We've been shedding quite a few tears this week. Our beloved 16 year old tabby cat, Winston, went missing last Tuesday. We've been unable to locate him despite a frantic search.
I let him out in the front, gated courtyard like always. It has a wall and he loved sitting out there gazing out the gate into the sagebrush, watching the rabbits hop about, or just lounging and enjoying the outdoors scents. He'd stick his nose up in the air and sniff as he bobbed his head slightly. Often, I'd take my coffee out and sit, too, enjoying the morning air and quiet.
Tuesday morning I let him out there and left the front door open, but came back inside to make a phone call. While I was on hold (trying to find out why the new computer I ordered was delayed), I heard a shuffling around in the landscaping rocks, so, phone to my ear and still in my jammies, I poked my head out the door to see what he was doing that was creating a raucous. I just heard the shuffling and then saw fur going over the wall. My view was limited as I was gazing through a pinon tree outside the door; I just saw something jumping over the wall.
Now, Winston has never tried to jump the wall before. Admittedly, the back courtyard has a higher wall than the front, but he's been out front frequently and never once attempted to scale the thing. And, his normal routine - if he did go after something, like a lizard- would be to give a brave attempt to catch it, then give up quickly and go back to lying down and sniffing the air. So it was a shock that he'd wrestle with something and follow it over the wall.
I screamed for Bryan, threw down the phone and ran to get some shoes and clothes on. I wish now I'd just run out there barefoot, but if you've ever stepped on tumbleweed prickers you'll understand my hesitation. Besides, I figured he was just sitting out there. It took only about 20 seconds for Bryan to get his shoes on and go outside, but there was no sight of him. I joined the search and turned frantic quickly when we didn't see him among the brush. I called my sister to come help. The three of us methodically tromped all over the sage in and around our lot for two hours, but he seemed to have simply vanished. We couldn't find or hear him anywhere. We couldn't figure out what happened or where he could have gone. I couldn't be sure if Winston went after something, or something was after him. We'll probably never know. The only thing I learned during the search stomping all over the sagebrush was that I am, indisputably, allergic to sagebrush. Nice. I'm surrounded by the stuff.
Cara made up fliers for us to post around the neighborhood. We left the gates and doors open all day, hoping he'd return. I would go out and listen, figuring if he got himself lost he'd start crying or meowing. He was certainly vocal enough at home. Nothing. We started to fear, and in the morning when he'd not returned I started the crying that would come every day after that whenever I thought of the poor old guy "out there somewhere".
We'd had a call from one lady on the next street over and a little ways west of us, saying she had seen a cat on her wall that may have been Winston. We ran over and started a sneezy search of the sagebrush in that sector of the neighborhood. Her neighbor across the street was out, so I went to ask if she'd seen a cat. "Just my own," she told me. So I told her about Winston and she said, "well, that describes my cat". So, after seeing there was a resemblance, though Winston has more white, we think the caller may have seen her neighbor's cat instead of ours. We were crestfallen.
The hardest part has been the reaction of friends and neighbors. Why must every person I talk to point out that "there are coyotes out there". Yeah, we know. Hello, we've lived here 18 years. We know that; thanks for your comforting words. One lady said, "oh well, just get another cat," as if this one had no meaning or emotional attachment for us after 16 years of companionship. Not helpful. He's been our baby, a part of our family; he's not 'just a cat' or easily replaced. Why is concern over or even mourning for a pet considered unseemly or overly emotional? I've been missing my faithful feline friend and crying for him, and I don't think that's a bad thing. One neighbor said they had lost three cats. Like it was no big deal! I can't understand the detachment and apparent lack of caring.
Bryan rode his bike every morning all over the area looking for him, and saw two coyotes in the vicinity. We know that he's old, he's declawed, and he's hard of hearing...not good odds. But still, every day I open the door frequently, still wanting to see him turn up and meow at me, vocalizing his desire for his canned food. It's been a week now. I don't have much hope. But I do wish he'd turn up. He was a good kitty and a purrful, faithful friend. I miss him.
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider