I still have plenty of horse things to cover, but how about a different kind of animal story?
Despite not being much of a cat person, for the last 10 years or so I have lived with a cat. He is my husband’s cat, given to him by friends of the family when he moved into his first apartment out of college. My husband is very definitely a Cat Person.
Buddy is a large (20lbs at his top weight) longhaired black cat, probably part Maine Coon. He had failed out of two previous homes. In both cases, he was so obsessively over-attached to his people that it caused actual problems with other animals in the household. So he was the perfect cat for a bachelor in a small apartment as the only pet.
I have never been much of a cat person because I did not grow up with them, and because I am allergic to them. Not severely allergic, but I definitely get sniffly/sinusy/blah after extended contact with them. Staying overnight in a house with a cat is tough for me. When I moved in with my husband, I spent the first six months feeling like I had a mild head cold, and then my body finally slowly acclimated to living with a cat.
It’s been over a decade now, and I still don’t really understand cats – it’s like our brains are ships passing in the night, without any true interface. But I have grown very fond of Buddy; he sleeps on my side of the bed, purrs wildly if you so much as look at him, and he and Arya are fast friends. (By the time she came along, he had aged out of his over-obsessive tendencies and was able to share his people with another animal.)
Buddy is declawed in the front (done by his previous owners), and is genuinely not very bright. He loves sleeping, being petted, eating, and occasionally annoying Arya, and he leads a fairly uncomplicated life entirly indoors. He is 17 now, very deaf, and fairly arthritic. He can no longer jump up on anything higher than about a foot, so we got stairs for him to get up to the bed to sleep with us.
So you can imagine how worried we were when about a month ago he escaped out the back porch door and into the world. I was away doing a work thing, and he snuck out on my husband’s watch. We didn’t know he was gone until about an hour and a half after he had slipped out.
We spent the night looking for him, and then the next two days. We looked under every porch, into every shed, through the woods, everywhere. We knocked on doors and called vet offices and animal shelters and posted messages to the town listserv and put up posters everywhere. We put food and clothing with our scent and his in all corners of the yard, and set up a game camera to watch the porch and yard. For days and days and days. It was like he vanished into thin air.
On day 12, we were out picking up takeout for dinner and I got a call from some neighbors two streets over: they thought they saw our cat. We’d gotten a bunch of these calls from lots of very kind people but none of them had panned out; still, we spend home and pulled up in front of their house. They met us right out by the curb and said they’d just chased him into the falling-down foundation of their neighbor’s garage.
I was skeptical but shimmed through one of the large cracks and shone a light in. There was definitely a cat, but I didn’t want to get my husband’s hopes up, so I tried calling out to the cat with no luck. I was contemplating how best to suck my gut in to get the rest of the way through the crack when the neighbor and my husband found an unlocked door on the other side. It took only a second for my husband to confirm that the cat was Buddy, and he scooped him right up.
The rest of the night felt surreal. We got him home and settled in to a closed-off room for peace and quiet. He drank a full bowl of water, but wasn’t that excited about food. He was clearly a bit disoriented, walking around the room and nosing things in confusion, then coming back to the water. My husband slept down with him on a couch that night, and the next day the vet gave him a totally clean bill of health with only some mild dehydration and some soreness in his hind end, both of which were quickly resolved.
The vet called him a little miracle cat, and it felt great to talk to neighbors again and tell them he was home. When I posted on the town listserv to say we’d found him, we got a dozen emails from random people saying how thrilled they were that he’d come home. A 17 year old deaf, arthritic, declawed, indoor cat somehow survived on his own for almost two weeks! My husband’s theory is that he was bumbling around seconds from death at all moments but too dumb to tell, like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
We’re still so, so glad to have him home. We know we don’t have too much longer with him, but we are grateful we’ll be able to say goodbye when that happens, not just wonder.