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Tuesday, July 23 2019
The Curious Tail of Bob

I stared at the chicken wing on the ground, its feathers waving in the breeze. Maybe the joke was on me. That chicken had
been alive an hour ago. Perhaps the fuzzy bobtailed butt I saw running in the dark a few nights earlier hadn't been a
stray cat, but was instead a young bobcat. Maybe. I chewed on that thought as the dog and I pieced together what was left
of the chicken.

The dogs had announced his presence under the tractor mower deck that night. Since it was the dead of winter and I wasn't 
worried about rattlesnakes, I leaned down for a peek. The dogs crammed in beside me. The cat shot out the other end. In
the dark he appeared to be tabby and white, with no tail. I was dumbfounded. How did a cat find his way to our ranch? He'd
have had to brave coyotes and Anatolian Shepherds to even get close enough to find a bowl of catfood. But as his
bobtailed butt disappeared beneath the cabin, I had to grudgingly give him credit for making the journey. And I filled the
catfood bowl. 

So days later, I stared at the chicken wing waving in the winter wind and questioned both my eyesight and my judgement.
Did I see a domestic cat? Or juvenile bobcat? The catfood bowl and the chicken coop were a mere twenty feet from each

A few days later all hell broke loose in the haybarn. I rounded the corner to see my black barn cat in a knock-down-
scratch-his-eyes-out with a large tabby and white bobtailed cat. On the one hand, it was nice to know that my eyesight
wasn't failing, on the other hand I was not happy to see a strange tomcat beating up the rightful inhabitant of my
haybarn. I slung a shovel at them and the tomcat ran off behind the tractor. The black cat spat out a few cuss words and
left. And thus Stage One of Bob's plan for Occupation was complete. 

He started in the haybarn. It was winter. He was hungry. We made no effort to evict him. Instead we left a bowl of food  
near the tractor and bid him good hunting. Because he had no tail and we had no imagination, we named him Bob. For a few
months he was a tabby and white shadow, skulking around corners. Then one day, one curious day, Bob appeared in the feed
room. Unbeknownst to us, Stage Two of his Occupation plan was unfolding.

We live in a barndominium. A house in a barn. With the animals. My living room door opens up into a paved barn aisle with
three stalls and feed room. The feed room is simply a stall with a metal gate. It contains several feed bins, a saddle
rack, a woodburning stove, and a shelf that is filled with items which should be tossed but that Other Half has declared
that he cannot live without. They are covered in dust and he has no clue what is on any of the shelves but he squeals like
a kindergartener at the mere mention of tossing them in the trash, so there they sit. Collecting dust. And bobtailed cats.
Bob took up residence in the feed room.

The first few weeks, much like Alice's Cheshire Cat, he was just a pair of eyes floating in space. Sometimes on the dusty
shelf. Sometimes behind the stove. Sometimes behind a bag of feed. We got used to Bob being there and enjoyed our glimpses
of him. The other four barn cats keep the rodent population under control, so we didn't need Bob, but we admired his
pluck. He had somehow managed to avoid being killed by coyotes and Livestock Guardian Dogs to end up in the barn. Home
base. Tag. You can't kill me here. 

And he was right. They couldn't kill him here. There is a strict NO KILLING CATS policy in the barnyard and this extends
to stray cats too. Bob basked in the glow of his newfound safe base. He had everything a cat would need here. Food. Water.
Shelter. The humans even gave him a real bed. Stuffed. Like from a Pet Store. It was a hand-me-down dog bed that the other
cat had peed in and the chickens laid eggs in, but Bob wasn't choosy. A bed was a bed. A bed was a home. Stage Two of
Occupation was complete. 

