Friday, September 28, 2007

Shark, kitties and the hurricane Rita

Two years ago I lived on the north end of Padre Island, an over hundred miles long, and mostly still undeveloped barrier island stretching from across the Corpus Christi Bay to the border with Mexico. It is a nice place, if you like wide, long stretches of sand, a decent surf, fishing and can live without forests, as the vegetation there is sparse. My apartment building was facing the dunes, the beach and the sea behind them. I have a cat, Rascal, a huge black and white "tuxedo":

Rascal loved the sunny dune- level balcony and frequently ate, drank and lounged there. Soon I noticed that a small, skinny cat was visiting him there and helping herself generously to his food, yogurt and his fresh, cold water. Rascal did no object, so I figured the visitor must have been a feline. She was very shy and ran away in panic as soon as she seen me coming, but I developed a habit of leaving her a generous helping of food on the balcony every evening.

A few weeks passed and I noticed that she started gaining weight and became less shy: now she would come also when I was sitting on the balcony, and a few times even ventured inside, helping herself to more of Rascal's food.

At the end of August I went on a couple of weeks long trip and asked my pet sitter to feed both Rascal and the stray, who now practically lived partially on the balcony and partially in the sand under it.

I came home one evening with a dengue-like symptoms, fever, headache, body ache, not really able to care that a hurricane Rita was approaching Texas coast - even though both Emilia and then Katrina taught us not to be too complacent about the possible danger. But I was too sick to care. I fed Rascal and the stray and collapsed onto my bed.

I woke up next morning still sick like a dog, barely able to open the balcony door for Rascal to go out, and just before I fell asleep again I heard that the evacuation of the entire north Padre Island was ordered by the city of Corpus Christi by 2 pm the next day, when the bridge to the fast land would be closed. Oh, good, I have 30 more hours, I thought while falling asleep again.

A couple of hours later I woke up to some strange noises coming from behind the iron-work headboard of my bed, which was placed in a corner of the bedroom, on the diagonal, to assure the best view from the bed. I lifted my very heavy and very achy head a little, looked through the iron lattice of my headboard.... and could hardly believe my eyes. There, in the triangle was the stray from the balcony and four tiny, apparently quite newborn kittens, still blind and barely crawling.

I looked through the window and saw that the sea had already swallawed the entire beach and the waves were already rising above the dunes. No wonder this cat mama sought shelter for herself and her offspring. But now I was responsible for evacuating not only myself and Rascal, but this new family addition, too. Oh my, oh, my.

I willed myself - it wasn't easy in my condition - to get up and prepare my car for the trip across the bridge. I managed to lug over some hard to replace documents and necessary supplies (mainly water and cat food) to the car... and fainted after the second or third trip.

No, I decided. That would not do. I need to get stronger to be able to drive myself and the cats off the island and to the safety of the Texas Hill Country where my friends still lived, since shelters refused to take pets and all the hotels in the 250 mile radius were already booked.

My daughter called and asked if I was about to evacuate and whether I've taken the family albums with me. OK, I promised not to leave the family albums behind and told her I would be evacuating tomorrow, just well before the bridge closed. I did not tell her I was sick and I did not tell her that I have now been appointed a guardian to a stray cat - which I named Shark, since she came from the sea (well, almost) and had very sharp little teeth - and her four off springs. Daughter was too far away to be able to help, so stressing her out would be pointless. I ate some consomme, took some pills, slept most of the afternoon and all evening, fed the cats, ate some more consomme and slept all night to the melody of Shark's and Rascal's content purring and tiny noises made by the kittens behind my bed. When I woke up the next morning, I was feeling better, the island was almost deserted, there was not a single bottle of water and not much gas left at the only still opened gas station, and the water level in the sea was as high as the day before. I ventured as far as to the bridge leading to the fast land and saw that the water level in the bay was also terrifyingly high, almost touching the bridge's driveway at lower levels.
But the sun was shining and the sky was as blue as it could be. It didn't look like an approaching hurricane at all. And then I heard an announcement that the hurricane Rita moved towards Texas-Louisiana border and the evacuation of Padre Island and Corpus Christi was called off, because we were no longer in danger.

And Shark's kitties could now grow and prosper in safety. cared for by both Shark and Rascal, who gladly - or at least patiently - assumed a role of a daddy .

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