As I slotted the key in the heart-shaped locker of our apartment building, I turned and glanced at Lydia on the step below. Gripping Bono's carry case, she wiped a tear from her cheek.
I was surprised. As a trainee psychologist, she deals with harrowing human stories every day. How could one homeless cat make her weep?
Inside our apartment, she placed the case gently on the floor. Bono's orange eyes beamed out at us. He meowed softly. Lydia reached for more tissues.
"Life's so fragile," she said. "I'm sad he has only three years to live," she said.
"He doesn't know that," I replied. "Besides, if he finds a good home he may survive much longer."
Three years ago, my personal trainer Stephen was told his dog Millie had two months to live. The vet had overlooked the fact Stephen has a special affinity for failing bodies, both human and animal. On a diet of organic meat and unadulterated devotion, Millie continues to thrive.
Bono's gaze swiveled inquisitively around the room. He seemed calm. We ached to introduce him to his temporary home.
Jon at Bideawee shelter had delivered clear instructions. We were to open Bono's case in a confined space and keep the cat there for two days.
The dressing room was probably the ideal size. But to a pair of visitors, from Australia the entire apartment was a birdcage.
Lydia opened the carry case. Bono burst into the living room. He whirled around the center of the room, faster and faster like a tornado building strength.
Then, to our absolute horror, he disappeared up the fireplace.
As the cat clawed further up, an avalanche of rubble and dust tumbled into the room.
My dreams of fostering a cat in New York were crumbling along with the structure of the building. It was probably only a matter of moments before the whole place imploded.
That didn't worry us as much as what would happen to poor Bono. All we could see of him now was a black lion's tail dangling down through a curtain of dust.
If he climbed any higher, we might never see him again. Or he could fall into a vent to endure a slow, painful death. I dreaded the thought of calling Jon at Bideawee to confess we'd failed so tragically and so soon.
Lydia and I looked at each other. Pulling the tail like a doorbell could be effective, but would also be cruel and possibly tarnish our relationship with Bono forever.
I decided it was time to practice what I preach. In my book Cats and Daughters, I encourage people to have faith in their children and pets, and cut them a little slack.
If Bono had half a brain, he'd get himself out of there. There was a rumbling noise as he shifted inside the chimney. Another plume of dust showered down.
I could almost hear the imprisoned cat trying to work things out.
His tail moved sideways. Then in a shower of rubble, Bono tumbled back down into the living room. White with dust, he torpedoed straight past us into the bathroom.
Lydia and I almost wept with relief. Bono had rescued himself from a horrible fate. Understandably, he wanted nothing to do with us.
After we'd stuffed the fireplace with plastic bags from the supermarket, Lydia and I granted Bono what he obviously craved -- some down time. We went out.
The warmth New Yorkers have for pets is phenomenal. In a city where so many people live alone, animals seem to take the place of significant others in many cases.
At a pet supply shop, the owner thanked us for fostering a cat and refused to charge for a sack of kitty litter. Shop assistants at a hardware store became actively involved in helping us find the right food bowls.
We carried these items back to the apartment and set them up in the dressing room that was hopefully going to be Bono's confined space.
A pair of amber eyes watched from under the bed.
Could we ever be friends?
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