Blackhawk finds a home
By Jim Poling Sr.
Amazing news! The Blackhawk is alive and skating.
No, not Blackhawk as in the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League. They appear to be dead for this season, drifting between fourth and fifth place in the league’s western division.
I’m talking about Blackhawk the lost cat, who I’ve just sighted skating – slipping and sliding actually – across the ice-crusted snow behind our cottage.
Blackhawk is a pure black cat with brilliant green eyes first spotted in the woods behind us many weeks ago. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was certainly before Christmas.
He (or she) is a domestic cat, either abandoned or lost. Possibly the pet of a cottager who closed up in late fall, not to return until spring.
I was concerned when Blackhawk first appeared. We had been through the mysteriously appearing cat routine before. Many years ago, and it did not end well for the cat.
That cat had gone feral. I made plans to trap it and bring it to a humane society.
That plan changed when it tried to attack two grandchildren playing on the deck. They escaped it by running into the cottage and pulling the screen door shut. The cat threw itself at the screen, hissing and clawing.
Trapping was no longer an option. I decided to follow the famous order given in the movie Apocalypse Now: “Exterminate with extreme prejudice.”
I’m not a great fan of cats but Blackhawk appeared to be a nice fellow, or gal, with no signs of having gone feral. No evidence that it should be treated with extreme prejudice.
It was thin, hungry and lonesome looking. But it would not approach, even when offered food.
We began setting out food at a distance. Blackhawk came to the food regularly and ate hungrily. It remained wary and kept its distance, running off if we tried to approach.
One morning the cat did not appear at the food dish. I scouted the area and a lingering fear was confirmed. A set of fresh coyote tracks led into Blackhawk’s feeding area.
I told my wife that we could give up our attempts to lure Blackhawk into coming in from the cold. He or she had become a hungry coyote’s breakfast.
However, next morning it was back, staring at the kitchen windows with that “where’s my breakfast” look.
We were thrilled to learn that it had not been eaten. Great news, but we had another problem.
We live only half-time at the lake, and were getting set to leave, likely for two weeks. Would Blackhawk survive?
We could leave food out for it, but Blackhawk would likely eat it all at once then be left without anything. Or, another animal could come along and steal the food.
There was nothing much we could do, so we left Blackhawk to fend for itself.
When we returned 12 days later, Blackhawk was alive and well. Somehow, it had survived, despite a couple of mornings with temperatures in the minus 20 Celsius range.
We spotted it behind a tree, watching the blue jays gorging at a feeder. Then it ran from behind the tree and lunged at one of the birds, but didn’t even come close to catching it.
Its hunting skills did not appear to be well developed and we had not been able to determine whether it even had claws. However, somehow it was surviving on its own.
All our attempts to lure Blackhawk inside failed, so we turned to Google for advice. There we learned that domestic cats who live outside for long periods lose their capacity for socializing with humans.
We also learned that such cats, when caught and turned over to a humane society, sometimes are euthanized because there is low hope that they can become pets again.
Catching Blackhawk and finding she or he a good home was complicated. How were we to figure out what was best for this cat?
So, we decided to leave Blackhawk’s fate up to Blackhawk. It had survived the longest stretch of the winter and looked reasonably healthy and happy.
Maybe it has decided it already has a good home outside. If not, our kitchen door always will be opened to a stray needing shelter from the cold and the wild.