It has been at least a week and half since I saw François, the gray tabby who called the lobby of my dorm home. The mat he loved to sit on is now empty and I am filled with a certain understanding. For some reason I cannot explain, I know that I will not see François again. He is gone, but the mystery remains. What happened to him?
Most people in the dorm agree: nothing good. Most think that François was hit by a car or maybe he got some weird infection and died. But me? I like to think that François stayed in the lobby like a hotel and has now found his true home. I imagine some old French lady feeding him until he is plump and taking him to a vet to get his back leg checked out.
Some things change in France. They are small changes, like the absence of a friendly furry friend. Some things remain the same, like the fact that my literature teacher still cuts off the end of stories. I still have no idea how these stories end until the next class, when I am meant to know.
I may not know the end of François’s story, but I know the middle of his story. I know that he was a cat, unloved, but so willing to give love. He never judged me when I spoke to him in French with my American accent or when I spoke to him in English. It was all the same gibberish to him.
Perhaps I will see François again…or maybe I won’t. Maybe I was just lucky enough to know him for those first few weeks.
You may think I’m silly for caring for a cat that doesn’t even belong to me, but I care a lot about animals. When I was younger, I volunteered at animal shelters. I have had many great pets throughout the years and I even trained my dogs for agility, obedience and showmanship shows with 4-H. At West Virginia University, I help train dogs for Hearts of Gold, a service dog organization.
I think that animals have a lot to give us, if only we are willing to give to them. They give companionship and aid, especially in the case of service dogs. So why not stop to give them a little attention when you have the chance?
France has a huge feral cat population (as does Italy – when I visited Italy, I saw a garden filled with cats…and the amazing woman who feeds them every day out of her own kindness). I see cats everywhere. They are malnourished and mangy looking. It’s unfortunate that they are not taken care of, which is why spaying and neutering animals is so important. In addition, I have seen many dogs in France. Everyone has a dog, even those with nothing else. I have seen many homeless people with dogs, often giving whatever food they have to their pets, their companions.
I have recently met the acquaintance of another feral cat, another gray tabby who hangs out by the entrance of the university library. Perhaps he is François’s cousin.
P.S- As you can tell, I am preparing for my future as a crazy cat lady. Just kidding. This article, however, was a good way to bring up my observation of the feral cat phenomenon in France. Also, I do not advocate engaging feral animals, especially in foreign countries. These animals may carry infections and may be scared so they might try to scratch or bite. Always contact the appropriate animal authorities who can provide the best care for these creatures. This is, ultimately, what I am hoping happened to François.