Just across the road from our house lies a big country estate with all the “country estate” trimmings — a Big House, a lake, gigantic trees, private roads, you name it. The people there are into horse breeding, as are many people in this neck of the woods.
Now, this Vast Tract of Land has in the recent past mostly been important to our lives because our littlest and youngest cat, Bubble, would vanish into it, over the high stone wall across the road, nearly every night. She would normally be back in the morning, though sometimes she’d be missing for longer.
About two weeks ago I flew back into Dublin from the Continent, and Peter joined me in town for an overnight stay before we came home again. When he left the house, Bubble was sleeping in one of her usual places, in his office window under the stand where his computer monitor sits. When we got home, she was nowhere to be seen. Well, that was no big deal. We both figured she’d be back in the morning.
But she wasn’t. Nor the next morning, nor the morning after that. The other cats were becoming concerned: Beemer, in particular, started searching for her.
Her record to date had been seventy-two hours missing, after which she’d turned up perfectly all right: so we waited that long. And still no Bubble.
At that point we began leafleting the neighborhood (which isn’t much of a neighborhood at all: the three houses a quarter-mile west of us, the two houses a quarter-mile east (both of them on the estate’s lands) and the Big House in the middle of the estate. Everyone said they’d look out for the kitty: there was always the possibility that she’d gotten herself shut into an outbuilding.
We also leafleted the local pub. And a couple of anxious days later we got a phone call from one of the estate staff who’d seen the leaflet there. “Sure she’s fine, your little cat,” he said. “She’s been down among the barns since last Monday. Come on down and you can collect her.”
The same kindly man lured Bubble into an empty garage, shut her in, and then drove up to the house to get me and the cat carrier. It seems that Bubs had gone somewhat farther into the estate than usual and had been chased by a couple of the farmyard dogs there, and as a result had become disoriented enough that she couldn’t figure out how to get home. Once returned home, she ate prodigiously, slept a lot…and then, a day and a half later, went right out again: over the wall and away…
Late that afternoon someone else, a more senior staff member at the estate, stopped by. “Are you missing your little cat again?”
“Only since this morning,” I said.
“She’s down checking out the new barn we built for the mares,” he said. “She seems to like the horses. And she’s death on the mice, that one.”
We chatted for a while, and the story came out. Apparently, for at least the past six months, Bubble has been patrolling the estate’s main barn daily for rats and mice. At that point no one was sure who she belonged to — apparently she wouldn’t let anyone get close enough to see that her collar had her name and “her” phone number written on it. But they were glad to have her, since she is, indeed, “death on the mice.” And rats, and anything else small and edible that crosses her path…or, indeed, not so small. Peter and I are still bemused by the memory of the evening she brought in, through the electric cat door, a live and very annoyed rat nearly a third her size, and turned it loose in the kitchen to play with. The other cats, all of them much bigger and stronger than Bubble, when brought in and shown this situation, unanimously backed away with expressions that plainly said, “Uh-uh, no way, nothing to do with us.” We finally had to open the kitchen door and chase the rat outside — at which point Bubble ran out to deal with it more conclusively, and the other cats all ran after her to watch.
We had always been curious about what Miss Bubs did over in the estate. And now, at last, we know. She’s been punching the clock on her day job…