Freebus and Sonia

By Sue Dutch

When Mom told me Sonia was missing, I became frantic. I’d left Sonia and my other cat, Freebus, in my parents’ care in Connecticut while moving to Indiana for my first faculty position.

“Did you look for her?” I asked.

“No,” Mom replied.

“Why not?”

“Because cats can find their way back home if they want.”

I told Mom I would be on the next plane out.

Dad shot down my plan. “If you pay $500 to come out to find a cat, no one will pick you up at the airport.”

I adopted Freebus the summer before starting graduate school. I was driving down Eagleville Road, windows down, belting out the lyrics to “Maggie Mae,” when I passed a sign that said “free kittens.” I picked out Freebus on an impulse, not knowing how I would care for him.

No pets were allowed in the graduate dorms. When I was found out I was given the choice to give up the cat or leave the premises. I packed up and left the dormitory the next day.

I heard that the church doors were never locked and I could sleep in the pews. I placed Freebus’ food, water, and litter on the floor underneath where I slept. But I didn’t sleep soundly because the pews were made of hardwood, the seats were slanted downward toward the back, and the lights were left on all night. It wasn’t long before these sleeping arrangements became known to the priest. While I was welcome to stay, the cat was not.

For the months of July and August, I slept in my sedan, a white Datsun. With the cat food on the floor of the passenger’s seat and the litter on the floor in the back, it was a good arrangement. But when the nights became hot and the windows needed to stay open, the mosquitoes made a feast of us.

I eventually found an apartment but spent most of my days in the library. Freebus was at home alone, so I adopted another cat, a female Siamese kitten I named Sonia.

Six years later Sonia was missing. I’d planned for a friend to pick me up at Bradley airport, drive to East Hampton and help in the search. But the next morning, before I left my apartment in Indiana, Mom called. She’d gone to the wooded area at the edge of the house lot and called for Sonia. When she heard a cat crying, she found Sonia hiding in a culvert. Mom bought a carrier large enough for both cats and sent Freebus and Sonia out to me by jet.

Some people think I sacrificed too much for my cats, but, for me, it’s always been an easy choice. Growing up on a homestead, my parents taught us that, even on the coldest winter mornings, we weren’t to eat our own breakfasts until the animals had been fed first.

\"\"Sue Dutch has lived in the Pioneer Valley since 1981. A professor emeritus of Westfield State University, she writes rhyming prose and memoir. She is an advocate for homeless companion animals and currently shares her time, space, and treasure with two frisky felines.

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