I first met Dibs by the mailboxes in the complex where my studio is located. She had been drinking out of the pool. As she drew closer, one of my first observations was that she was thin. Dibs also had fleas. I said hello, scratched her neck, and wondered who she belonged to.
The next day I took a flea comb with me on my mail run. But no Dibs. I thought either her situation had improved, or she was napping under one if the bushes that lined the perimeter of the fenced-off pool area. A few days became a couple weeks. Every now and then I would spot her off in the distance. She seemed to be even thinner than when we first met. I kept the silver flea comb in my pocket, but never had a chance to use it.
Autumn was well under way. Some leaves had already begun to turn, and soon I would have to put away my cargo shorts and T-Shirts in favor of jeans and a jacket. While walking back from the mailboxes one morning, I noticed a cat carrier that someone had set up in the bushes. It had a few towels across the top and a plate of food beside the door. This was an invitation to raccoons and other wild animals we have in the area. This was also a sign of desperation.
I asked my friend Dennis if he knew anything about the temporary shelter. He said that it was for the gray cat with fleas. Two of the women in the complex had conceived the first steps of a plan to rescue Dibs. I knew both parties, Shirley and Alicia. If Dibs' health had declined to the point for them to take action, her situation was becoming desperate.
I sent Alicia a text message and learned that she had an appointment for Dibs the next day at Forgotten Felines. Apparently Dibs was allergic to fleas and had open sores, some of which were already infected. They were trying to figure out how to get the cat there first thing in the morning when animals were accepted for the clinic. Everyone had work conflicts. Everyone except me.
That evening, Dennis caught Dibs and put her in the cat carrier that had been serving as her refuge. They put her in an empty garage where she would be safe, and where I could pick her up first thing in the morning.
Dibs was miserable. The fleas were tormenting her and she was sick from her wounds. Fortunately, they accepted her at Forgotten Felines, gased the fleas, treated the wounds, and injected Dibs with medicine to make her more comfortable. She was ready for pick up at noon.
The plan was to return her to the garage when the team could take care of her while she recovered. It was a noble plan, but I hated it. I had hated it from the moment that Dibs had pressed her nose through the cage so I could scratch it. I know cats. And this was a good one. I decided that I would care for her while she recovered.
Dibs came back with me to the studio. I set up a cat box, a fresh bowl of water, and a small amount of dry food. She ate the food immediately and drank some water. Then she disappeared. I found her cleaning in the bathtub upstairs. She stopped for a moment, stared at me the way cats do, then went back to work. I gave her space. She had been through a lot over the last few weeks.
I was nervous leaving her there alone that night. "This is a crazy plan," I thought. While I'm at home, she could be doing just about anything at the studio. As uneasy as I felt about the situation, I still like it better than returning her outside to fend for herself. I even liked it better than her in the garage. It was a chance worth taking. This cat was worth the risk.
I arrived at the studio early the next morning, not knowing what to expect when I opened the door. There was Dibs. She already looked better. She was hungry, so I fed her. The cat box needed changing. The studio was just fine.
I'm writing this three days later. Dibs is one of the nicest cats I've ever known. She is loving, clean, and we'll behaved... Well for a cat anyway. She requires attention 2-3 times a day, and she will not be denied.
I don't know how Dibs became estranged from her home and fighting to survive out on the street. I had learned her name second hand through Alicia. At this point, the past doesn't really matter. I'm not sure what my plan is moving forward. But I do know this: her days on the street are behind her.