I’m what you might call a very private person. Even my closest friends have found that I’m not always eager to share my innermost feelings. Maybe I’m just no good at the intimacy thing. Or, maybe I just prefer listening to sharing.
But today I want to tell you how much I’m hurting at the loss of my cat, Mallory. Last Friday, June 14th, she was snooping around the grass in the backyard when my neighbor and her grandson came scampering over, scaring my cat away. We saw her run around the house. We thought she might double back. She had never been on her own, so we were sure she hadn’t gone far. Apparently, we were wrong.
Within seconds of disappearing around the corner, the search was on. Up trees, under porches, in open sheds and scattered bushes around the neighborhood. Nothing. The sky eventually turned dark, and we hoped Mallory would lay low and possibly return by nightfall or even early morning when the streets were quieter. I stayed up all night waiting; hoping she would turn up. I walked the streets around my neighborhood calling her name and jingling her favorite toys. That was 9 long days ago. Each day, as hope begins to fade, it gets tougher.
Even though I have torn my hair out trying to find her, I’m terrified of what has happened. Did she get stuck somewhere she couldn’t get out of? Is she scared? Hungry? Is she even still alive at all? I don’t know. And that’s what is so terrible. Not knowing.
I sit outside in the middle of the night hoping to see her come strolling up the driveway. I walk out back where I saw her last. Night after night, she doesn’t show. Oh, I think I see her. I’ve seen a thousand shadows where my heart skips a beat as I hope it’s her. Sometimes it’s just a rabbit or, worse, someone else’s cat. Those moments are heartbreaking. I stand up quickly and start calling to her. But the cat just runs the other way. It doesn’t know who I am, and there’s nothing I can do to make it stop and come closer. Other times the shadows I see are nothing at all. Just my own brain making patterns out of nothing. I don’t believe in ghosts. But that’s what it feels like. It feels like seeing the specter of a lost loved one disappear right before your eyes; and with it the hope you once had.
My sleep has definitely been affected. I not only sleep less, but what sleep I do get is broken up by my constant waking up and checking the doors and yard. It took a few days, but I’ve started to dream about her. I go to bed, half expecting her to jump up next to me and prop her back slightly against my arm like she used to. When I remember that she’s not there, I drift off to sleep and see her in the doorway of my room. She’s home! Someone found Mallory! I wake up to reality. Reality hurts.
I’ve cried my eyes out several times over the period of her absence. I’m crying now just writing this. I miss her terribly. I miss how her meow sounded like not much more than a tiny breath. I miss throwing her favorite toys across the room and listening to her squeak in delight at chasing them down. I miss her hiding milk gallon caps and their color-matched rings under rugs throughout the house. I miss the way she would stretch: sitting on her hind legs while raising her front legs straight up into the air. I miss her following me into the bathroom, jumping on the toilet before I could get there. I miss her sleeping in the sink. I miss coming around a corner and having her reach a single paw out towards me, then running away when I tried to pet her because she wanted to play chase. I miss how much she loved a paper grocery bag, using each one as a little hiding place for weeks afterward. I miss her hopping up on the kitchen counter out of pure nosiness just to watch me make a sandwich. I even miss how she would leave her little poops on top of the litter because she just couldn’t be bothered to bury it.
I just don’t know what else to do. I keep ads up on Craigslist. There are missing posters scattered throughout the neighborhood. I even made up flyers offering a reward and handed them out to teenagers. It’s as much as I can afford. And while $50 isn’t a lot of money, it seems like about a million bucks to them. I get knocks on the door from kids saying they’ve seen Mallory. They lead the way, but it ends up not being her. Sometimes, the phone rings and the person reports seeing the exact same cat. It can be frustrating, but it’s worth it to have a few amateur detectives keeping their eyes peeled. At least I know they’re trying to help.
There’s a greenhouse nearby that my mom checks out regularly. Quite a few strays have found their way there, and the good news is the workers feed them. But Mallory has not yet stopped by for a meal. She’ll keep checking. I’ll keep hoping.
I don’t understand how she was able to disappear so fast. At first I jokingly thought to myself that she ran around the back corner of the house and into another dimension; that she ran so fast she broke the speed of light. But that is just not funny to me anymore, because I just want her back. I want her to come home.
I’ve had to deal with a great amount of anger at my neighbor. I blamed her for making the cat run away. Why didn’t she at least holler first before she came over with her grandson? Why did her grandson have to make a beeline for the cat? Did they have to make such a scene at coming over? There were many times I wanted to pound on her door and tell her to keep herself and the damn kid the hell away. But she didn’t know what would happen. She didn’t know Mallory would run away. She was scared to talk, much less even look in my direction for a week afterward. It took me some time to even acknowledge her. I’ve forgiven her now. I just wish we could do it all over again.
I told you earlier that I’m a private person. I also keep my world very small. I have a tiny circle of close friends and I don’t go many places. But losing Mallory makes me feel very small and the world that much bigger. How many places could a cat hide? Why won’t she come out? Will I ever see her again? Does she even remember me?
These questions and a variety of others cross my mind relentlessly throughout each day. Support from friends and help from neighbors has been nice. But all I can do is just hope that, wherever she went, she found food and water. Maybe even got taken in by a kind person who noticed she looked lost. Even if I never get to hold her again, I’d prefer that scenario to the alternative. I hate the thought of her wandering this giant world, lost and scared, hungry and thirsty.
I don’t know what will happen from here. I don’t want to think about the odds. I just want to find her. Until the final word is written, I’ll keep searching. What else can I do, right?