On Sunday, after church, I went out to investigate the forest floor beneath the hickory tree we’d seen the vultures in, in case there was any gray fur left from a kitty meal. I didn’t find any. Meanwhile, the wife went down the hill to try and talk to neighbors. They knew D.J. and had seen him around in the past, but not recently. They agreed to keep an eye out and to check their outbuilding in case he’d snuck in there.
Throughout the afternoon, we kept waiting for him to just meander on in, but other than repeated “Fatty” misidentifications, we saw nothing. It was to the point that Ashley couldn’t even be sure she’d seen him when leaving on Saturday morning. She was afraid she’d just seen fatty trotting by the driveway.
“Oh, no,” I said. “Fatty doesn’t trot. He lumbers. And it wouldn’t have been any other cat because it was running toward our house.”
At 4:50, Sunday afternoon, I was struck by the sudden feeling that D.J. was alive. It was a warm and confident notion that said, he was not only alive but was on his way home. In fact, it was so strong that I wrote it in my phone, as if speaking or writing it would make it real. I then watched the back door, waiting to see his kitty face peering through it, or to hear his “wipewipewipewipewipewipe” trademark. Nothing.
Sunday night, I posted a picture of D.J. to Facebook and asked my friends of a praying mind to say one for him. A number of people responded that they would.
It was difficult to go to sleep for both of us. We were both feeling down and with good reason; see, beyond Emmett’s brief disappearance from a few years ago, we’d had a previous experience with a cat disappearing, which did not end so well.
Our cat Avie was the second cat we had following the passing of my 17-year-old cat Winston. (The first died of panleukopenia, and the less said about that the better–beyond the standard, “Get your kitten vaccinated!” advice.) Avie was a sweet kitty, though vicious if you happened to be a baby rabbit. We nicknamed her Kissy Kitty, because she tended to snuggle up on my wife’s chest and would kiss her sweaters. We left Avie with our friend Scarlett while we took our dogs with us on vacation back in 2010. When we returned, Scarlett informed us that Avie had escaped the house during the week and had not come back. We shrugged this off, thinking she would eventually return, or that it wouldn’t be a problem to locate her. None of our efforts proved fruitful. We searched the neighborhood, put up posters all over, went door to door with flyers, and made daily trips to the Bluefield Humane Society for three months because we had a tip that one of their neighbors regularly caught local kitties in a live trap and hauled them in to kitty jail. (We even called that neighbor, just to let them know we were on the lookout for a particular kitty, but they denied being the neighbor that did this.) We had a few leads, but mostly these turned out to be the wrong cat. We had fingers crossed that she might make it across town and turn up at the house someday, but if she ever did it was after we moved to Lewisburg. We were broken-hearted for weeks, and could only console ourselves with the hopeful vision of Avie sitting on the lap of some little old lady, kissing her knitted shawl. It still makes me sad to this day.
The coda to that story is that our friend Scarlett, from whose care Avie had escaped, is responsible for giving us D.J. and Emmett. She’d picked them up as kittens from the humane society a couple months after Avie’s disappearance and her kids had named them Deja Vu and Emma. Only they wouldn’t stop peeing in this one spot in her house, no matter what she did, so she said we could either take them or she was returning them to the humane society. We, somewhat reluctantly agreed. Emma turned out to be a boy, so we renamed her Emmett. And since one of my Top 10 favorite movies is Silverado, I decided that if we had an Emmett, we needed a Jake, so that’s what I renamed Deja Vu. The conversation in which we broke this news to Scarlett went something like this…
“We’re renaming Deja Vu to `Jake,'” I said.
“Oh, Jake, like in Twilight?” Scarlett said.
“No! Not like Jake from Twilight,” I said, annoyed at all things Twilight. “And the other one we’re renaming Emmett, cause it’s a boy.”
“Oh, Emmett, like in Twilight?”
