I hadn’t wanted to write about this situation because it was just too painful and sad. However, I’ll start at the end and tell you it’s a happy one — a bit dirty, but happy nonetheless.
Last Wednesday, Charlie sauntered to the back door huskily meowing to be let outside in the backyard.
Now, mind you, while T and I lived with my mom for a year and a half in Antioch, Charlie and the rest of the cats were relegated to the back yard. Absolutely under no condition were any of them allowed in the house. And every night, for 547 nights, Charlie cried to get in the house. At times it was almost unbearable. But now, all of sudden, living back in Alameda, he wants to go outside? Go figure.
So, always wanting to please the cat, I let him out; I figured I’d let him back in when I got back from school. When I returned home, I found Charlie laying on the big chair sleeping, barely opening an eye to look at me. Walking back to check their food and water, I noticed I left the door open (oops, thank goodness for safe Alameda neighborhoods). As I was closing the door, Charlie came running to the back; he wanted out again. I didn’t think anything of it as I let him out into the sunny backyard. Then, I left for bowling.
Returning home that night, I totally forgot Charlie was still outside and didn’t think to call him to come in the house. I remembered the next morning when he didn’t come to wake me up by snuggling my hair.
The panic set in.
T and I had numerous ‘discussions’ about letting the cats outside versus keeping them in; it was actually quite contentious at one point. I think we finally agreed to disagree and I just let them go when they wanted to go.
The panic increased. Every day. Every day I walked the dog down the street and called Charlie’s name and he didn’t appear, sadness and guilt expanded in my heart. I’ve lost many a pet in my 34 years, and I’ve always dealt with it in a matter of fact way tellling myself they are in a better place – Cat Heaven or Dog Heaven, whichever Heaven was applicable.
I think I asked Terrence every day if I should mourn this loss or be hopeful. Terrence was steadfast in his certainty that Charlie was okay — his theory that if we didn’t see the cat on the road, he was fine. I was worried about all the neighborhood raccoons, to which T would remind me of the raccoons in Antioch.
By Saturday, any shred of hope was missing, just like Charlie.
If Saturday was dark, Sunday night was bright with joy.
Around 10pm Sunday evening, Terrence came running out of the bedroom, past the comfy chair in which I was sitting, and threw open the front door and the screen. I ran behind him to see what he was so excited about. There on the sidewalk as if time stood still for the last five days, was Charlie… or so I thought, and then knew after a double take.
Our once snowy white with gray stripes cat was more of an overall dirty gray, with little white to be found. His meow was just the same, maybe a bit more gravelly from his travels, but it was definitely Charlie!
Immediately, we put him in the sink for a bath — he stunk to high heaven and generally didn’t look good. After two rounds of bathing, he looked more like a wet rat than a cat. The grime didn’t come off until at least a week later… Bitty did a lot of bathing and caring for her brother.
As much as we complain about being a four cat household and all that entails, we couldn’t have been happier when he came home.