Here are two pieces of free advice:
1) Don’t bet against old men.
2) Don’t attempt to outrun old cats.
Failure to follow that first piece of guidance can leave you penniless after penny-a-point poker at the church picnic.
Failure to follow the second principle can leave you flailing into the Tabby’s Place parking lot like the Empress Of Dunderheads.
Writing from the throne of a certain empire, I can explain.
Jasper* came to Tabby’s Place suggesting many things without a word.
His flattened fur and foggy, faraway eyes did all the talking. This was a cat who had seen the march of time. Eons and presidencies and multiple Fleetwood Mac reunions had all passed before that hazy, glazy gaze.
Jasper was, by any standards, old.
I believe “older than dirt” is the official geological term.
Jasper was also a survivor. As the story goes, a roving band of Good People witnessed an unimaginable feat by unidentified Desperate People on the New Jersey turnpike. The latter crew unceremoniously released Jasper from their Meanmobile. Some reports say he was thrown, but even the “gentlest” version of this story is horrid enough.
Jasper was jilted on the highway, with no way of knowing either his exit or which way he was bound.
But however much cold-hearted desperation traipses our turnpikes, goodness abounds all the more. Those Good People got the old hobo, and they got him to Dr. Fantastic, and from there, he got to Tabby’s Place.
For us, the trip had only just begun. And, kittens, it’s a long, strange, splendid trip we’re in for.
Amazingly unscathed by his highway hijinks, Jasper is nevertheless life-weathered. You don’t outlive the dinosaurs without a few scars/merit badges, and Jasper has more than his share. Count with me:
- Heart disease;
- Early renal failure;
- The Diabeetus;
- A life-threatening case of wanderlust.
Which brings me back to my sober advice to you at the start.
You would think — if, that is, you are a human, and thereby possessed of a small but well-meaning brain — that a cat with Jasper’s past would be elated to move to Tabby’s Place. He’ll love the lobby! we whooped in the way of idiots. He’ll be happier than Kanye West live-tweeting his own Nobel Prize acceptance speech!
And you wouldn’t be wrong, exactly. But you’d be thinking too small.
Even after his outdoor ordeal, Jasper is a man of the world, and the Tabby’s Place lobby is simply not enough world for him.
He’s a canny cat, though, and he kept this from us for
a very long time at least 18 hours. When we first moved him to the lobby, Jasper appeared set to conduct an act of civil disobedience, sitting backwards in his crate and refusing to emerge. Pet me here. Do not expect me to exit. I shall not be moved.
It was all a bluff.
One hour, with no previous indication, Jasper slinked out of his staging area…and put his hand to the plow. The front door was his goal, and beyond that — well, we don’t know where Jasper meant to go. Perhaps South Dakota is in his sights, or Amsterdam, or Djibouti.
And he still means, with all his might, to go there.
Yesterday, I made the mistake I earnestly implore you to avoid: I underestimated Jasper.** As I came in from getting the mail, the old tom was poised in his new-usual spot by the front door. He’d just been bathed, making him look even skinnier and smushed-ier than usual, his face and fur askew at all angles. But even at his most polished moments, Jasper’s weary-eyed essence shouts “OLD!” Even if you’d just landed from another galaxy and knew nothing of cats, you’d immediately recognize that this was a long veteran of reality.
Most creatures so shamelessly senior move on the slower side.
Jasper, however, is not a creature of any common characteristics.
I opened that front door expecting, at worst, that Jasper would totter towards my ankles to make his escape. I’d stop him, of course, just as I’d easily stopped fellow escape-minded lobbyist Morgan a thousand times before. Jasper had five or ten centuries on Morgan, so I couldn’t imagine he’d even get to the threshold before me.
Be it known: Jasper bossa nova-ed across that threshhold, weariness gone from his wild eyes, and proceeded to run into the parking lot.
I am not exaggerating. I am not being cute. Jasper ran, a la deer and antelope and Usain Bolt.
Jasper also, very easily, outran me.
Because God has a good sense of humor and a determined plan to kill my pride, approximately 400 vehicles arrived at just this time, all packed with good-looking men, pointing and laughing at me and throwing rotten vegetables.***
Ego slain and Jasper quickly headed for the Pennsylvania border, I finally caught up to the old tabby, scooped him into my arms and ferried him back to the lobby, where he proceeded to scream like a demon and attempt another escape.
Lest you fear that Jasper will finally outwit and outrun us and get himself into real danger, I hasten to assure you: we’re not going to let that happen. At this stage of the game (and it is clearly, in Jasper’s eyes, a game), we’re attempting to deter him from the door with a squirt bottle. Failing that, we may need to banish the old sprinter from the Lobby. (We’ve only banished three cats from the Lobby in Tabby’s Place history, and this Houdini stuff has always been the reason.)
In the meantime, though, we’re learning at the grizzled knee of a wise old warrior.
And practicing our wind sprints just in case.
*I have no idea why his adopt-me page says he is seven years old. Jasper is at least fifteen, possibly seventy-five. Actually, I know exactly why his page says he’s seven. He has WiFi access in his crate and is manipulating his own profile for online dating purposes.
**And overestimated myself, which is perhaps even more foolish.
***Now I am exaggerating. But only slightly.
Photo credits from de top: Mary B, Karina, Mary, AT X3