41 Days

At 9:30 last Saturday evening, I shut off the television and turned off lights before heading upstairs to bed. My husband Gary was already asleep. I heard a yowling outside that sounded familiar. It started at the sidewalk, gained momentum up the walkway, and came to a fevered pitch on the front porch. I looked out the door’s window and was convinced the nachos I’d eaten for dinner had been laced with peyote. Our cat Little Mister stood poised like a bullet ready for the door to open.

I yelled at Gary. “Little Mister’s home!”

“What?” he said in drowsy confusion.

Little Mister had been gone 41 days. I thought he was gone forever. Yet there he was howling at the door. I opened it and he ran halfway up the stairs before stopping. I stood, frozen, transported to an alternate universe where I was staring into the eyes of a pet that I’d given up for dead.

Water!

I ran to the kitchen, poured water into a bowl and raced upstairs. I lightly petted him as he took a few sips.

Food!

Store! Go to the store!

I wrestled a jacket over my pajamas. Wait! Marcia has a cat and it’ll take less time to get to her than to the store. I prayed she was still awake. She was, and met me outside her house with a sandwich bag full of cat food. I sped back home, filled a bowl with food and ran upstairs.

LMRECOVERY4I sat with Little Mister and petted him while he munched on the kibble. He looked at me and meowed. It was pathetic and weak. I picked him up and felt the literal interpretation of the phrase “bag of bones.” His eyes were bright, but his coat was disheveled and dull.

For weeks after he disappeared, I expected to hear his meow when I passed by the front door, to find him in the middle of my bed when I went upstairs. I missed him most at night, cuddling at my side.

I didn’t miss his 3:00am—every 3:00am—insistence upon being let outside. And I especially didn’t miss having to keep him and our dog Lucy separated because he hated her puppy energy.

LMRECOVERY3I got into bed, tried to relax and pretend everything was normal. Little Mister, as is his custom, sat on my chest, wedging himself between me and my book. For the first time in 41 days, I cried. “You poor, poor thing, I can’t imagine where you were and how you suffered. I’m so grateful you’re back.”

Weeks earlier, in the midst of the Christmas holidays, I’d resigned myself to his disappearance by thinking he’d been ill and wandered off to die. My tears were a mixture of compassion for his plight and guilt over having so easily dismissed him.

His return was a cosmic slap in the face, making me realize his is a life that matters. I took responsibility for nurturing that life when he came into our home eleven and a half years ago.

The next morning, I got up at six and Little Mister wanted to go outside. We had no litter box and I took this as a sign that he was well enough to return to his familiar routines. (I now realize that I was still in the throes of suspended reality.)

A few hours later, I called him, but he didn’t show up. I walked to the sidewalk and heard a faint meow coming from next door. I found him crouched behind a bush in the neighbor’s yard. It broke my heart to see him looking so helpless, unable to traverse the short distance home.

I picked him up and scolded myself for having let him outside. His ordeal had drained much of the life out of him. His eyes, bright at his return the night before, were dull. He ate a bit of food and I settled him on the bed.

Gary and I speculate what might have happened. On that rainy night of December 20, Little Mister must have sought shelter, perhaps in someone’s rarely used garage or shed, and got locked in. He must have had access to water and maybe some critters. His frantic yowls upon his return convinced me that after 41 days he’d gotten his first chance to escape.

LMRECOVERY2I’ve set up a litter box and will keep him inside. He’s been to the vet who discovered that he has the “reddest throat and biggest tonsils I’ve ever seen on a cat.” She gave him a little IV hydration boost, some antibiotics, and a shot of what she called “cat morphine” to ease the pain in his throat. “Cats tend to like opiates,” she said. Little Mister agrees.

I’m happy that Little Mister is back. I promise to do everything in my power to return him to his normal fatty, demanding, Lucy-hating self.

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26 thoughts on “41 Days

  1. I KNEW he was going to come back! In fact, I just thought about him the other night, like three days ago! I’m so happy your Little Mister/Sister is back where he belongs. poor little guy.

  2. Yay – Little Mister is back in da house!!! Thinking about him and sending prayers and love got him back to you guys. WOW – that he was gone 41 days though! Hopefully he feels better soon 🙂 Take Care

  3. As usual, a beautiful story. I am so happy he came back. Poor thing! Sounds like he is going to be livin the life now though! Love ya.

  4. Great news. I’ve heard these stories before but have never known anyone personally it actually happened to. Go Little Mister.

  5. Beautifully written, and such a poignant reminder of what it is to take responsibility for a life… When my cat Puppy (!) was dying, of old age, she was by my side constantly. I kept trying to keep her alive…for me, I am now convinced. One day, in the midst of our tragic and lovely farewell, she disappeared. I felt dread, sorrow, understanding–but panic ruled, and I set out to find her. She was way back in the yard, hiding in fear or choosing her spot I don’t know. I picked her up and carried her to my bed, so relieved that she did not die alone. The next day I carried her out into the sunlight on a blanket and left her there as I went to work. When I returned home, my husband was digging her grave. She lay there, peacefully, but flies were already assembling. I think I merely postponed her passing for my own gratification…but perhaps she was OK with comforting me just a little, one last time.

    • Thank you for sharing this story Tina. The life and death experiences with each pet teaches us something, doesn’t it? I admire your courage in letting her go without veterinary intervention.

  6. That’s great to hear your cat made it home. When I was in elementary school, my mom became convinced our three cats were peeing all over the house (I don’t think they were, or if they were it wasn’t “all” over the house…) So she boxed the cats up and gave them to a couple who owned a small farm on the other side of the valley. I was sat and angered. Yet, one morning when she opened the front curtains there was my black cat Rubic! He was the first to come back and my sister’s cat followed a week or two later. I wonder how large that journey seemed to them? It was about a mile away. However, my mother’s cat didn’t come back. I’ve always got a small bit of satisfaction out of that.

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