I took the bus to work the first few months of my year in Baku…
until I realized I much preferred to start and end my day navigating narrow streets and underground walkways, dodging puddles and potholes and cars and exhaust, getting to know people and making friends with street cats.
I woke up with the rest of the city, walking with parents and kids on their way to school, nodding to busy street cleaning ladies.
I came to expect a daily exchange with the ubiquitous men who park cars. “ Good morning miss, how are you?” Proudly offering their bits of English. I return with my few bits of Azeri “salam, necesiz, sag olun”… to their smiles.
Pet-less for the year, I crave eye contact with a furry body and rely on the street cats of Baku.
It didn’t take long for me to start carrying food in my pockets. Some were pleasantly surprised, some completely uninterested or maybe too raw to stop and entertain the idea of me as provider of something good. Some scrappy cats were supported by shopkeepers, or lived in the flower beds of fancy cafes, most were not long for this world.
A seasoned momma cat lives near our doorway. We get to know her well and she, us. She’s holding out for the good wet food.
We found a barely surviving kitten of hers in the garbage shoot of our apartment complex and she lived with us for a time. But her problems were too big.
Some cats came to expect my daily appearance and the entire flea ridden, crusty eyed clan came to greet me. Always relieved to see they had made it another day. Always heartbroken when one of them went missing.
Maligned, adored, neglected, busy, short lived. Street cats in Baku use up their allotted lives way too quickly.
Some lucky cats find a soft place to lay their head,
others have homes made for them.
others are at home wherever they are.
I miss those cats.