The beginning of Stage Three was heralded in with a yowl. A demanding, mournful yowl. The kind of yowl that announces to
the world that a cat is ever so hungry, and in fact his belly must surely be rubbing his backbone despite the full bowl of
catfood not three feet away. It was that kind of yowl. Bob began talking to us. Humans are easily trained and so each time
he yowled, we talked back to him. We made sure his little bowl was full. Humans are clever that way. Soon Bob became
bolder. He spent more and more time in plain view. No longer content to eat from his little bowl behind the stove, Bob
wanted to eat on top of the feed bin with the other cats. In plain view. When he caught you watching him, Bob froze, and
hissed soundlessly, then slunk back behind the stove. After a couple of months of this, something changed. Bob changed his
mind. It was so sudden that it caught me by surprise. Like a summer thunderstorm. Or a plant sale at Tractor Supply.

Bob wanted to be a pet. A pet. Like, me touching him. Petting him. This cat, who for months hissed and spat at everyone
who noticed him, suddenly flipped a switch and announced that he wanted to be a housepet. Well, not in the house. In the
barn. He "wanted" in the house. He started lurking at the back door. Demanding attention. The very cat who slunk in the
shadows for months made every effort to convince us that he was a most friendly chap who was quite deserving of a head rub
and yes, please, a back scratching. He arched his back and rubbed against my leg. I wasn't buying it. 

I like cats. I do. I like cats that I have raised from kittens. Cats who have had their shots. Tame cats. Cats who do not
ask to be petted and suddenly change their mind and bite you. Forgive me if I'm leery of a feral cat who swam through a
moat filled with raccoons with distemper to get to my back door. So I refused to pet Bob even when he rubbed against my
leg repeatedly. Other Half gave in quickly. He's friendlier than I am. He hasn't shot a raccoon with distemper yet. Soon Bob
and Other Half were friends. But Bob was not satisfied. Bob wanted the complete conquest. Bob wanted in the house. 

I assured him that was not going to happen. And even as I made this promise, I wondered. How did that cat get here? I
reached out to neighbors. Nobody was missing a tabby and white bobtailed cat. From his behavior, it was clear that Bob had a
home at some point. He loved. He was loved. My first clue came when he shed out for the summer. 

Being quite pushy, it was hard to see the back view of Bob's butt because his head was always in your face, demanding
attention. But as he got friendlier, Bob moved his homebase from the feed room to the top of the dog kennels at the back
door. (Just in case you changed your mind about letting him in the house.) This put Bob's butt at the right height to view
his tail. Bob did not appear to be a natural bobtailed cat. In fact, he appeared to have an anal prolapse. (No, I'm not
taking him to the vet for it. He has functioned quite well since last winter, it hasn't killed him yet. His next trip to
the vet will be to have those balls cut off.) After Bob shed out it was easy to see that he had two scars on either side
of his body. I had a cat with scars like that once. He'd been caught in the fan belt of a truck. Perhaps Bob had been
caught up in a fan belt thus resulting in scars and an anal prolapse. It is possible that Bob was either dumped
on the main gravel road a mile away or he rode in the truck until it stopped or he jumped out. No matter what happened,
Bob managed to survive his injuries and ended up in our barn. 

The true tale of Bob's journey to us may never be known. We were not looking for another cat but it appears we have been
conquered. I have given in and am now scratching his head and giving him back rubs. I realized that Stage Four of Bob's
Occupation was complete when I took pictures of him and posted them on Facebook to see if anyone could provide more clues. 

"If you don't want, we'll take him," a neighbor friend answered.

Oh dear. Getting rid of Bob hadn't quite crossed my mind. After all, he'd worked so hard to fit in here. My neighbor was not more than two miles away, so Bob would probably end up back in our barn anyway. Besides, he was annoying, but Stage Four of his Occupation was complete. Bob already had a home. 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 06:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
I have really enjoyed reading all your blogs. Now that Bob has become a fixture you should read A Street Cat Named Bob. I have lived with Border Collies for over twenty years and loved their antics. I have been involved with SAR K9s most of that time and finally one of the BCs convinced me to become an HRD K9 handler. I was delighted to see a new blog today, I am requesting your book for Xmas.
Posted by Doree Donovan on 07/24/2019 - 05:25 PM
Wonderful! That's great news!
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 07/24/2019 - 10:45 PM

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