Saturday, August 21, 2010

Emily's Unknown Adventure

Of the three cats that count themselves permanent residents of my house (a fourth is temporarily residing as a consequence of my boyfriend being away at sea at the moment), Emily is NOT my adventurer. It's surprising to me that it turned out that way because the circumstances were exactly the opposite when I "met" her and her two sisters in the curator's apartment of a historic home in RI seven years ago. The moment the young lady who found and captured them opened the door to the kitchen where they were sequestered, Emily dashed out first, only followed tentatively behind by Charlotte. Anne refused to leave her little corner and had to be physically carried into the living room to join her more eager sisters. What I hadn't told her before I came over that day was that I intended to take all three of them home with me. And, home with me, with only a short interruption during the year of my education abroad, is where they have been ever since.

Until last Saturday.

It doesn't surprise me when I hear gunshots in the distance living in this area--too many locals are marksmen and buy sizable pieces of property in order to exercise their right to bear arms. The bigger problem is a guy who lives on the other side of the neighborhood who insists upon setting off fireworks, without much skill if the sound is any indication. The area is covered from one side of the town to the other in tall pine trees, and signs on the lawns of every local fire department constantly warn against the danger of forest fires whether it is sunny and dry or cold and wet outside. Last Saturday once it had grown completely dark, off the fireworks went for about an hour. About that same time, I started calling the cats into the house. In came Anne and Oscar without a struggle, but I couldn't see Charlotte or Emily. I wasn't alarmed--they usually made their way back as soon as they heard the first call, and even if they chose to be stubborn, they would stay outside, just out of reach, close to the house for as long as possible.

As the evening went on, Emily still didn't come back. The sound of worry entered my calls to the point that Charlotte, my most outdoor-oriented cat, came back to the house, and let me pick her up and bring her indoors. This wasn't a good sign, and its ill omen was only reinforced by the glimpse of a grey fox crossing the road from the woods and wandering through my yard.

The next morning, Emily was not waiting on the doorstep to come in. Calls throughout the day did not bring her home. A walk around the neighborhood raised no hopes.

On Monday, I returned to work, emotions in limbo. A local shop printed color fliers with her picture on it, and that evening, I put one in every mailbox in the 3 mile circle that encompasses the neighborhood. The next day, I visited vets' offices and animal shelters to the west of where I live, stopping in nearly ten places over a distance of about 25 miles. When I returned home, I had a message from a local gentleman who thought he saw her walking the direction of the other side of the neighborhood earlier. Although a ways away from my house, I drove over there and called her. There was no sign of her anywhere, but I did meet the son of the man who called me, and the next day, on another sojourn, this time to the east, he called me believing he saw her in his neighbor's yard. By the time I arrived there, he had discovered, after enlisting the help of this neighbor, that the cat belonged to someone nearby.

By Thursday, Emily hadn't come home and no fresh leads had been brought to my attention. After work, I decided to make one more attempt at finding her. Focusing on the gentleman's lead from days before, I took the remaining fliers and brought them to another street on the the side of the neighborhood he had supposedly seen her. I walked up and around a high hill, I walked down every side street I had originally dismissed. I exhausted my supply of fliers in the process. I called every so often, listening for a rustle of leaves, a cry--anything. Two hours, five miles, and two huge blisters later, I returned to the house. At that point, I realized that I couldn't do anything more--if no one called, if she didn't materialize in a local shelter, if no one brought her to a vet's office, she was gone. Emily, the sweetest cat, who took care of everyone sick or sad, who followed her sisters dutifully around the house and the yard, who everyone had praise for her wonderful disposition, had fallen to some unknown, horrible fate that was stomach-turning to imagine.

That was when I heard it--a mew getting louder as its source moved closer and closer to the house.

I opened the door--there she was, covered head to toe in copper-brown dirt without a scratch on her. She wasn't even hungry. She settled in a spot on the kitchen floor and looked up at me with a "what?" expression while her sisters examined and sniffed her from a safe distance, baffled at the combination of her absence and her sudden reappearance. Where was she? Still a mystery, but the experience has transformed all of them into indoor cats for some time, if not permanently.

Objections, there are many. Peace of mind, in this case, is just too priceless to sacrifice to make even these cats happy at the moment.