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Nicki and Ghost

by Dee Walmsley,
Clever's nature writer

This is a story about a wild raccoon named Nicki, a stray cat named Ghost, and the relationship the two enjoyed.

Nicki, named for the nick in her left ear, showed up at our patio door one night looking for a free meal. You see, on our roof we have this huge neon sign seen only by wildlife, that says “sucker” and over the years this restaurant has fed raccoons, squirrels, possum, deer, cats, coyotes and the odd rat who dart in and out for any leftovers.

Nicki visited our home nightly for nine years. We watched her raise her young and enjoyed their antics frolicking in their wading pool and playing with a variety of backyard toys.

The family ate arrowroot cookies and grapes which Nicki taught them to take gently from our hands. They ate, napped and left their fingerprints on the patio door before returning each night to the forest behind our home.

Ghost, a long-haired silver grey cat with beautiful mint green eyes appeared in our yard one winter’s day and quickly ate the dried bread set out for the crows. Her fur hung in clumps from her thin body and my heart melted when she noticed me looking at her through the kitchen window and immediately disappeared into the woods.

We built her a ‘cat house’ which we placed just inside the forest where each morning I would leave a can of food and step back to wait and watch. Within minutes without a sound she would emerge watching me with those green eyes. If I made a move, or once she’d finished gulping down her food she vanished like a ghostly apparition which is how she got her name.

It took a year of daily feedings to gain Ghost’s trust just enough to have her come when called. On cold winter nights I managed to get her into our heated tool shed where a soft bed, food and litter box awaited her, by morning disappeared back into her wild world.

Nicki never missed any meals or a safe time to rest curled up on an old pink bathroom mat her silvery grey fur shining in the porch light.

One summer’s night Ghost appeared while Nicki was enjoying her evening meal. We watched anxiously for any interaction ready to pounce into referee mode. Nicki, determined not to lose one drop of juice continued to tilt her head back munching grapes, smacking her tiny pink tongue after each swallow. Ghost watched the ritual then parked herself in front of the patio door and meowed…”where’s mine”? From that night on they ate together before taking a nap. In due time Nicki would head on home while Ghost curled up in her cardboard box to dream of mice and the good life.

In time Ghost’s health went into decline. The vet said her kidneys were failing and she would die of an oversized heart. The two friends continued sleeping side by side until the day I watched Ghost drag herself onto the porch. Her time had come. We lay together in the sunlight with me asking her permission to ease her pain. She lay with her head on my knee as we drove to the vets and I held her in my arms stroking her head as her body relaxed in death.

That night Nicki waddled onto the porch alone. Her friend’s bed lay empty. She ate her dinner, then for the first time curled up in Ghost’s box her head lay in her paws, her eyes watching the back yard….waiting. That was the first and last time that Nicki went into Ghost’s bed.

Ghost now sleeps deep beneath my rockery, her blanket a sweet patch of purple thyme.

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