AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE
St. Anthony, whose feast day was June 13, has always been a favourite saint partly because my father was named for him and partly because he’s the saint in charge of lost things. My mother claimed on occasion to have found lost articles after praying to St. Anthony, but I can’t say it’s ever worked for me. I feel a little guilty asking for favours anyway.
The communion of Facebook was in on the hunt too — Linus’ picture
was posted on the SPCA site and supporters and well-wishers wrote encouraging
messages with helpful suggestions. One of the Prairie Messenger columnists
was even praying a nine-day novena to St. Anthony; and Rose, the dear
lady who looks after our cats when we’re away, called to say she
was walking the neighbourhood calling his name. She even had a picture
of Linus and was showing it to the A&W coffee crowd just in case.
On the evening of the seventh day, a rainy and cold one at that, the doorbell rang and when Russ told me it was our neighbour Dick at the door, my heart skipped a hopeful beat. Dick is a resourceful man in his 60s who has the energy and exuberance of someone half his age. His dark eyes shone as he brandished a hand-drawn diagram of the underside of their backyard shed. It seems Rocky (an English Springer Spaniel whose ebullience surpasses that of his master) had been nosing about the shed for days and it occurred to Dick and his wife Jeannie that perhaps something was underneath. “I can see some fur under the shed, but can’t tell,” he said, “and I know you’ve lost your cat. Do you want to have a look?”
I thought of asking Dick if a guy named Anthony had sent him.
I leaned into the tight space between the shed and fence and couldn’t see anything but when I called Linus’ name a dirty paw flashed out, and there was a barely audible mew. On the alley side Dick tore away the lumber that blocked skunks and other undesirables access to the space beneath. Somehow Linus had found a way in. Lying on a piece of board in the mud, in the rain, Allison and I shone a flashlight into the darkness beneath. Linus was trembling and crying, but he wouldn’t come to us.
The local SPCA suggested a cat trap and I felt optimistic, but when I saw the mean-looking thing I wasn’t as sure. We baited it with salmon and I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. to get up and check, just in case. An alley is a foreboding place in the middle of the night. The next day Dick called to say he’d added sardines because of the stronger smell, and had fashioned a tarp over the covered trap to make it seem more inviting. I was certain Linus was much too intelligent to be lured into such a contraption. Indeed, a neighbour across the alley saw him sniffing it from the outside.
The next evening Linus sauntered into our yard and dashed into our own shed where he pretended to evade capture and I pretended not to notice how feeble his struggle was when I finally had him in my arms. Even cats have to save face.
I don’t know if St. Anthony answered my prayer to bring that little cat back. What I do know is that we depend on the kindness of everyday saints like Dick and Jeannie, and Rose, and the random strangers we encounter all the time when we need a helping hand. No guilt required. And never underestimate the value of a curious canine like Rocky.