I’ve never been much of a cyclist. At seven, I was the last of my friends to move on from training wheels, and only then under persistent peer-pressure. This was when I was practicing on dirt and gravel roads, in a hometown too small for stoplights. A quarter century later, I am currently living in Berlin, and get very stressed out cycling around such a major metropolis (cabs, busses, tram tracks, oblivious pedestrians, car doors opening, delivery trucks, bike lanes that abruptly disappear, other mental cyclists, etc). And when it comes to cycling anywhere hilly, or while hauling camping gear, forget it. I’d rather get off and walk.
My natural inclination is to go everywhere by foot, to have time to take in my surroundings as I move through them at a human pace, with minimal chance of crashing into anything. I consider myself to be something of a champion pedestrian – I’ll walk ten miles up, down, and around town or country and not think twice about it, until my flat feet and dodgy knee start to ache.
However, moving at a walking pace certainly does have restrictions. Especially if you’re schlepping a twelve pound cat. The desire to get out and see more of the world, schlep further and faster, and minimize the damage to my shoulders, has finally motivated me to get over my aversion to cycling. I’ve started going for bicycle rides with Aífe, and it’s far and away one of the best, most gleeful things I’ve ever done. Read More
One of the best and most challenging things about taking cats outside is their incredible alertness. We get used to our feline companions lounging and snoozing besides us at home, and forget that every bit of their little brains and bodies is actually rigged to form the perfect hunting machine. Aífe can spend hours being a blob beside my desk, but the second she’s out on the sidewalk, she transforms into a different creature – one to whom any smell, sound, or movement could signal a potential danger.
Walking with a cat, you realize that you and your pet have very different perceptions of the World Outside. Part of this is that, as a human, you will be able to make sense of things like words and traffic lights. But part of it is that your human and feline selves are equipped with very different sensory inputs. According to bestselling author/ veterinarian John Bradshaw, cats have olfactory powers similar to that of dogs, and so:
“their world, unlike ours, is not based on appearance. Smell is at least as important to cats as vision is, so even if they could imagine, they might well conjure what something smells like rather than what it looks like.”
Which explains why, when I see just a crappy old tarp, Aífe perceives something that inquires a thorough investigation. And why sometimes Aífe becomes terribly agitated, hissing and swatting at the air around her, even though I can’t see anything but a very peaceful, empty garden. Read More
The first half of my 20’s, all I wanted to do was travel. I wanted to see the world, meet people, walk down strange streets. And I was in a real rush to do it; what I was rushing towards (or from), I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) have quite admitted. But I made a pretty good go of it, saw mad and wondrous things from Seattle to Sarajevo, from Dublin to Darjeeling. But I made a lot of dodgy choices along the way, and at 25, I ship-wrecked myself onto San Francisco. I’d survived my misadventures, but they had left me thoroughly bedraggled, and broke in terms of both pocket and soul. I knew I needed to bunker down for a while.
And that’s when I became a forever home.
I spotted Aífe (ee-fuh) on New Years Eve, 2010. A teeny, brown, three-month-old tabby, sitting with her sister in the window of the Union Square Macy’s, where the extraordinary San Francisco SPCA was running its annual holiday adoption event. I went in to meet the kittens. The first of the pair seemed indifferent to me. The second, however, examined me with great interest. She sniffed at my coat and face with her tiny pink nose, delicately and inquisitively batted at my hair and spectacles with her tiny fuzzy paw, and met my brown eyes with her own bright green ones. She was easily one of the cutest things I’d ever seen, and seemed to have a wonderful, engaging little personality tucked inside. The SPCA folks told me that they had stopped doing adoptions for the evening, but I could come back for her the next morning if I wanted.
I did. I really, really did. Read More