Knowing that this would be a conversation we would probably have to keep having, we abandoned our Silverado theme and just renamed Deja Vu to D.J.
As we weepily lay in bed Sunday night, the wife said, “I guess we lost another kid.”
“Oh, I still think he could turn up,” I said. “I keep waiting to hear him wiping at the glass.”
“Yeah. Me too,” she said.
We talked more about the possibility that he was trapped somewhere, maybe in someone’s garage. However the fact that it was now Sunday night and this hypothetical family had not returned from their hypothetical weekend trip to free him weighed on us. If he wasn’t trapped in a garage, and if he wasn’t dead on his head, the other alternative was that he was alive but injured and couldn’t reach the house. The fact that it was already 20 degrees outside and snowing didn’t help us in this line of thought.
I slept fitfully. The wife barely slept at all. Then what little sleep we were getting was broken by the sound of chainsaws at 8 a.m. Monday morning.
On Friday, some utility workers had been sawing trees and limbs along the power line path, just below our house and evidently they’d returned to finish the job. It made me wonder if the sawing might be connected with DJ’s disappearance–if, perhaps, he’d been investigating some of the piles of sawed limbs and become trapped beneath them in a limbslide. The men wrapped things up by 8:30, though, and no cat turned up.
I phoned the office of the veterinarian in proximity to us, but they’d not had any anonymous gray kittie’s dropped off. Neither had our own vet. We then tried to phone the humane society, also over the hill from us, but they were closed on Mondays.
We went our separate ways for errands, and met for lunch before heading home. I was the first to arrive, hoping to find D.J. waiting at the front door. He was not. I called “Heeeeeere kittykittykittykittykittykitty” in the front of the house. No cat rolled up. I took the dogs inside and then stepped onto the back deck, where the cat also was not. I gave it another “Heeeeeere kittykittykittykittykittykittykittykitty,” really putting some voice into it. Screw the neighbors. No kitty.
Looking down the brambly hillside behind our house, I decided I was going to head out into it to have a look around. We know this is D.J.’s primary route to getting down into the rest of the neighborhood, so it made sense that he might be in there. It would also allow me to investigate the piles of limbs the utility men had left. I went back inside and began bundling up. As I was doing so, the wife arrived home. I told her of my plan, which she said was a good one. I was then pulling on my gloves, headed for the back door, when I looked up and saw a kitty face peering over the top step. I did a double take, not wanting to be fooled by “Fatty” for the 53rd time in as many days, but this was definitely a skinny kitty. I then gawked as my brain sent several “Please Confirm!” messages to my eyes. They confirmed. I froze in place, refusing to take my eyes off of him for even an instant, as though he would run away or disappear if I did. Then, in one breath, I said, “Holy shit! It’s D.J., I swear to God it’s D.J., I am looking right at him, you have to come and see!”
She came over to see and he didn’t vanish. We then both carefully moved toward the back door, slipping through its gap and not allowing the dogs to follow. He didn’t run away, but he did seem strangely cautious, or even dazed.
“Let me see him,” the wife said, reaching down to pick him up. She held him gingerly, as though he might be injured, but he made no pained cries. He just looked like he was in shock to be home.
After a thorough examination by Dr. Ashley, we determined that D.J. was a little dirty, smelled of old dust, had a few superficial cuts, may or may not have had one of his back legs gnawed upon by something, but was for the most part fine. We took him in the house and gave him canned cat food. Then Ashley did another more thorough examination before announcing that she thought he was going to be all right. He spent the rest of the day napping on our bed and seemed pleased to be inside.
We still have no idea where he was all this time, but our suspicion is that he was indeed injured. His back leg, while not hurt enough to cause him to cry out, did show signs of having possibly been in the mouth of another creature and we wonder now if he might have been caught by one of our neighbor’s dogs down the hill. He may have been hiding in a culvert the whole time. Or he might truly have been trapped in a garage. What matters most is that he was returned to us. Our prayers were answered.