Pets - Joy and Pain

 Pets - Joy and Pain

Zane, removing the motor in his fish toy.

        As one who has been privileged to live in the company of pets for as long as I can remember, I never cease to be amazed by the power they have over my sense of well-being.  This becomes particularly acute when one of them goes missing.

        Recently, one of our cats disappeared.  One day Zane was here, being his normal goofy self, and the next day he was nowhere to be seen.  

        He, and his half-brother Eddie, are the most recent additions to our ever-evolving cast of felines.  That was two years ago.  Since their arrival from a single-wide trailer on the southside of Zanesville, brothers of different mothers but of the same daddy, they have proven themselves to be fine companions.  Even Leroy, our other cat likes them, which is what we had hoped following the tragic serial demise of three other cats over a period of about six months.  My wife and I also missed the amusing chaos of having multiple cats in the house.

        Then, Zane failed to show up.  With indoor-outdoor cats, this happens occasionally.  We never know what happens to them because when the missing cat reappears they do not divulge the details of their whereabouts.  So, on day one, I suspected Zane may have gotten caught in someone's garage or shed, snarfing around and the damn door closed.

        The next day of absence the anxiety level had increased exponentially. This is a normal reaction, especially during winter cold.  People who do not live and interact with pets often suggest that maybe the critter just ran away.  We know that happens, because that is how we have acquired some cats in the past.  They had a home, and decided ours looked better, and moved right in after casing the joint a few times.  Open the door to let the usual gang in, and an additional body accompanies them.  Then the new arrival stops and announces, "Well, I'm here!" and that is the end of that.  

        Others suggest the pet may have gotten lost.  Not likely, but possible, and it is that possibility that causes the anxiety.  A dog could chase something, and after a while stop and realize, "where the hell am I?"  For a cat, it would be a slightly different scenario, meaning they were the one being chased, and by what?  So, now, the question is not only how far did the chase go, but did they get injured.  A cloud of unease descends upon the elevated anxiety.  Coyotes are in the area - god forbid.

        By the next day the searching begins in earnest.  To hell with what the neighbors may think as a grown man wanders the backyards and alleys calling out his pet's name.  I pause, with the keen listening for a response.  Zane and Eddie have small voices.  Even when they do want to get my attention, I have to be paying close attention.  Due to the wind, and different sounds from the village, I jolted whenever I thought I heard a meow.  But it does not repeat - at least not then, or there.  Later, maybe, and somewhere else.  But never a repeat.  It is nerve wracking!

        Night is the worst.  I lay in bed wondering where Zane could be.  Is he hurt?  Is he scared?  Is he freezing to death?  Does he wonder why I have not come to his rescue?  It is awful, and then I start to 'awfulize' even worse circumstances.  My wife is doing it too.

        By now the prayers have commenced in earnest.  Please return.  Please be safe.  Please let it have been swift and not an eternity filled with terror.  

        How could this be just?  Zane was just a happy little guy!  I once saw him go out the back door to see large snowflakes falling gently down.  He jumped up on his back feet, reached out his paws, and squeaked with excitement.  He was my constant companion in the backyard.  If I was doing something outside, he would soon appear to assist.  Trimming bushes, cleaning the car, shoveling snow, planting stuff, or even walking down to the Post Office - I usually had my little striped cat close by.  He did not deserve whatever fate had befallen him.

        It is the unknowing that makes it worse.  I fully understand the agony people go through when a loved one disappears.  It is better to know, even though that is painful in its own right.  Not knowing puts life in suspension.

        I was driving home from Lancaster, thinking, praying, looking.  Focus on driving or you will have a wreck, is the message I told myself.  Focus on what? was my reply - driving, or my lost buddy?  I could not decide which was more important.  Muddled thoughts as I try to carry on hour by hour -  day by day.

        By fourth day we had to start to come to grips with the fact Zane was really gone.  Eddie and Leroy had looked for him inside and outside.  Now, they were just very quiet.  Did they know something we did not?  Of course they did!  All animals know a lot, and much more than most people give them credit for.  My wife and I have been constantly amazed by what animals perceive, and how connected they are to their environment.  Was their torpor depression or acceptance.  It was more, and different from normal feline laziness.

        At 4:30 the next morning, Tammy was up.  Nothing unusual about that.  She heard something at the back door.  There was Zane, hanging on the screen door!  That is what he typically does when he wants to come in.  She let him in and was so thrilled and excited she scared Eddie and Leroy.  She woke me up by tossing Zane on the bed and shouting the good news.

        Zane had enough of this commotion, and wanted to go back outside, but that was not happening!  He looked fine.  He was not wet or injured.  In spite of being gone for five days he was neither hungry nor thirsty.  Eddie and Leroy were glad to see their little buddy back and tried to sniff him all over to see where he had been, but Zane just wanted to be left alone.

        It took several days before Zane wanted back out again.  We do not know what happened, and he was not talking.  Things around our home slowly returned to normal - normal, that is, for a couple of characters living with cats in a small house.

        Our prayers were answered, and I have said thanks many times since Zane returned.  He is glad to be home.  After about two weeks, he started playing with his favorite toy again, and he talks to it while playing.  It is a ball embedded in a circular track around a cardboard scratching pad.  He can get that thing going up to warp speed!  The fish in the picture, was fun a year ago, but once the motor got removed, it no longer flopped around on the floor and was no longer as fun anymore.  But Zane's ball is a source of peace and calm for him.  When I hear that ball rolling around, I know all is right with the world this moment.

        Loving a pet is a remarkable experience.  To have the companionship and interaction with one of God's creatures, it helps us get deeper in touch with our own humanity.  If we truly pay attention we can see, and feel, a more profound connection with their world.  Their world is our world, and that must be respected and cherished.  For these reasons and more, the disappearance of one of these remarkable beings can cause such deep pain - and reuniting such joy!



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