me with typical feline blandness.
A further scan of the hill yielded another seven cats, as well as a make-shift lean-to fashioned out of blue tarp, bamboo and palm fronds, all hidden within the brush. Nearby, I saw evidence that someone had taken it upon themselves to feed and water the cat colony; a series of bowls lined up next to the cat shanty.
Some of the cats groomed themselves in their strangely yogic way, all spread limbs and sinuous positions. Others sat meditatively in tucked up balls of fur.
Was this the reason for the sign posted up the hill? Did people really just dump their animals at the beach, hoping for the best?
Sadness filled my veins in that peculiarly watery way only stray animals can provoke. It’s the sort of sadness that urges me toward the impulse to adopt them all, which is why I avoid adoption day at our local pet store. Coming home with a carful of cats would not be good for my marriage.
So I did what I always do when my heart breaks for homeless animals; I steeled myself up and kept going, hoping to forget it in a few hours…or days.
After jogging another thirty or so yards though, I noticed a form under a sleeping bag on one of the benches dotting the path. This was definitely not a mere park patron enjoying the cool offshore breeze and view of the harbor. This someone was sleeping. Nearby, the telltale backpack decorated with grime told the rest of the story.
I kept jogging. Unfortunately, a person on a bench is a much more common sight than public housing for felines. Still, the sadness coursing through my system felt different this time.
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