Thursday, June 2, 2016
I Believe I'll Go Back Home
When I left my father's house, I was filled with pride
I made a mistake and I done wrong, now I'm dissatisfied,
I believe I'll go back home,
I believe I'll go back home,
I believe I'll go back home acknowledge I done wrong. --Dock Boggs, Prodigal Son
So a week ago last Thursday we went up to Greensboro to see Libby's dad, something we do more or less weekly. We left about 4:30 PM and got home about midnight. When I walked up to the house I found the kitchen door ajar. I walked inside and could tell right away that there hadn't been a human intruder. Everything--all the stuff that jams our house--was still right there where we left it. What was missing was all the Houdahenians. One of 'em, probably Puzzle but we'll never know, messed with the kitchen door till it opened. Neither of us had double locked it, as one of us usually does. More particularly, I'd gone out the kitchen door and left it just clicked shut for Libby, and she went out another door. Then Mr. Puzzle got bored with life on the inside.
That's Kirby in the picture. I used the shot for a wanted poster I passed around the neighborhood early this week. We found him as a tiny kitten. Either he was a feral survivor of some horror, or some human had dumped him out at the end of the driveway. He was a tick eaten mess, starving and stunted. We took him in, got him cleaned up, even rescued him a second time when the so-called shelter decided to put him down after only a few days. He's a wonderful part of our home, really the sweetest cat you ever saw. He loves his new Houdahenian family too, all the big brothers, even the jealous Mokie, who always thinks someone or other is trying to get his. Kirby gives you head-knocks after each mouthful of kitty-bits if you lean over to him. He purrs when anyone is around. And though he finds looking out the window interesting, particularly when there's a bird or a squirrel in view, going out is the last thing he wants to do. He's been out, thank you.
But Kirby loves his brothers, and when they all went out last Thursday, free at last, free at last, I'm sure he followed along. Only the boys mamma, who gave birth to the boys in a little shed and then let us help her out, and finally herself moved into the house, totally feral and as capable a wild Indian as you could ever find, stayed inside. We started calling into the dark woods, into the dark night. Shortly Puzzle appeared. He was agitated, very fluffed up. Libby picked him up to bring him inside and he scratched her and me both wriggling to get free, but we got him in. A bit later an Wuzzy, his almost twin brother, black as night, also showed. Also fluffed up and agitated. Got him in. And momma came down from the bedroom. "What's up?" So that was three, and it was close to 2 AM, and quiet. We turned on all the lights, but Libby was feeling some despair. Sometimes it's easier to just assume the worst, deal with it. We both agreed that no one should be blamed about the door. I certainly did blame myself, but Libby's forgiveness helped some. Inside the house, the cats were all growling at each other, and Puzzle was letting out incredible screams we've never even heard out of him before. It was as though none of them were sure who they were looking at. Everyone was in deep survival mode, and all that veneer of civilization had melted away.
Another hour or so and Mokie came up. He's the dark grey brother, smaller, always a little jealous. He too was agitated and growling, but was easiest to pick up and bring in. And the good news was, nobody was in any way injured, bitten, whatever. Something had come through though, and scattered them. Still no sign of Kirby. We finally got to sleep, leaving all the lights on. We don't have a good situation for just leaving the door open. Likely doing that would find a possum or two sitting and shitting on the kitchen table come morning, and even more cat agitation. We were both very sad on Friday. It looked like Kirby had been lost. We both walked around in the woods. So far no sign of a little body, or even fur. In the evening, after dark, Libby was in the kitchen with the boys and Kirby came up to the door. The boys all hissed and growled. He ran away. This happened in a few seconds, before she even realized he was there. So the good news--the really good news--he was alive! Now we had to get him to come up again.
Libby found quite a lot online about missing cats. There's a complex MO, and some predictability. We went back and forth to town buying various supplies for the task. After a couple of days Libby got a decent spot light. We put a baby monitor under the house because we thought he might be staying under there--hiding I should say more accurately. We set the have-a-heart traps with canned salmon and anchovies, since we'd heard that odiferous fishy things would attract better. Shortly Libby was calling me from the back room. We'd captured a big possum. I drove him a ways down the drive and let him out into the woods. No more signs of Kirby. It was Memorial Day.
We started walking the woods with the big light. I printed up wanted posters and drove around the "neighborhood" and gave them to folks he might manage to walk to. It seemed unlikely. Kirby had never negotiated a road, much less crossed a creek that was pretty full and flowing right now because heavy rains. Then, Monday night, Libby saw eyes in the trees. She got close enough to be pretty sure it was Kirby, but he was not willing to come to her even with treats, toys, etc. displayed for him. Even his little green rattly ball, which he likes to play with for a half-hour at a stretch.
We saw eyes again on Tuesday night, and this time just a little closer, out near the far wood pile. Deep into the night Libby put out a few kitty-bits in a bowl, just inside the shed door. Wednesday morning when she looked something had disturbed them. Could well have been more possums, who knows. Then about 6 PM last night we happened to look out the window and there he was, Kirby, sitting on the top step of the shed. We got my mom's old binocs. It was pretty definitely Kirby. After a bit, while we watched silently, he went inside the shed. Libby got some more bits and some chicken and followed. She went into the shed and shut the door. There was silence for a very long time. I sat on the porch and watched the door. I drank a beer. She waved to me to come down there. She was talking to him, behind a big table that was stored in the shed, leaning against some shelves. We got him a few familiar things, a cushion he likes to sit on, the green ball. She talked to him. He was purring so loudly that I could hear him from several feet away. As the evening fell we kept talking to him. We got a flashlight. About 9 PM Libby picked him up and we got him into the carrier and back inside.
It was pretty much over, except for a vet visit we'll have to make just to make sure he doesn't have worms, and to get the ticks off of him totally. He was tired tired tired. He checked out a lot of his familiar spots, ate, drank a whole lot, slept. He's sleeping in his favorite spot right now, approaching mid-morning Thursday. Mokie and Wuzzy are still jealous and unhappy. They either don't remember him yet, or were just glad he was gone. Mokie I think was in the latter camp for sure. "Why's he getting all the attenion," Mokie says. "I came back the same night. I didn't worry anybody. That fatted calf is actually in the herd I was tending, and was going to pay for my sophomore year in Tech school. WFT!"
Puzzle's ok. Same with momma. Kirby is sleeping in the spot that Mokie likes to sleep in too. The Houdahenian way is just what it is. Some say they're all a jealous lot. Others rightly point out that that is anthropomorphizing. Donald Trump would probably say I'm succumbing to political correctness. That would be another reason not to vote for a fascist.
Our hearts are light this morning. Our little yellow guy is back, safe. Ironically, he found his way to the same shed where his stepbrothers were born. Moreover, he can at his leisure point out to the three of them that he made it outside for a whole week with no help for anyone, not even momma. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Is that too much to expect? I think they'll sort it out.