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DOYLE: Is this new friend really our old friend?

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Meet Sharpie the cat, who seems an awful lot like Scout the dog.

By Steve Doyle

About two weeks before Christmas, a young, black-and-white cat took up residence in our barn and promptly became part of the family. That may not seem unusual to you, but it was downright eerie to us.

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We only that month had been talking of getting a barn cat to help ensure pests didn’t invade the feed bins. Then appears this cat, nice, clean, young, looking for a family and a home.

We are a farm of kindred spirits pulled from all sorts of wayward outposts and provided with homes, so what was one more? And there was no attention paid to the fact that two of our four humans are deathly allergic to cats, as in must wash hands immediately after touching and apply Benadryl if there’s even a tiny scratch.

Yes, Sharpie – as she quickly was named because on her arrival day she clawed scratches in my wife’s leg right through her jeans – became one of us quickly and naturally.

But there’s one other thing that made all of this appear divine and not serendipitous:

Her arrival coincided almost to the day with the 1-year anniversary of when we shockingly laid to rest our beloved dog Scout.

Please pause and consider that I usually am not given to ridiculous rants when you read this:

I have no doubt that Sharpie is Scout reincarnated.

No, I’m not a let-the-cows-run-in-the-street Hindu, but I believe there could be something to the idea that souls are repurposed into new earthly forms.

And Sharpie is a living, breathing, purring and cuddling example.

That she has Scout’s same coloring and playful demeanor are ridiculously coincidental.  That this cat didn’t run away from the humans and in fact seemed to recognize each of us right away was something out of Stephen King, in a benign way.

That she liked her belly rubbed and her head scratched – which I realize  are inherent characteristics for cats – was remarkable, given that felines usually withhold their affections right away. Sharpie did not. She was a little afraid of gloved hands but not hands.

One of the first nights after she arrived, I opened the front door to turn off the outside Christmas lights, and there sat Sharpie. This is maybe 100 yards from the barn, and my wife, charmed by the cat’s manner, invited her in for a drink and a quick look around.

This Sharpie did as if it were a home she knew. She wasn’t afraid and didn’t run away. She just purred and perused.

When we put her back outside for the night – this was after long discussion about how this was a barn cat, not a house cat to live among the dander endangered – I later went to our lower level, and there was Sharpie, sitting outside a window, watching my every move. That was a bit possessing.

A day or two later, Sharpie stopped by the house when only my wife was home, and she again was invited in for a drink. This time, she got to meet Shelby, our remaining dog.

They eyed each other, sized each other up, did some sniffing, and then casually walked away. There was no barking, no hissing, no arched back, no low growl. This was simply two pets realizing they could live with each other.

Shelby is Scout’s half sister. I believe she and Sharpie knew each other’s smells.

As the past few weeks have unfolded, Sharpie has earned a new bed, some new bowls, some different kinds of store-bought food, a collar and a name tag.

She likes to hang out with the horses, and it isn’t unusual for her to visit the creek area on the lower corner of our property. One day she brought home something bloody, but it wasn’t apparent what that thing had been.

She wasn’t always at the barn, but she would return shortly after. If one of our cars approached, she often dashed to the door to see who was arriving. She somehow rolled down bales of hay and would crawl between them for cozy catnaps.

She typically sleeps under the raised floor of our tack room and comes scurrying out when one of us calls “kitty, kitty.” She now can be picked up without ultimate fear of those sharp claws, and she seems to have relaxed and truly found her home.

The other day, when that arctic blast made its first frigid bite into us, Sharpie again was invited into the house to ensure she wouldn’t freeze to death.

Me: How are we going to manage this? She will scratch up everything.

My wife: Just put her bed in that kennel in the garage and bring her inside.

So I made the bed, adding some hay so her surroundings would be familiar, added some treats, placed Sharpie in the kennel and carried it into the house.

She mewed a bit and looked around, but she was patient and apparently calm sitting in the downstairs family room. She was allowed out of the kennel for a bit, and she and Shelby walked around like old friends, doing their sniffs, neither acting threatened.

But the real oddity is that Sharpie wasn’t inside for more than 30 minutes than she had settled into the haybed and was catnapping away. All the humans and the dog went to visit her, and she just purred and rubbed and never blinked a wild eye.

You might say Sharpie felt right at home in that kennel in our downstairs room.

But then that would make sense: She was resting in Scout’s old kennel.