Most of the snow is melted out there, and new snow falling is pretty but not amounting to much as Mimi and I continue to “look for spring”, but four years ago this is what it looked like—nearly a foot of snow still to melt though it was warm and dripping, and that big branch had fallen from one of the neighbor’s maple trees and immediately became one of Cookie’s favorite places.
Cookie was my longest-standing garden kitty and browsing photos I often encounter her interacting with the yard, including these from March 2010, as the snow slowly melted after a series of heavy storms in February and on our first excursion outdoors in over a month she first discovered “the big branch” that fell from high up in one of the trees from the weight of the snow, its heavy end landing right next to the picnic table and the branches leaning on the fence. While I had every intention of cutting it to pieces and using them to trim my flower beds, Cookie immediately stepped up onto it and walked all over it; the branch would be her second favorite hangout for the next two years, and also became her step up onto her first favorite hangout, the picnic table.
Even though I shoveled paths into the snow it was weeks before it melted down to the soil, and at 17 Cookie finally found that walking on snow for any length of time was just too uncomfortable on her tiny tortie paws and she would wait on the deck or the steps for me.
One day enough snow had melted that she decided to follow me around as I filled bird feeders and Cookie explored her strange new world.
One of the most endearing things I always enjoyed about Cookie was her fearless curiosity. If there was something new, she explored it—a box in the house, my art materials, a visitor, Cookie immediately and wholeheartedly acquainted herself with it.
Curiosity is legendarily a cat’s province, but a reason to consider this a little extra special in Cookie was that she always had difficulty walking just from weakness in her hind legs, likely from her early deprivation. Even when younger she couldn’t run or jump very high and while still young quit jumping altogether to climb step by step onto things.
This never stopped her, and it didn’t even slow her down because she got herself everywhere she needed to go, and her ingenuity at finding a stepping stone path of different levels anywhere in the house to get anywhere she wanted to go is something I’ll always remember. She never complained, just happily made her way around things; as she grew older I surreptitiously added things she could step on in every room.
So I look at her on this log at the age of 17 with fine balance but without a whole lot of strength in those legs. She walked down the muddy path in the snow, met the branch and happily stepped up on it and looked around, took a few more steps up and looked again, then walked out as far as she dared, then walked back. She was also wise in knowing exactly how far she could go, literally, and still be able to get herself safely back to where she needed to be.
The branch fell at just the right time because the previous year she had been able to pull herself up onto the picnic bench, but it was an increasing struggle. The first thing the next spring the branch had fallen and I guess she thought it had been provided for her. She used it from then until just a few days before she died to both sit on, scratch on and step up onto the bench.
“It’s just a tree branch, and I’m a cat. What’s the big deal? I’ll still be doing this years from now.”
And in browsing yet another folder on my computer I found a folder of photos I’d been gathering to use for another totally separate blog entitled “animal photos” where I’d feature my cats and all the animals who lived out in my back yard. I’d forgotten all about that plan, and I need another blog like I need another cat (I always said that when I had nine or ten) so these photos, prior to my daily photo days, sat in the folder. The photo below is Cookie on the same branch, but a month later, in April. What a difference in the yard! And Cookie looks so happy.
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