She came into our lives about 18 months ago, on Friday the 13th of July, 2007. As I turned onto the U.S. 41 on-ramp, a little black kitten darted across the road in front of me and disappeared into the brush on the side of the ramp.
I pulled over, thinking that she probably would just run away in the tall grass - but instead she popped back onto the shoulder and started croaking, like E.T., "Home! Home! Home!"
So I took her home. The vet said she was 5 weeks old and healthy.
I called her E.T. for a few days, until her dry throat healed and she started mewing like a normal kitten. Red named her Blackberry, and it fit.
The thing that became clear fairly quickly is that this cat is smarter than the others. All of our little beasts (yes, all seven) have their front claws removed - it's a defense measure to save our property. (We don't let them outside where they can become predators and prey, either.) The time for declawing is usually ripe when they start climbing the door jams and the patio door screen.
Well, after being stymied by the loss of her front climbing implements, this kitten learned to brace her back against the open sliding door and use her back claws to climb the screen - working her way down the same way. Smart kitten.
She has invented a game on the stairs. She will drop a little green Nerf ball down the stairs and try to catch it on the way down. It works better if I help. From the bottom, I'll toss it over her head so it bounces off a top stair, and she'll chase it down.
The other day, she stayed on a middle stair and pounced for the ball as it bounced past. When she caught it, she'd play with it for a couple of moments, and then bat it over the side so it bounced back down to me. Sometimes she'd whap it as it went by to give it extra momentum and try to get it past me.
We played the game for 10 minutes. I'd try to stop when she was chewing on the ball and say, "OK, I have to get ready for work," but after I took a few steps away I'd hear the ball bounce down the last few stairs. She wasn't ready to stop playing.
Why didn't I just keep walking? I don't have kids of my own, so the animals are the closest thing I'll have to children. About halfway through this episode, it struck me that this sweet joy I was feeling must be something like fathers feel when they're playing catch with their children. I wasn't ready to stop playing, either.