So we were resting at the top of the climb out of Castrojeriz, when this cat – not much older than a kitten, really, came up, working the the group of peregrinos gathered there. Meow, meow (feed me, feed me). This happens occasionally so I wasn’t thinking anything of it.
Then came this group of older women who swore they had seen the SAME cat the night before in Castrojeriz. Still, as interesting as that was, they were either mistaken – or perhaps the cat had been carried-up by someone who then dumped it at the top. Who knows – although such a thing wouldn’t be very nice, of course.
As we’re walking across the meseta, after having walked down that rather tall hill, we are PASSED by the SAME cat! How SLOW can you possibly BE walking if you’re PASSED by a CAT?
We stopped to consider this and have a sip of water. And the cat plopped down on the side of the road, panting and meowing. Unfortunately, Pony is allergic to cats, so there isn’t a lot we CAN do – but there are LOTS of pilgrims…
…and when we get to a rest area ahead, there is that cat again, working the crowd. A pilgrim going the other direction (returning home – most folks just walk TO Santiago and RIDE or FLY home – some walk BOTH ways) actually walks BACK to the rest area and gathers-up the cat, spending time with it, before the cats wanders away from him and back into the crowd and disappears with it.
The next time we see it is another kilometer or so later at Ermita de San Nicolas, cradled in the arms of someone who looks like he worked there (much to the annoyance of his dog, it seemed). Fine – cat has a home. All is well and right in the world.
So Pony and I are having a spirited discussion outside of the albergue after dinner (as we will occasionally do) and who should walk-up?
The women who had seen the cat the day before also see him and make a fuss. While the folks at the albergue were VERY nice people anyway (the host speaks English AND French, as well as Spanish – very nice kid originally from a town near Mexico City), I’m fuzzy as to whether or not they were THAT nice (or charmed by the story of such an amazing cat) – or just being nice to the cat to be nice to us, but it was good for dish of milk… I’m thinking that if he showed-up the next morning with a gift of a mouse for the owner, he just might have a permanent home… although he appears to have declined TWO offers that I know of, so it would be hard to tell.
He did not pass us the following day – but we got a later start and clearly walk SLOWER. But if he shows-up at Santiago, I will PERSONALLY represent the cat in making a case for a Compostela!
Thinking about this the following day – you HAVE to admit that this IS pretty extraordinary behavior for a cat – in wondering why the cat persisted on this trail (although I certainly DO hope he found a home at the albergue), I found myself wondering if this cat was merely an cat analogue for some of the humans we meet along this route who, when you ask why they are doing this, either don’t know why or feel as if they have some mysterious “drive” or “pull” to do this. And that’s as good a reason for us as any reason someone may actually HAVE for doing this…
…so why should we expect any more of an explanation from a cat who is doing what many humans are already doing without an explanation.
I hope to see him curled-up around a crucifix on an alter in Santiago. I’ll take pictures and call Disney – there’s a movie in that, I’m sure…