Ten Things I Learned from Grinder by Deb Joelle

I think it’s pretty clear from my author pic that we’re cat people here. When we first moved to Canada, we brought two with us, Sophie (in the pic) and Grinder. Six days in the car really pissed Grinder off and the second day we were here, my husband smoked up the house with the wood stove (we were new at it) and so he opened all the doors, forgetting the cats were under house arrest. The next time we did a head count, we were short this adorable mug.


Grinder had flown the coop.

He’d always been a wanderer, so at first we just hoped for the best, but after three weeks, our hearts were pretty much broken. Without going into a whole long story about the day we returned the moving van to the US (had to take it back across the border), I will say it was right up there with my top ten worst days of my life. However, when we got home, there was a message on the voicemail.

“Hi. We saw an orange cat down by the ferry and when we tried to go after him, he ran over the rocks and down to the water. If yours is still missing, you might want to check it out.”

It was ten o’clock at night, raining, and pitch black. Not to mention the ferry terminal was four kilometers away – a long ways for a cat to stray. My husband still had a tiny bit of common sense left after our horrific day (mine had been shredded) and refused to go down to the ferry with me saying that we’d never find him that night, but we’d go first thing. The next morning, in driving rain, we went down there and called and called Grinder, to no avail. Finally, we gave up and went to Village to hang more posters. Then the weather broke, so we went back down there and I stood on the rocky cliffs and did that kitty-kitty-kitty trill thing that women in my family seem born knowing how to make, and all of a sudden I heard a meow. And then another.  It sounded exactly like MOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!

Luckily, Grinder’s head popped up just in time to save me from throwing myself over the cliff and trying scramble down the side. He was purring before I’d even lifted him off the ground.

I ran out into the street, and on one side, all the cars were lined up, waiting for the next ferry. My husband had gone who knows where. In spite of all the spectators, I stood in the road, clutching that scrawny orange body to my chest, screaming, “VICTOR! VICTOR! I FOUND HIM!” Tears streamed down my face.

One of my worst days ever, followed by one of my best. I seriously can think of very few days when I’ve had such a rush of emotions like that. Until last year when that knucklehead cat sideswiped us again.

Grinder left us last May. In typical fashion, he just let out a howl and died right there in front of us. That’s how he did things. It was horrible and heartbreaking but so much like him, it kind of makes me smile now. I miss that little guy. One of my most favourite essays that I’ve ever written was inspired by Grinder. So here it is:

grinder big Ten things I have learned from Grinder

1. Sleep in the sunshine whenever possible.

2. Drink lots of fresh water.

3. Go on at least one adventure every day – three or more is better.

4. Have lots of friends, but be your own self too.

5. Accept love, and give love, but don’t let anyone hold on to you too tightly.

6. Do a few things you know are “against the rules” every day.

7. Pay attention to wildlife.

8. Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired.

9. If you want something, be patient and stay after it. If you feel frustrated or it gets away, move on to something else. You can always come back to it.

10. Every once in a while it’s natural to forget what you were doing. Who cares? That just means it’s time for another nap.

11 Replies to “Ten Things I Learned from Grinder by Deb Joelle”

  1. Oh, this one really ripped me up. And I love the ten things you learned from Grinder. Words to live by.

  2. I got a little weepy reading how you found Grinder! And I like his life lessons, especially the last one. We never, ever forget the pets we’ve loved and lost. They are family.

  3. Sometimes when I’m sad, my long dead German Shepperd will nudge my leg like he used to do when he was alive, letting me know he’s there.

    I’m so glad you found Grinder (which in surfer-speak means a powerful wave).

  4. Awww…this post made me cry!

    About 10 years ago, I used to call the Humane Society periodically asking if they had any polydactyl (many-toed) cats. They never did, but I kept calling since I’d always wanted one. Then one day the person on the phone said, “actually, we do — we’re about to euthanize him because he’s really old and was just some stray barn cat. You want him?”

    That’s how we ended up with Barabbas, and there was a running joke that he got in line twice when they handed out the nine lives. One day he just disappeared, and like you did with Grinder, we feared the worst. After four weeks of searching and calling and posting signs, we pretty much assumed a coyote got him.

    Then my husband got a last-minute call to paint a newly constructed house down the road (he was working as a painting contractor at the time). He got the house all taped up and started spraying when he heard a familiar “meow?”

    Turns out Barabbas had somehow gotten himself nailed under the floorboards of the house. He was thirsty and skinny, but otherwise OK.

    He lived for another 5 or 6 years after that.

    I’m glad you had those extra years with Grinder. He sounds like a wonderful kitty. Thanks for sharing this story!


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