Along for the Ride, in Spirit

Susan in Mendocino

Today I was thinking about my late business partner, Susan, while I trapped feral cats on a 50 acre water buffalo farm where they produce mozzarella in rural Marin County. Talk about farm fresh. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s uniqueness is evident. I mean, seriously, it’s where the buffalo roam. (And, I’m guessing, where the deer and the antelope play.)

water buffalo3

water buffalo2

Anywhere rural is bound to have feral cats. Like being in one of those revolving doors at fancy hotels, they tend to come and go. But not before we ensure they stop having kittens. Still, that’s a tall order to fill when, if we miss 2 cats of the opposite sex, well, there ya go.

revolving door

Susan and I trapped at some interesting places in the 5 short years we were friends. We quickly became close when driving throughout our county, spending hours in the SUV or patiently hiding in bushes waiting for elusive ferals to appear. I guess you could say they helped us become friends and for that I’m forever thankful.

Susan and me

Susan lost her life to brain cancer in 2013 at the age of 46. To this day I carry her photo in my cat mobile so she’s still along for the ride whenever I trap or relocate cats, something she loved doing. We made a pretty good team; when working together we often didn’t need to communicate with words…she knew my next move and I, hers. We were in sync.

Now don’t get me wrong; Susan and I were different in a few ways. She: calm, cool and collected. Me: constantly moving and hardly ever collected. But it just worked. Susan was kind, artistic, a great listener and possessed a fun sense of humor. Everybody liked her the moment they met her, including me.

Once, when we trapped at a dairy farm in Tomales, we arrived to find 20+ cats waiting to be fed. Believing we were that day’s meal ticket, they lined up to greet us like fans outside a concert hall waiting for autographs. We set the drop trap and within 15 minutes we had 11 cats on their way to the humane society (all I could fit in my cat mobile). We later caught the others.

SUV with cats

That particular day was our personal record for a one-time trapping. But this past Tuesday I broke that record, which was why I again thought of Susan. This time the buffalo farm harbored close to 30 cats and kittens. (Yes, they allowed it to get out of hand before asking for help, but at least they asked.) The hay barn is loaded with litters of kittens, from 2 weeks to 2 months old and an array of mom’s and dad’s.

The cats were anxious to eat since the farmer held off feeding until I arrived. I couldn’t set the traps fast enough. Month-old kittens were sprinkled across the barn floor like pinata candy and I scooped them up, quickly placing 5 in a crate. Six 2-week-old kittens slept under a hay cart in back of the barn and various teens and adults hid in the rafters and between bales of hay (until they smelled the food). Then, one by one, we heard traps trigger until all were full of felines.

Within an hour I was back on the road with 16 cats in tow — 12 kittens and 4 adults. Susan would have been thrilled we finally broke our record. On days like this, I like to think she’s with me in spirit, just like old times. Two friends driving through rural Marin, sitting in an SUV stinking of cat pee. And loving every second of it.

Susan quote

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