Cat On A Hot Plastic Slide

There are some things we think we'll never say.  In my time as a teacher and childcare provider I've come across many of them. Often I've said them more times than I care to admit. "Let's wait here. We don't want to cross the street without your cat," wasn't exactly on my list. Still, as I stood at the corner of a well traveled street feeling the warm dusty air that the speeding UPS truck had just stirred up, I shook my head as I heard those words leave my lips.  My nearly two year old pal and I settled in to wait as we both looked over our shoulders and watched his cat, Lenny, approach.  There would be no rushing him, as you know, cats walk at their own pace.

This particular cat is a magical creature. He is certainly the feline king of his urban neighborhood. He wasn't with us as we began our walk that day, but neither of us were surprised when he appeared behind us on the stepping stones. My friend stopped for a moment and greeted him with some toddler style petting and then we continued along. Walking with this cat sends my blood pressure skyrocketing- he crosses the street without looking, he plays in strange yards, climbs all manner of fences and in the moments when I'm certain he's testing Darwin's theory, he lays down in the middle of the street. My anxiety aside, these are the very things that we love about Lenny.  This is a cat who lives life the way he chooses and he seems to fill his moments with the things that make him happy.

On this walk, he followed us across several well traveled streets. He disappeared into a bamboo forest for a bit, probably off to hunt for a mid-walk snack. My young friend and I waited for a few minutes and then shrugged and headed on. We walked further along the path, past backyards that housed chickens and roosters. We heard pouncing in the tall grass next to one of those yards and saw Lenny had caught up to us. Oh, how my pal laughed as he watched his cat squeeze through a fence and begin to weave his body in and out between the pickets.

Our destination was the neighborhood park and the playground where we spend hours of our weeks. This time Lenny walked all the way and joined us at the park. As soon as we stepped on to the freshly delivered woodchips, he jumped up onto the slide and began his adventure. The playground was nearly empty that day, but he worked his feline charms on the two children that were there. Their eyes danced with surprise as he circled their legs and bounded past them. Then he settled into the woodchips under the bouncing bridge where dappled sunlight painted his back as people stopped to admire him.

Simply put, Lenny inspires me. I want to embody his spirit of fearless exploration and joy chasing. I imagine him thinking, 'who cares if a car comes over that hill right now? The warm pavement and the sun feel divine on my fur.' He offers love and smiles to the people around him and then off he goes to chase a cardinal or a dancing leaf. I've watched him defend his independence and I've watched him celebrate it.

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