I had a pretty decent weekend and was really ready to tackle this week head-on, but… things kept happening. First, website problems. Later, server migration to fix the website problems led to more website problems. Between those things, we found out that my boyfriend Jack’s job is ending. At the same time, we had a plumbing issue that rendered our kitchen sink unusable and necessitated a plumber visit, which we spent one day “on call for” in case they could fit us in (they couldn’t). Then I had a very worrying sore throat and drippy nose, a week before I’m visiting family with immune system and respiratory issues. Then the plumber came over along with our landlords, and when they left the back door and the door to the unfinished basement and root cellar were both wide open and we were minus one cat.
Everything else kind of paled in the face of the missing cat. We turned the house upside down and searched out every human accessible/visible nook and cranny of the unfinished, dirt floor basement and the “root cellar” which is just the hollow space under our back porch, accessible through a gap in the basement wall, and searched the obvious places for a scared cat to hunker down in the yard. We put out food, drink, and a warm bed in case she was outside and came home in the night, and then turned the house upside down again.
It turned out she was under the porch, up under the wall of the root cellar where we couldn’t reach. She was also scared out of her mind, hissing and growling at anyone’s approach. I suggested we leave her alone until she got more hungry than scared, but Sarah pointed out that a cat might be able to squeeze her way out from under the porch into the yard, and that other animals certainly could. We’d recently trapped a rat who got inside that way.
So I lured her out as far as I could with a plate of dinner and then grabbed her and carried her upstairs. We have two cats. One of them doesn’t mind being picked up and occasionally enjoys being carried around the house like a baby. This wasn’t that cat. She associates any holding with having her mouth forced open and pills shoved down her throat, and always fights. I couldn’t let go of her, because if I did she’d run back for what seemed like the safest place, and it would be that much harder to get her out of it.
Mark Twain said that in carrying a cat by the tail, you learn something that can be learned in no other way. I wasn’t carrying Tommy by the tail, of course, and I’m not sure what I learned from it, except that you can endure quite a bit doing something for the sole reason that it has to be done, which is something I knew but that perhaps I needed a refresher on. I’m grateful that it was winter and so I was wearing long sleeves. I bled in a lot of different places, but none of them deeply.
Tommy was missing long enough for me to have gone through all the likely scenarios and figured out what I would do in the event that they became necessary. It seemed impossible to me that she was in the house proper and very unlikely she was beneath it. (I did not realize how extensive the nooks back up under the porch were, as Sarah did. She’s lived in this house far longer than anyone else.) I made the back porch as welcoming as I could, even providing a pan of litter, making a bed out of her cat carrier and covering it with a blanket and putting one of my worn t-shirts in it. I was preparing to start calling shelters the next day, make flyers, and even go so far as to talk to my neighbors.
But then she was found, and then she was back in the house. She was as scared as I’d ever seen her when I carried her up, and a scared cat is an awful lot like an angry cat only angrier. I let her go as soon as we were clear of the basement and the door was mostly closed, and her tail was big and bushy like a raccoon’s, she was so on edge. I thought it would probably be more than a week before she would come near any of us, and a long time after that before she’d trust me in particular.
Five minutes later, though, she wasn’t just back to normal, she was sweeter and cuddlier and more trusting than she’s ever been.
It was the place that had scared her, and the experience of finding herself in a place full of strange sounds and strange smells. Once we brought her out of the cold, dark place, there was nothing left for her to be scared over. She nuzzled me and snuggled up to me like I was her new personal superhero.
I would have said “after finding herself trapped”, but we didn’t close the basement door the whole time she was down there. She felt trapped, evidently. Probably she found herself down there while the plumber was working and ran for cover, then didn’t trust that the coast was clear. The racket we made looking for her probably made her more anxious, and then I repeatedly stood on the back porch—inches over her head!—calling her name and holding food, sprinkling cat nip. I kind of felt like a jerk when I realized that.
When I started this post, I hadn’t intended to tell the full story of Tommy’s catabasis (Get it? Cat-abasis?) or any particular detail of the week, just mention the low-lights, but I apparently needed to get this out. It was a very emotional day. As I said, I was already making crisis plans when Sarah took a deeper look in the high, dark corners of the root cellar and found her. When I woke up Wednesday, I had a hard time believing that I didn’t need them, but I was ready to get back in and tackle the rest of the week.
…and then I found that my website was unusable.
So it goes.
Internet, I have had a heck of a week, which has been part of a heck of a few months, which has been part of a heck of a year. You know parts of it. Others aren’t mine to tell, or aren’t things I’d like to share. But I appreciate the goodwill and patience you have shown me, and all the messages asking me how I’m doing and making sure I’m alright, even when I’m not able to respond to them.
I’ve been making plans, in between dealing with the crises of the moment. Tomorrow I’m going to share them.