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By @garden_bella

The snow fell much slower that day. The cat batted at the snow absentmindedly, his tail flicking lazily as he blinked the ice out of his eyes. He looked over his shoulder at his back, which, in the meantime, had become lightly dusted with the pure white frost. The cat stood up and shook off the evidence of winter, displeased with being wet and cursing himself for staying out in the snow for so long. But it just felt so refreshing, and the snow provided a nice pastime that didn’t involve hissing at other cats for personal space and looking for food. 

Occasionally, a human would pass by, and the cat would only be able to see their heavy boots and their hands that stunk of human flesh. Sometimes, they would grab a stick and try to play with the cat, who simply stared back with an expressionless gaze. How demeaning. A stick? The snow was much more exciting, nature’s version of a cat toy. The cat jumped off the green electrical box and onto the slush on the concrete. He let out a low groan at the feeling of dirty, watery snow under his paws, but there was nowhere else to walk. He looked up and saw a high fence, one far away from the wetness below. Even better, it was covered by a tree, the branches blocking most of the snow from falling onto the wooden barrier. The cat nodded to himself and hopped up onto the fence, purring happily as he curled up on the wood and closed his eyes for an impromptu nap.

On the other side of the fence was a dog, left out in the snow and trying not to shiver too much under the thin protection of her doghouse. It was poorly made, outfitted with splintered wood with gaps between the beams. A layer of snow slowly began to pile inside the doghouse, making the point of the doghouse nonexistent. At least she wasn’t receiving the full wrath of Mother Nature—rather, a slow build-up. She curled up into a tight ball in the corner of the doghouse to preserve warmth, but as her breaths became more and more opaque in the frigid air, she was quickly losing hope. This had happened multiple times before, and she thought she was used to it. But over the years, her skin had become thinner and thinner and her tolerance for the cold only decreased. She lapped at the snow, both to drink water since her water bowl had been empty for two days and to clear out the bottom layer of snow before another one floated through the gaps. 

She stood up. Perhaps she should try what she tried last winter when her doghouse began to truly diminish in quality, as if it had any in the first place. She stepped onto the dirt, wincing at the slush coating her paws. She walked over to a particularly thickly-packed hill of snow by the fence and began to dig a hole, letting out quiet whimpers each time she threw a portion of cold snow against her exposed underbelly. Once an adequately-sized hole was made, she stepped inside and curled up, her body heat immediately bouncing off the icy walls and back onto her. She reached out and pawed at the snow, bringing it in closer to close off the opening as best as she could. Perhaps this could get her through the night or until her owners took pity on her and gave her a blanket or stored her in the garage. The garage was cold, but at least she didn’t have to deal with snow flooding her doghouse. 

The sound of whimpering and the crunching of snow caused the cat’s eyes to flutter open, his pupils thinning at the interruption to his sleep. He was not in the mood to fight a territorial today. Territorials were the worst, acting as if they owned everything. Meanwhile, the cat took what he could get. He slowly turned his head to survey his surroundings, kneading the damp wood and splintering it slightly. It might have been part of his dream. He began to go to sleep again when the whimpering caused his eyes to shoot open. It came from below. He looked down the inside of the fence into the backyard of the house he usually avoided since it had such loud humans inside. They were always screaming and crying, as well as the enemy that stayed in the backyard. The cat hadn’t realized he had wandered so far from his previous sleeping place. But as the cat looked down and saw said enemy, she was much quieter, not barking that evil bark of hers. Thank goodness. The cat was about to stand up and move away before the enemy sighed, a sigh that the cat recognized. It was one of hunger, thirst, one of struggle. How could the enemy be struggling? Once the enemy disappeared underneath a coat of snow, the cat jumped down into the backyard without hesitation and walked over to the mound. 

Crunching steps caused the dog’s eyes to open to reveal tiny gray paws, inquisitively swiping at the snow. Usually, the dog would have ordered the animal to leave her area, but with the obscene amount of cold biting at her skin, she didn’t have the energy. Neither did she have the energy to object when the animal made his home next to her stomach and curling up into a fuzzy ball of fur. This was…nice. The animal provided extra heat, so she didn’t complain. Rather, she moved closer to the source of warmth, letting out a satisfied snort. A displeased mew came from the animal, which humored the dog. Maybe the animal she always chased after like a dog toy wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe the same animal she hated with a passion would get her through the winter alive. 

And even though that didn’t turn out to be true for her, the moment they shared was enough to leave her warm inside far after she had grown cold forever.

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