Mona joined me almost 17 years ago. It felt like a summoning: I was driving home after work, taking my favorite back road through the Yakima Canyon. The sun lay low against the hills, highlighting the ridges. I felt oddly compelled to stop, so I pulled off onto a side road that led to the wildlife refuge along the river to take some photographs from the field above.
Then my dog took me for a walk along the path to the river. I talked to him as we walked until I heard a high-pitched sound. Thinking I'd heard a hawk, I looked overhead. No hawk. Looked at the half-bare trees along the river. No hawks. I still heard the hawk-like sound, only now it sounded like a cat. There were no houses nearby, and I wondered if someone had dumped a cat. So, feeling only slightly foolish, I stood there and called. "Here, kitty kitty. Here, kitty kitty." over and over again. The sound stopped. I kept calling, wondering if I'd read too much into the wind, or is there was a cat taking a bead on the sound of my voice and making its way through the tall grass as fast as it could.
Suddenly I saw some movement about ten feet from the path, and a tiny fluffy tail popped up. And stayed. And stayed. I finally coaxed it out far enough to see it. It took my breath away: scrawny, but still gorgeous with long hair in blazing patches of orange, black, white, and butterscotch. She was frightened, and would approach and retreat, approach and retreat. My dog (a Llasa named Toby) was wonderful, sitting calmly in the path. When the kitten saw him, she went right to him-- mama-size, on all fours, and safe. I quickly swooped her up and put her inside my jacket. (I still have little claw marks where she grabbed on with all she had.)
I zipped up my jacket. She had shoved herself as far into the sleeve as she could, shaking. I drove the 20 miles home with her in my sleeve!
At home, she quickly adapted and she and Toby became close friends, a friendship that lasted the rest of Toby's long life. She mourned him as I did. When I moved to Vermont, I got her a companion cat, JellyBean, a rescue, to keep her company while I worked. Eventually, I got another dog, my chihuahua, Rudy, also a rescue, and they became friends, the three of them.
Today was Mona's last day. She passed away quietly this afternoon. Both JellyBean and Rudy are looking to me for comfort. I am certain they are aware of what just happened. I think they knew before I did.