January 17, 2007
Little Friend Lost
My cat is missing. His name is Chance and he is a tuxedo cat, with pristine white paws and a perfect face. He is only two years old.
I don't know how it happened. He has never been outside before but, when I got home from the supermarket with my son today, I unpacked the cat food and called for our three feline friends. Only two appeared.
Chance is usually the first to hit the food bowl lineup, pushing his fearless self to the front of the line.
The hours since have been dark with fear and despair. Chance, you see, is my miracle cat. I found him last year when I was writing a story about the homeless who live behind the diner in Hampton Bays. When I first saw him, I was uncertain. I did, after all, have two dogs and two cats already. A third cat seemed, well, a bit crazy. But one look at his tiny, shivering self, and I was lost. We bonded in that first five minutes, when my tiny bundle of trust was nestled in my wool blazer, warm and safe for the first time in perhaps forever.
I vowed in that first instant to protect Chance always, to shelter him inside the sturdy walls of my home. Never again, I vowed, would he have to brave the bitter elements, cold and hungry and afraid. For the rest of his life, I would be his guardian.
Even when I learned that he was desperately ill with an internal parasite, there was no doubt in my heart that he would survive. He was in kitty ICU for two weeks, but when I went to visit the tiny patient, the sound of my voice brought him to his paws as he limped, IV and all, over to the side of the cage to try and nuzzle my face.
It has only been a year and three months since I first brought him home. Our relationship has still only just begun. Just last week, I marveled at how much he simply just enjoyed being a mush, snuggling for hours, content to knead the covers and purr the days away.
My little Chance. It is cold outside, and raining. He has never been outside, not since that first cold autumn day when I found him, trembling and too sick to survive in the wild for much longer.
For days after I first found him, I took him everywhere with me. The bagel store, village board meetings – even to Vermont, because he was so frail, so dear, that I didn't want to leave him alone, even for an hour.
Now, he has somehow gotten outside – my best guess is that he ran out when the cable guy came to fix my modem today – and I am lost. What to do? Where to turn? How to find him – he's black, and the night is so dark.
I could pontificate in this column about how the love we feel for our pets is perhaps the purest form of affection we ever have the fortune to experience in our lifetimes. Our feline – and canine – companions offer immeasurable comfort and hours of sheer joy and ask for nothing, except a warm, safe home, fresh food and water, and the pleasure of our touch.
I could say many things, about how much this tiny black and white ball of fur has come to mean to me. But I can't say anything, because I'm crying so hard.
I can only pray that somehow, my precious cat is found safe and sound, and given one more Chance.
Editor's Note: Thankfully, Chance was found the next morning, cold and wet and hungry, but alive. Knowing that nothing can motivate my furry friend more than the sound of a cat food can opening, I circled the property in the gray light of dawn, can and spoon in hand, calling his name. Finally, I heard it – the tiny mewing cry I thought was silenced forever.
This scare has served as a warning, and perhaps, we can all learn from Chance's escapade: Be sure your pets are microchipped, certain that they have collars and tags. It's their only defense, should they set off on an adventure. And don't our pets – family members, really – deserve the chance for a reunion?
As for Chance, I'm buying him a sleigh bell-studded collar. I never want to lose him again.