I was standing at the large expanse of the sliding glass door looking out into our backyard. Beyond our chain link fence was a strip of wilderness—the back trails—about twenty feet across that ran east to west for a couple of miles through the north side of our New Mexico town, altitude 6500, population, 7000. Movement to my right caught my eye. It was Ditto, our cat. On a dead run, a coyote on her heels. The two of them disappeared into the arroyo that flanked the path. I froze.
Out of Idgy’s first and last litter, the kitten we decided to keep was her spitting image right down to gender: the white spot on her nose, the white tipped ears, and the gray and white stripes that flowed into her all white underside. Spitting, the proposed name for our little longhair, was not acceptable, nor was Spit. As the self-appointed name giver, I had the last say.
I chose Ditto.
Once Ditto revealed her character, I might have chosen other apt names: Shrewd, Demanding, Persistence, Impatience, Sly, Clever, Sneak, Manipulator. She owned the entire family.
In the wee hours, when hunger struck her, she would stand over John, my sleeping husband, batting his forelock deftly without scratching his head. When she learned that such close proximity meant that he could grab her, she resorted to scratching at the carpet on his side of the bed. Not wanting to disturb his night’s rest, John blindly threw pillows at her until she left the room. But Ditto caught on to that maneuver soon enough and began scratching at the carpet where the pillow couldn't reach her so easily. At first she crawled under the bed. In the dark it took John a while to discover why the pillow wasn't connecting, but once he was on to her, her place of refuge was no longer out of reach. New Plan. From the foot of the bed, Ditto could scratch with impunity safe from flying objects hurled blindly her way. John tried closing the bedroom door to keep her out but to no avail. She simply scratched annoyingly at the door.
Growling and hissing in cat language, John finally leaves his warm bed and rewards the triumphant Ditto. Feline payoff. It was a nocturnal feeding ritual that would not end save she fall victim to Coyote Run.
Nights, from the back trails, we were serenaded en masse with the frantic coyote yelps of hot pursuit of prey or the assertive claim to territory. It was not uncommon to find a canis latrans texensis in our yard, or to see them during early morning exercise. I would tense up if I thought a dog, half hidden by juniper, was racing toward my path. Discovering it was a coyote I relaxed knowing full well he would instantly disappear into the camouflage of flora. But then I was not on the menu. Cats, on the other hand were appetizers, main entrees, and dessert. Typically, they did not last long in our town.
But Ditto defied the averages.
She suddenly topped the other side of the arroyo and true to her character made a valiant leap at the last moment for a wild olive tree, scampering to safety.