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Pinch the Sage
June 1, 2007

By Gary Michael Smith

It was during a rare New Orleans snow -- something that only happens about once every 10 years -- that baby Pinch arrived. We heard her little kitten cries just before she appeared in our backyard. She walked up to Fuffy, another stray that we’d recently decided to care for, like a typical fearless kitten, and just sort of hung around him like a little sister. Fuffy, being a single parent, just looked at the cute little tabby and looked back at us as if to say, "What’s up with this? Where’d she come from?"

Having enough cats of our own, we decided to see if our neighbor, Barb, was interested in a little buddy. She lived alone so we thought she’d like the company. And we were right; she took in the baby tabby and named her after her favorite scotch (we live in New Orleans after all). I tried visiting for weeks after but once inside, Pinch became a one-owner cat. She wouldn’t so much as let me be in the same room with her, usually hiding under a piece of furniture or bolting for the nearest doorway to escape to another room. It wasn’t until the storm hit -- the devastating Hurricane Katrina -- that Pinch would let me near her.

orange and white cat
I'm not so friendly

Brenda and I gathered Chatgris and Hambone when we evacuated and headed for the high ground of Natchez, MS. It wasn’t until later, when friends and neighbors contacted one another (by email since the cell phone towers had been destroyed) to get the latest news on our neighborhoods, that we learned Barb had not taken Pinch with her when she evacuated to New York. There simply wasn’t room in the compact car with her elderly parents and belongings, and an ornery dog with a penchant for biting.

Barb let it be known that the Humane Society of the United States and the SPCA had permission to break into her house to feed and water Pinch. But none of us could confirm that this is what happened. When the city’s residents were allowed to return over a month later, many of the pets that had been left behind were missing in action. Pinch was one of them. Miraculously, however, the meowing was heard weeks after everyone returned, and eventually Barb found a considerably thinner and frantic Pinch lurking around her yard, jumping at every sound and movement.

She’d been hiding under Barb’s house for who knows how long and, like all other pets, had been making it on her own for weeks and weeks. Somehow, she’d found enough food to survive, but had tangled with some other animal in a match of wits for survival; there was a large, gaping wound on her side. Barb immediately took Pinch to a vet who cleaned the injury and checked for worms and viruses. Surprisingly, he said Pinch was in good health overall; she just needed a lot of food and water, and rest. But the experience changed Pinch, as it did us all.

cat on back
I've rethought things

While many New Orleanians still feel despair about our future, Pinch is simply glad to be alive and around humans once again. She now climbs up a tree, jumps on my wooden fence, and climbs down a tree on my side to join me on the deck many mornings, rubbing against my feet as I drink coffee and read the paper. She runs and frolics, and follows me around the yard, and is particularly fond of rolling over so I can rub her belly.

rub my belly
Rub my tummy!

We can all learn from Pinch that life is so fragile, and that we should appreciate each day that we are able to fog yet another mirror.

cat belly
Just happy to be here

Gary Michael Smith is a writer in New Orleans. He can be reached at ChatgrisPress@ChatgrisPress.com.