Hey there! My name’s Parker. It used to be Shanti, but that was in my ‘old life’, before I lived with my Mama. When Candace at the SPCA rescued me, she told me that in order to start fresh, I should start with a new name. I didn’t mind, really. I don’t recall anyone ever calling me anything before. It was pretty quiet where I lived.
Er—I’m getting way ahead of myself here – let me backtrack and start at the beginning.
I was born…somewhere near Hamilton, I think. I don’t remember much because that was a loooooong time ago and I have all these new memories (good ones) that have replaced those bad ones in my brain. For as long as I can remember, I lived in a metal crate in the backyard. There were a lot of cats who kept me company out there – they’d pass by now and again and hang out beside me. I think they felt sorry for me. I didn’t mind their visits. They always had interesting stories to tell me about the “outside world” – a world I had never experienced.
I have to admit that even though I’m a dog, and dogs are supposed to want to eat cats, I rarely thought to feast on them… I mean, I was starving, but that would mean sacrificing story-time and the only friends I had.
I’d rather starve.
I lived there for a long time. Almost 21 years. A lot can happen in that time, but not when you’re locked in a crate. I didn’t know that though…I had nothing to compare it to – I just thought it was normal. Every now and again, “the People” (as I called them) would give me some food and water. It never seemed to last long enough, so I ate a little at a time so that I would be sure to have some the next day and the day after that.
After about 20 years like this, an old cat-friend came by and sat with me. His name was Harold. He was a really smart cat. He said that he had traveled the world and that he knew at least five cats in every city. He always had really good ideas – in fact, he’s the one who suggested to me that I “ration” my food and water instead of gulping it down. It’s a trick that cats use all the time – they don’t trust their “people” enough to know that the food will always appear when they’re hungry.
So, like I was saying. Harold came by that day and said that he had been asking around about these so-called “crates” and he had found out that you can actually open them up! What an idea!! Harold and I, we sat up talking for hours. We devised a plan of escape. He said that he would help me out after “the People” stopped making noise with their “people-friends” late the next night, as they always did. He said that he would climb up on their windowsill and make sure they were asleep before we started opening the crate. We would climb through the broken fence and make a run for it. He said that he had some cat-friends who were willing to let me sleep in the alley near them until I found a spot of my own in town. He would lead me to them.
I was so nervous and excited that I couldn’t sleep that whole night after Harold left to “see a cat about a dog”…whatever that means. I jumped at every sound, hoping that it was Harold returning to supervise “The Escape”, but it felt like hours before he returned.
Just like he had said, “the People” stopped making noise well after the streetlights came on and the crickets started singing. Harold sat up in their windowsill for a while, just to make sure they were “dead asleep” as he likes to say. He likes to make everything sound really dramatic, but I don’t mind much. He knows what he’s doing.
So Harold crept down and crossed the lawn to look me square in the eyes. He’s got yellow eyes that almost glow in the dark. He whispered to me “it’s time” and I took a deep breath. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and I was afraid “the People” would hear it and wake up before we could escape. I didn’t know what would happen if they did, but I’m sure they’d be really mad like they are when I’ve been howling on a particularly lonely day.
Harold stood up on his hind legs and used his paws and nose to edge this little crooked bar to one side. It felt like it took forever and it squeaked worse than that old mouse that Harold caught last summer. I was afraid we were making too much noise and wanted to call the whole thing off. Harold told me to be quiet and to use my paws and nose on the other “latch” at the bottom of the door. I did my best, but my paws are a lot bigger than his; so is my nose. All I could do is shove the door over and over with my nose, in the hopes that it would just open.
“Stop it! Just let me do it.” hissed Harold. He’s pretty serious sometimes – especially if he thinks I’m being too loud. I stood back a bit and let him work on it. It took some time, but he got both latches out of the way and stood down. He was huffing and puffing and I tried not to look him in the eye in case he was still mad at me. “Push on it!” he practically screeched at me. So I pushed with all the strength in my snout and within seconds, the door slammed open and knocked Harold flying in the other direction! He wasn’t phased; he crept over to me and we took off running, side by side, with our eyes as wide as my water bowl, towards the broken fence.
I can’t believe it! I’m free! I’m running! I haven’t run in years! I want to keep going – keep running forever! It feels so good that my tongue is flapping out the side of my mouth and all I can hear is the wind whooshing past my ears. We leap over the broken fence onto a grassy patch and keep moving. The wind is so loud, so I must be going really fast! So fast, that my eyes are playing tricks on me too – there are little lights that are moving so quickly in front of me and I think they’re fireflies like I’ve seen sometimes at night. I can hear Harold saying something and I respond with “yeah! Yeah! Let’s go!!” as if he’s encouraging me. He sounds really excited about something and I can’t tell if he’s happy or mad, but I don’t care! I’m running!!
All of a sudden, the wind sounds different; it sounds like a low growl. The little lights are so big that they blind me and I have to shut my eyes to get them to disappear. I hear this really loud noise, like a “THUNK” and then a really long screech and then the wind isn’t so loud anymore. It’s like I have a blanket over my head and it’s windy on the other side. I can hear Harold but he’s really far away. He sounds like he’s crying out for me and I hope he’s alright. I make out a few words that sound like “sorry, sorry, sorry” and I don’t know why he’s so sorry – we did it! We’re running away! But then I realize that I’m not running anymore – in fact, I don’t know what I’m doing. I felt like I was moving or floating, but now I just feel like I’m cold. My legs feel really heavy, and so does my head. I think that maybe I should have napped earlier because if I nap now, I may not make it all the way to those alley-cats Harold was telling me about, in one night.
I’ll just close my eyes for a minute, maybe two. I just feel so sleepy and heavy.