Updated June 20, 2016.
Dodger adopted our family one frigid night thirteen years ago. A shivering, scrawny mass of black fuzz, he took up residence under our small, barn-shaped tool shed in the backyard of our home on the city fringe.
Built atop an abandoned gravel mine dug into an ancient river bed, our small patch of ground was a Garden of Eden to the wildlife that came to dwell there year after year.
A small pond (a relic of a children’s science experiment made from materials at hand--an old wading pool, a few seed sprouts, plant clippings and large rocks) became a permanent fixture. Like an elixir in a barren land, life sprang forth from it.
Tadpoles were our first residents; small tree frogs in rainbow colors were the result. Then, water skippers, damselflies, dragonflies, mayflies, back swimmers, water boatmen and pond snails.
Soon we saw red-tailed hawks, swallows, kestrels, killdeer, owls, juncos, red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures. At dusk the lawn (what we could eke out from the meager soil) came alive with Cottontail rabbits. Coyotes ventured close at night; so did deer. Over the years bear sightings were reported, though we never saw one.
It was a dark day when our home went into solitary confinement.
Blighted by a new highway disguised as a “parkway”, the county constructed a ten foot sound-wall on our back property line.
Overnight, the pollution of city expansion assaulted our haven.
After one particularly chaotic weekend night of sirens and car chases, Dodger made his debut just before Thanksgiving Day. I heard him, a panicked mewling from the backyard. Bundled against the cold morning, with flashlight in hand, I searched beneath the tool shed whence the terror came.
A golden-eyed kitten puffed and hissed as the light ruffled his fur. He backed into the deep shadows, out of reach.
No hungry kitten is immune to food.
So, I set out a small dish of milk at the edge of the shed. I tried tuna, canned cat food, even table scraps. For two days Dodger holed up beneath the shed refusing sustenance.
Hunger won out on the third day.
Dodger emerged from his den with the rancor of a starving cougar, stealthy, unapproachable and wild-eyed.
Day after day I set out enticements, drawing him closer to the back door, warming him to my scent. I sat on the deck near him while he partook of meals with veracity, and kept my distance. After meals, he poured out his woes; I listened attentively and sympathized.
Our friendship grew, albeit slowly. The day he rubbed along my arm affectionately purring was particularly gratifying.
He became family.
Not much larger than my fist when he first landed in our lives, he was six months old, according the veterinarian.
We can only guess what must have traumatized him. Dodger struggles with trust issues to this day. He is sensitive to change and thrives on routine. He spends most of the year outdoors, reluctantly sleeping indoors during inclement weather.
Half tame, half wild. Not quite barn cat, nor lap cat.
Dodger is proud of his outdoor savvy, boasting of his trophies and his latest conquests while on the prowl.
His adventures make great black cat stories.
Dodger and I . . . ever grateful to have escaped the frenetic city, now live in quiet solitude in the mountains. We've settled into a quaint, comfortable life . . . one to be forever cherished.
Do you see the favicon on your browser tab for this webpage featuring Dodger? I made a cartoon image originating from his portrait at the top of this page and embellished it using Corel PaintShop Pro. This image retained all the emotion of the original portrait.
The following comments are from, Guest Star: How Dodger Became a Cat Icon
You have written a wonderful piece . Hate how cruel humans can be!
Beautiful kitty. I’ve fed several that were half-feral and half-tame. They have trust issues all their lives, but you don’t love them any less.I checked out your gluten free website. I’ll be following it.
Lovely story and I am glad Dodger has a safe and happy home.
so cute, we had a cat for 18 years that looked exactly like this one, it was a black Norwegian Forest Cat.
Lavinia Ross says:
Glad to hear the kitty has a safe home now.
How can someone dump a little kitten over a fence. So happy that Dodger finally came around to you. What a guy!
I am glad Dodger found a great family.
Linda Anderson says:
Dodger is lovely, beautiful, and handsome. Thank ufor sharing ur story. Awesome
Great story. That’s one cat who demands respect. — Suzanne
Fortunate it was your wall he was unceremoniously tossed over. There are no accidents!