Collins, Britt. “Strays: A Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America”, Simon and Schuster. 2017.
Saving Each Other
If you have ever doubted the bond that exists between a person and his pet, you need to read “Strays”, the true story of Michael King, his rescued stray, injured cat and how they save each other. King is homeless, alcoholic, and depressed. He lives in a UPS loading bay on the wrong side of the tracks in Portland, Oregon. One rainy night, he finds a hurt, starving, cat and takes her in, nursing her back to health, he names her Tabor. When winter comes, they travel from Oregon to the beaches of California to the high plains of Montana, and along the way, people are drawn to Tabor and moved to help Michael, who either has Tabor riding high on his backpack or walking on a leash. Tabor comforts Michael when he’s down thus giving Michael someone to love and care for. She also inspires him to get sober and to come to terms with his past family traumas and grief over the death of his life partner.
Man and cat become inseparable as each heals the scars of each other’s troubled pasts. However, when Michael takes Tabor to a veterinarian in Montana, he discovers that Tabor has an identification chip and an owner in Portland who has never given up hope of finding his beloved cat. Michael has a difficult choice to make but he decides to return to Portland and reunite Tabor with her owner. He is then left to create a new purpose in his life after Tabor. What we see so beautifully here is the healing power of love and the profound bond between humans and animals. We see the ability that animals have to transform people and we also get a humanizing look at the factors that lead to homelessness.
Tabor’s journey and willingness to persevere, is a wonderful reminder of how animals can help create extraordinary circumstances, which help people join together in even the toughest of times. The prose here is beautiful and the story is compelling. The narrative moves back and forth between Michael and Tabor as they hitchhike across the Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana and then to Portland as it gives us details the tough life of stray cats and homeless people living on their wits alone.