Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Escape

We are bad parents.

I am a BAD Mom!

Today, at approximately 6:15pm, Tabbitha (our 18.2 Tiger, er kitty) escaped.

And the worst part?

I didn't realize it until 7:55 pm.

What kind of parent am I?

Where to begin? I guess I realized that something was "off" when we had been attack-free for over an hour. A miracle of sorts. A strange sense of peace, according to Nathaniel. The work of the devil, thought I.

But let me back up for just a second. Lately, Tabbitha has been hanging out by the front door. I don't quite know why: outside of our door is nothing except a concrete slab and a few other doors in the apartment complex. Rather, drab - if you ask me. Freedom, to an overweight kitty, though. Nothing interesting like at our previous houses. At our first apartment in Cherry Point, NC we shared a hallway with neighbors who owned a Great Dane named Lucy and a Siamese cat named Cricket. There were always interesting smells in the hall, and Tabbitha would dash out of our door and spend lots of time exploring the stairway and blue carpeting. At our second house on base, we overlooked woods and an offshoot inlet from the Neuse River, and Tabbitha would mostly hang out under the bushes in front of our living room window. A perfect vantage point to spy on unsuspecting birds and squirrels.

Tabbitha always loved to go outside, however she never usually went that far. Occasionally she would make a mad dash for the woods or end up down by the river. Nathaniel always joked that she could stay out there, as far as he was concerned. But a few choice words from me, and he was soon helping me look for her, yelling, "Nu-Nu's!" (our word for Cat Treats) at the top of his lungs while I shook the Moist Cat Treat Bag. We always got her back, as she never really went that far. But I always worried.

Fast forward to about 2 hours ago.

As I was, saying... I made a quick trip out to the car to grab a medium sized sauce pan and 9 X 5 baking dish. At our morning bike ride, Ludi had returned the dishes that I had left at her place after our Thanksgiving feast. Last Thursday, I was a little too inebriated to be worried about pots and pans, as my main concern was making it to the backseat of the car without tripping over myself or my three left feet.

I quickly got the dishware, steadied myself against the chilly wind, and made my way back to our front door. Quick as a flash I was inside, and getting ready to make my dinner of chicken noodle soup. Not that exciting, but something I was looking forward to. It tastes especially good loaded with veggies, ham, turkey, and an egg. Delicious! And easy. Double bonus.

After making dinner, I settled in to catch up on some on-line reading, enjoy the 4th OT of Tennessee and Kentucky Football (Tennessee won 52-44!), and then realized that something was missing.

But what?

The dinner was great, I was relaxed and enjoying the fatigue brought on by a great bike ride earlier, I was enjoying my Diet Cherry Coke, and Nathaniel joined me after a few minutes. But something was off, just not quite right... But what??

And then it hit me: Tabbitha was MIA.

Usually she cuddles up to me, will follow me from room to room, keeping me company whenever I'm home. Neurotic? Yes! OCD? For sure! Strange attachment to her Mom? Definitely! But also incredibly sweet and loving at the same time. All things considered, I wouldn't change a bit. On the other hand, she'll still launch sneak attacks at Nathaniel from under the couch, and never misses an opportunity to scratch him when she can. She's not very good at hiding her displeasure. But she's still our cat, and I love her. Nathaniel claims to "put up with her", calls her "Bozo" and "The House Monster", but I know that he secretly loves her. Arm Chair Wars and all.

So after an hour and change of no cuddly companion on the couch, or sneak attacks aimed at Nathaniel, I knew something was amiss.

Could she be asleep? No - I checked.

Could she be eating her heart's desire (how much should an 18.2 pound kitty consume?) No!

Was she in any of the usual hiding places? Negative.

I started to get worried, a little bit of panic setting in. I called her. No response. I shook the treat bag and called her to dinner (hey - food always works with this cat) - nadda. Okay, something was seriously amiss.

And then it hit me: could she have escaped when I went out to get stuff from the car?

The thought sent shivers down my spine, and I felt myself begin to panic in earnest.


After a few deep breaths, I threw on my sandals, opened the door, and half expected to see Tabbitha sitting on the concrete, giving me a bad look. Where have you guys been? You forgot about me! But I'm a good girl! I didn't run away and didn't attack any of the neighbors, even the new annoying one whose father called you a Stewardess and claimed that his son had not one but two medical degrees. (Different story all together). Frankly, if Tabbitha had attacked them, it would be okay. Nathaniel and I would be proud: but alas, she was no where in sight.

I quickly ran to the parking lot, and started calling her name. I know I looked and sounded crazy, but was terrified of the worst-case-scenario. Tabbitha has been a faithful companion, a good friend who has stuck with me through good times and bad. I know she can't talk or communicate with me, but I sense a kindred ship between us, a certain connection that I just get her and she just gets me. Even though she attacks, there's a certain spunk that she's got - she's a no-holds barred kitty, one who makes you work for her affection. The kind of cat that Robert DeNiro's character in "Meet the Parents" would be proud of. Compared to Tabbitha, Mr.Jinx is nothing.

