The Amazing Brave Cat Aggie

Lessons in Kitty Speak

by Lynn Seely

Lynn & Mesha at the trackI looked at the quarter-mile track and sighed. The white lane-lines were freshly painted and seemed to mock me. Surely they were there for real runners, not someone like me. I had recently undergone back surgery, and the asphalt oval that loomed before me seemed like an almost impossible distance to navigate, My intention had been to start out walking on the track, then attempt to run slowly for a short distance. My resolve wavered for a moment. Maybe I should reconsider, Maybe I should wait and try this another day. "Meooowwww mmmurrrrnr!"

I looked down at the source of the comment and smiled, Mesha, my tiny companion, was looking up at me expectantly. She has always been a talkative cat and today was no exception. I made up my mind that I'd try to exercise this morning. After all, I didn't want to disappoint Mesha.

Mesha is of questionable Siamese extraction, and although she is getting on in years, she still seems as spry as ever. Only the fur on one of her back paws shows a tell-tale sign she is aging, for the once-dark-velvet-brown color has faded to a pale gray. Yet her blue eyes are still bright, she still plays like a kitten every night, and she is as vocal as ever, commenting when it suits her upon anything she deems important. And, as it happens, many things seem important to Mesha.

Her frequently expressed opinions are in effusive kitty-speak, and I am convinced she believes I should understand every single word she meows. In fact, she seems mystified if I don't grasp her meaning. When that happens, she will repeat herself in yowling kitty-speak, getting progressively louder and louder until she makes me understand—or until she gets so exasperated she falls silent.

Though her pedigree may be in question, her loyalty, love and sweet temperament are not. She proved that during the time I was in excruciating pain before back surgery, and again when I had to endure weeks of painful rehabilitation. Part of the rehabilitation included being prone on my sofa for hours each day while I was in traction. This went on day after day, week after week. And every day, during those long hours, little Mesha was my constant, caring companion.

Each day, after I was settled on the sofa, she would carefully climb onto my stomach, then lie down facing me. After tucking her petite brown paws neatly under her slender body she would gaze intently at my face for long periods of time. If she saw tears rolling down my face, due to the pain I was in, she would stretch out one dainty paw toward rny cheek in a tender gesture of comfort, then try to console me with her expressive kitty-speak meows. Day after day this was repeated. I would cry, then she would reach out her delicate paw and kitty-speak. She would then pause, waiting quietly for me to unburden myself. I would stroke her silky fur and tell her my troubles as she listened attentively. Sometimes the expression on her face was so clearly perplexed, her little brow was wrinkled with such worry, and her gaze was so clearly concerned that I found myself smiling even as tears poured down my face.

I would then reassure her I was going to be okay—though at times I admit I had my doubts. We used to be carefree and have great fun before this, Mesha used to enjoy watching rne hit the tiny square things on my keyboard as we both sat close to my computer; she on top and I in front. And she took great delight in bursting the silence with one boisterous, kitty-speak "MEEEEOOWWWHH" every so often. It

was her task to startle me and my role to jump, and we both did our parts well, Mesha used to adore going for a ride in my car when I had errands to do and she loved going on walks with me. And sometimes, during the walk, we'd run together just for fun. She had her very own special harness and leash, as well as a pretty blue collar that matched the deep cerulean of her eyes. Whenever she wanted to go outside with me she would go to the cabinet and stare pointedly at the drawer where they were kept. If I didn't notice her immediately, she would begin her chorus of kitty-speak, the volume rising steadily until I responded, But since I had been injured, she had not shown any interest in going anywhere or doing any of the things we once did. I believe she thought it was her loving duty to keep me company, a duty she did willingly.

Time is a great healer of the body and as the days went by my tears were more infrequent as the pain diminished. I was getting better. And as I got better, Mesha decided I needed to be doing more than just resting all the time. I was still reluctant to walk more than a few steps, but Mesha seemed to understand that it was time to get me moving again. And she contrived a simple yet unique solution that was guaranteed to make me start exercising.

One morning Mesha put her plan into action. Instead of joining me where I lay on the sofa, Mesha walked through the living room, glanced meaningfully in rny direction, then headed toward the back porch. Once there, she started calling me. "Meooowhaa Murhhh." Which meant "Oh-do-come-look-at-this!" in kitty-speak, I answered by calling her to me. I did not want to get up and attempt to walk to where she was.

The house was silent for a moment. Then she called me again in a more insistent voice. "Maeeooooowwwhwwwwhh!" she said loudly. I knew that tone. It was "I-said-to-come-HERE," in kitty-speak. I still wasn't about to get up and so I called her again. "I don't want to get up Mesha, so come back here, sweetie, and rest with me."

Mesha, however, has a stubborn streak. And she wasn't about to give in, no matter how pleasantly i spoke to her. A moment later she started to call me again, and this time she pulled out all the stops! Let me tell you something: a full-volume Siamese caterwaul is not a sound any hearing individual can ignore for long!

"MMMMMMMOOOOOOOWWWUUUUURRRRRRHH!" Mesha's long, piercing, emphatic yowl, equivalent to the banshee wail of a bagpipe being stomped on by an elephant—a very large elephant—couldn't have been more disconcerting! It was impossible to ignore.

