To Alaska - Without Jigger
22 May 2015 | Posted at Port McNeill
Photo: Did Jigger sail off into the sunset?
I scrambled up the steep hillside on the trail at Lagoon Cove, enjoying a brief respite from the last few days of pushing north. Sunlight filtered through the alders, lighting new-leafed ferns on the forest floor. Then I spied a clump of wide-bladed green grass. I should pick it I thought; it is just the type of grass Jigger, our cat, likes us to bring back to him when we're cruising. I imagined his little meow of happiness when he saw the grass in my hand. Then I remembered with a jolt; Jigger was not with us. We'd had to leave on our 6th trip to SE Alaska without our boat cat. I had grown so used to having him with us it was hard to break the habits of 13 years.
A week before we were due to leave, Steve let Jigger out the front door at 3 am - as he often did. Normally, Jigger would have been back by breakfast, waiting to come in with the newspaper. He never appeared. We put up posters, talked to the neighbors, put an ad on craigslist. But although we met a lot of friendly neighbors, including some who had seen large black cats that might have been Jigger, we never found him. Reluctantly we left Seattle. Our house sitters are still watching for him but with each passing day, the odds are less. We don't know what happened. Did a coyote get him? Did he wander too far and get lost?
Jigger was an exceptionally good boat cat. When we started the engine in the morning to raise anchor, it was his signal to hop up onto the cabin roof next to the chart plotter. When the weather got rough, he'd disappear below to this bunk for the duration. When we were at anchor, he'd sit on top of the dodger, surveying the anchorage. In the evening he'd curl up on one of our laps as we read. And always, when we came back to the boat, he was there to greet us, meowing in protest at our temerity in leaving him. Without him the boat seems empty and way too quiet.
In my imagination - and in the book I have been writing, Jigger the Cat Sails to Alaska - Jigger was always having adventures. He rode an iceberg, escaped a bear, fought a crab and danced with totem poles in the moonlight. I like to think that wherever Jigger is, he's having a grand adventure. But if you see him, please send him home.