My fear mounted as I ran from one end of the apartment to the other. What have I done? Where could she be?? What if something happened to her - it would be all my fault! What kind of owner looses their pet?

I thought back to all the free-roaming animals that I've seen since living in the South, and remembered how angry I get at irresponsible pet owners. What are these people thinking? Domesticated animals are NOT safe running around in the open! There are too many things that can go wrong, too many dangers, too many things - bad things - that can get them!

I went to the other end of the apartment complex, yelling Tabbitha's name and clapping my hands as much as I could. I didn't care who saw me, or who heard my cries. I just wanted to find my Kitty. At this point, Nathaniel could sense my fear, and he joined in on the search. He dashed up the stairs to the upper level of the building, but after a thorough search didn't come up with any kitty.

I started yelling even louder, clapping my hands so hard that they echoed against the concrete and brick apartment walls.

And then, out of the distance, somewhere down below, I heard a familiar, "Meow."

It was very quiet at first, very timid. Very un-Tabbitha like.

I tried again, this time adding, "Nu-Nu's!" for good measure. When in doubt, kitty treats help.

This time the "Meow" was a little stronger, a little more bold.

I quickly dashed down the stairs, only to see Tabbitha carefully streaking out of the Nature Preserve in our backyard. More of a swamp, if you ask me. In the summer, I'm sure there are alligators and snakes - but this time of year I'm sure that they're all slow and slumbering. Well, at least I hope.

I scooped up Tabbitha in my arms, half scolding, half telling her that I loved her, and half crying. Amazing how one big little kitty can bring out a plethora of emotions.

In the end, Tabbitha was no worse for the wear. But I was a mess. It terrifies me to think that something - completely out of my control - could have happened to my kitty.

But after a while, I realized that's life. We do our best, we do everything that we can to shelter those that we love and care for - but at some point shit is going to happen, things will be out of our control, and we're going to have to hope for the best. It's unrelated, but I never want Nathaniel to get a motorcycle: I love him too much to loose him because of some idiot driver whose not paying attention. I worry about my little sister, navigating the streets of Philadelphia. I worry about my parents, and I want to be there for them if they ever need me. And now I worry about Tabbitha, escaping from the relative safety of our house.

But I also realize I can't live the rest of my life this way - in fear of the ones that I love. WE all have to go through life, to have our own experiences and adventures. If not, what's the point? So I'll try to focus on this, to de-stress a bit after Tabbitha's adventure. And realize that Tabbitha got a chance to explore Florida for the first (and last) time.

Oh yeah, and a good strong drink helped calm my nerves.

So here I sit, Tabbitha curled up next to me, enjoying a bit of British Comedy. And spiked egg-nogg. Works every time.


Anonymous said...

Tabbitha is an EVIL cat that specializes in:

1) Eating.
2) Weighing a lot (generally 18-22 pounds).
3) Sleeping.
4) Attacking people from tactical choke-points in the house.
5) Being evil.
6) Getting high off catnip and kalamata olive juice.
7) Evil-doing.

I hate that flipping cat. Let me drop kick it off the deck!!!!


Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Let's face it, Nathaniel. You LOVE that cat.

1) You lovingly call her bozo
2) You lovingly call her The House Monster
3) You give her treats of Kalamata Olives
4) You try to pick her up and pet her whenever you can.
5) You usually don't get mad when she attacks, and you are very understanding that she's a "special needs" kitty
6) You help me look for her whenever I'm scared that she's dissappeared
7) You pat the bed and encourage her to jump(up on the bed, that is... not off the deck)
8) You give her plenty of compliments, like "what a good jumper you are!" and "what sharp teeth you have!"
9) You tell her that she has beutiful stripes
10) You tear up when you see her, but claim that it's "allergies"

Humbug. I know the truth. Tabbitha knows the truth. And now the WORLD knows the trught. Bwahahahahahaha!

Anonymous said...

Marit is mis-representing me as a softy and Tabbitha as a nice kitty-cat (meow!).

Here is what Tabbitha is. Think of a really nice cat. Then think of the opposite of that.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

You still love her.

Remember: the cat and I go together. :)

Anonymous said...

Yup. The cat and you go together. Remember that the mere existence of the cat is proof that I love you very, very much!

Otherwise I would never have it for a pet.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

The mere fact that you would take it this far, just goes to show what a big heart you are. Sweetheart, you're not fooling anyone. Let's face it, Tabbitha has you wrapped around her vicious claws. And remember, she loves you just as much as you love her. And I "love" seinfeld just as much as you love the cat. So there.

Anonymous said...

Saying that the cat loves me as much as I love her is like saying the French love Americans as much as the Americans love the French.

What you say is, true. We just love eachother equally miniscule amounts.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

The French comparison is great. Their new President apparently loves the US. And you love Tabbitha. And Tabbitha loves you. And I love you for loving Tabbitha.

Anonymous said...

As the french say: Too-shay. (I know how to spell it. But it looks like "Touch")