I could stand it no longer! She clearly wanted me to corne to where she was. "Oh, all right, Mesha,"! grumbled to her. "I'll come out." Hearing that, Mesha suddenly fell silent. I got up slowly, wrapped my old bathrobe about me and took small, tentative steps as I made my way cautiously toward her. She stared up at me as I entered the room. "Meeeoooowwh-muuhhh," she said in soft-kitty-speak. That translated roughly into “I'm-so-glad-to-see-you-but-it's-about-time.” Her blue eyes were full of glee. My annoyance quickly changed to mirth. How could I possibly stay annoyed at Mesha?

I sat down in a chair and Mesha immediately jumped up onto my lap. She chortled to me happily as she settled down, I had forgotten how much I loved being in this room. It had always been a special place, a comfort to rne. My back porch is a lovely, bright room built with large windows on three sides.

Sunlight streams in each morning and warms the two cozy over-stuffed chairs that face the windows. From here, I have a splendid view of the mountain and woods, and there is usually some type of wildlife within view. Yet I had not ventured out here in many months. The living-room sofa was an easier walk from my bedroom and until Mesha intervened, I had no intention of walking farther than I had to.

She was now on a mission, it seemed, for the next day she wanted to take a walk down to the mailbox. She stood by the cabinet that held her leash and harness and stared at me. "Meeooouuuuhhhh?"

I decided I would take a little walk with her. How could I say no? After all, how could I disappoint her after she had been so devoted to me? I put the pretty blue collar and harness on her, then attached her leash.

Off we went down the long driveway. It has a fairly steep grade to it. Going down was easier than I had imagined it would be, but the walk back was difficult and extremely tiring. I had to stop and rest often. Each time I stopped, Mesha would stand by my side, her long elegant tail swaying gently back and forth as she patiently waited for me to recover. She spoke to me in kitty-speak each time we stopped and I wondered if perhaps she was trying to encourage me to keep going.

As if she read my rnind the moment I entertained such an idea, she loudly proclaimed an emphatic "Muuurrroooohhh!" We finally made it back to the house and though I was tired, my spirits were lifted. After I removed her harness I collapsed onto the sofa, tired yet pleased at the progress I was making.

Mesha jumped up to where I was, then gave me a sweet kiss on the tip of my nose as she often did when she wanted to express great affection. She then added a comment: "Mrnmmuuurrrrrrhhhh!" I'm sure that meant "Congratulations!" in kitty-speak.

Each day the same walk was repeated, and each day I was able to stay off the sofa for longer periods of time. As I grew stronger, Mesha wanted to do more activities. One day she decided it was time for a car ride. She explained in loud kitty-speak that the walk up and down the driveway wasn't enough. We had just returned to the house from a walk when she went over to my purse and started pawing at it. I wondered what she was doing. I should have known, as she had done this sort of thing before. After a few minutes of thrusting her paws into the depths of the purse, she pulled out her prize, my car keys. She then looked at me and yowled as if her heart would break. I knew exactly what she had on her mind. She wanted to go "bye-bye." I sighed, then picked up the keys. "Okay, Mesha, we'll go bye-bye, but just a short distance." It had been a very long time since I had driven a car. Perhaps Mesha was right. Perhaps today was a good day to go on a short drive.

I carried Mesha to the car and we got in. I had to admit it was an excellent idea, after all. As I drove down the driveway, I noticed Mesha looked perfectly pleased with herself as she curled up on the seat next to me. Her objective had been achieved. We were going for a drive. It was wonderful to be able to do this again and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So did Mesha.

This "bye-bye" routine repeated itself often over the next few weeks. With all the exercise I was now getting, the idea started to form in my mind that maybe, just maybe, I could start running again sometime. Which brings me back to the start of this story, back to the morning Mesha and I were standing on the track.

It was time to begin. Time to try. I took a deep breath and said, "Okay, Mesha, I'm ready if you are." Mesha peered intently into my eyes, then replied, "Murrr-oeooo! Mewouhha! Maahhhh!" I knew exactly what she had just spoken in kitty-speak: she was ready to start.

I began walking slowly in my lane. Mesha started walking in the lane next to me. Mesha has been on many adventures with me and this was just one more as far as she was concerned. Nothing odd here. It seemed perfectly natural to her that she should be walking next to her human companion on a deserted high-school track. I was so focused on watching Mesha that I forgot for a moment how impossible this very act of walking had seemed not too long ago. I was soon ready to attempt a few minutes of running.

"Come on, Mesha, let's go faster." I started to run slowly and Mesha began trotting along in the lane next to me. She apparently had no intention of stopping. She seemed to be having a great time and I found myself laughing and talking to her as she trotted along next to me. She never strayed into my lane and every once in a while she would glance up at me and add her kitty-speak-comments. I made it around the track once that day with Mesha, walking most of the time and running slowly a few times.

Since then, I was able to compete in many running events, including two marathons. And after each one, as soon as I get home, I scoop Mesha up in my arms and tell her how much I missed her. She always answers, "MMUURRHHMM," which means, in kitty-speak, "I missed you, too."


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