Kat is a creature magnet. At home in Canada she had a habit of rescuing/capturing everything that came her way, from snails and leeches (yes I know) to snakes. We had a cat, Indy, who was a regular on her bed, sleeping together. So we shouldn’t have been surprised in rural France, in a farmhouse set in peach fields, to find a steady stream of creatures making their appearance in our lives.
Lizards were standard on the warm rock walls of the mas (farmhouse) but were just for viewing since they had a habit of losing their tails if you caught them, which didn’t seem fair. Tris and the kids had a tail tasting session after a particularly large lizard escaped with his life but not his tail, and I seem to recall there was frying and salt and a general consensus of rubbery.
One early capture was one of the snakes that we frequently heard rustling in the undergrowth as we walked by. Kat showed up with a plain, grayish snake a foot long, in raptures (“Isn’t he GORGEOUS”). How about: is he harmless? Turns out he was, and in fact was not even a snake, but a legless lizard (who didn’t shed his tail), who hung out with Kat for a couple of days in a chilled out way before his release.
And then there was a large toad, collected after heavy rains when the dirt road up to the mas was hopping with toads. He lived in a box in Kate’s room for a couple days, escaping overnight from the box to my consternation. She also rescued a bat one evening from the pool, and looked after a couple of baby mice.
But the biggest interruption to our family was the kitten. We were by the pool when meows alerted us to the tree by the parking area, where a small grey kitten shivered and meowed in its branches. We lifted her (a female as it turned out) down and it was obvious she was starving. There followed two months of cat care and more dollars spent than we’d spent on health care of Indy, our cat in Canada, in a decade. She had diarrhea which took 2-3 months to resolve, and it fell to Kat and I to clean and scrub several times a day. We had her spayed at 6 months to avoid any more starving creatures on our watch. And she eventually turned in to a chubby, sociable furry soft gray ball who loved to have her tummy rubbed.
We planned to bring her back to Canada (after trying to shop her around unsuccessfully), pet passport and all, but she took control of her own fate. Tris returned to pick her up from our friends who were caring for her after our 6 week summer trip, on his way to the airport with our extra stuff, and as she was being passed over to him some hint of her fate (crate, flight, deported from her country of birth) must have washed over her subconscious (either that or she associated Tris with early day vet trips), and her claws flew out, her tail bushed, and howling and spitting she wrest herself from his grasp and headed at speed into the underbrush. And so she remains Français, and I picture her with a little beret enjoying the sun.
Meanwhile Kat’s pet adventures continued. I came out in to the yard one day to see her approaching down the lane with -squint – was that a big fat rabbit? in her arms. Yes, fat, floppy eared, and blind, both eyes having been pecked out, we surmised by chickens on the nearby farm. She and her siblings attempted to tend and feed him veggie treats until he fled, possibly back to his original chicken coup.
And then finally we became temporary surrogate parents to a fledgling goldfinch, rescued from the yard on his inaugural flight by our neighbours, fearing the 2 cats wouldn’t give him a chance. They passed her over with the following note: “Dear Kat, Looks like the little bird made it through the night. We thought you might like to look after the little fellow until he can fly. Good luck, Charlie”. Of course, she did like, but off she went to school, after trying to feed the bird a strange mixture (egg bits? and snail parts? I forget) and hastily assembling a home for her in a toy bird cage, leaving Hope in my care.
We named her Hope, and Hope quickly escaped her temporary home and hopped around our house that morning peeping and pooping. After some research, I took her back to the location she showed up from, then hung around at a distance to fend off cats, while Hope hopped around peeping frantically. After about 10 minutes, a pair of goldfinch arrived, and dive bombed her repeatedly, shoeing her off in to the undergrowth. Hopefully she safely managed her next phase of life.
I am not sure if we will have Smoky and/or Indy with us in France this year but I am pretty sure there will be other unexpected new visitors!
Class trip bird sanctuary.