Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Joey & Charlie's Outside Adventure

Dear Em,
I don't know how much I've mention them on this blog, but we have two furry family members, Joey & Charlie, our cats. Joey was mine & Daddy's very first baby. Daddy gave him to me for my 22nd birthday. Charlie came along a few years later, because we worried Joey would be lonely without a little friend (I think Joey would have disagreed with that assessment).

Joey is the chubby family grump. He hibernates away from the family most of the day, & almost never comes out when you're awake. He is the one who will snuggle up to us for pets & then bite us to tell us he is done being pet. He doesn't really like to play. Mostly he wants to sleep & eat & be left alone.

Charlie is the exact opposite. He's tall & lanky & loves to play. He's almost always around the family, purring as he comes close for pets & snuggles. Daddy is his favorite. He's almost always in the same room as Daddy. He sounds the alarms with kitty cries to let us all know Daddy has come home (& he wants to be fed) each evening & cries to tell Daddy good morning (& he wants to be fed) way earlier than Daddy typically wants to wake up. He sleeps snuggled up to my legs every night.

A couple weeks ago, our little fur family got outside. I was fixing your hair for school that morning. Daddy came in and asked us, "have you seen the cats? It's a little odd that Charlie isn't all over me this morning." It was weird, but I had seen them the night before & didn't think too much of it. Daddy was worried. He checked the whole house, opening & shutting doors.

That was when Daddy found the screen popped out of our downstairs window (other than being alarmed about our cats, my first thought was, if the cats can open the screen, anyone could have easily accessed our house). Our indoor cats were somewhere outside. Panic set in. While Joey, the escape artist, has been outside before & has always come home for food, Charlie has never been outdoors. Actually I take that back. He was outside once. Joey pushed the back door open & Charlie followed him out. We found Charlie no further than the bushes that line our deck, shaking & crying until we brought him back inside. Joey can handle himself, but we were really worried about our little Charlie-bug.

Daddy shook their food outside until you & he had to leave for school & work, but neither of the cats came. I tried calling them too, but they were no where to be found. I ran through the house closing windows (no way we're leaving them open anymore) when I saw Joey standing in the garden, looking at the closed window as if he was going to try to return back into the same window without being noticed. It took canned cat food, treats, dry cat food, a lazer pointer, & cat nip to coax him back in. I couldn't help but think, "great the jerky cat is back." "Where is your brother," I asked him, but he just gave me a look that said "who cares," & went back into grumpy hibernation.

I shook their food & called into the woods for Charlie one last time with no luck before leaving for work. He was on my mind the whole work day. I picked you up from school that day, & we prayed the whole drive home. I couldn't get home fast enough. I was so sure Charlie would be waiting for us on the front steps...but he wasn't.

Lost in my own fears, I shook the cat food & called out to him in the woods behind our house. I turned around, defeated, to find you had scattered his cat toys all over the yard, hoping Charlie would see his favorite things & want to come back to play with them. Daddy came home & took our place looking for Charlie in the backyard while we called for him throughout the neighborhood.

There was no sign of him. Not even one little Charlie cry.

While Daddy prepared dinner, I swiftly set to work widening our network. I called the local police stations & animal control centers. I quickly made some fliers to pass around our neighborhood & put an add up in the missing pets section of CraigsList. With heavy hearts & no sign of Charlie, we headed out for your soccer practice.

When we got home that evening & Charlie still wasn't on our front steps waiting for us, I started to lose hope. Charlie hated the outdoors & hated to be away from us. Where was he? I tried to put on a brave face for you, but I couldn't reconcile the fact that we hadn't even heard his cries. You & I placed a flier in every one of our neighbors' mailboxes before putting you to bed that night.

I had put a message up on Facebook asking for prayer for our fur family & couldn't believe the show of support. I was totally blown away. People we hadn't spoken to in years wrote in words of encouragement. They advised tactics that they had used themselves when their pets had gotten out. They shared my status with their own friends & asked people in our area to be on the lookout. One friend offered to come over & help us look for Charlie.

Your aunt Andrea suggested that we reach out to Helping Lost Pets. They're an organization that is free to use, that helps to get lost pets home by providing a network of support. Moments after contacting them, they had put Charlie's picture up on Facebook alerting thousands of people to be on the look out. Unfortunately, there was a little bit of a mix-up that evening with two orange tabby-cats named Charlie being on the lose, ours & one in East Greenwich (go figure). The mix-up was quickly resolved, & I watched as strangers wrote in words of encouragement.

I felt so completely blessed that we had so many people supporting us, & yet tears started to stream down my face that evening. I was looking at the photos of Charlie we had used for the fliers, CraigsList, & Helping Lost Pets. They were from last Christmas. Charlie was right there with us as we opened gifts, curious about what we were unwrapping. You & Daddy had picked out toys for Joey & Charlie, & you both laughed as Charlie leapt after the toys.

Tears flowed as I began to imagine what our next Christmas would be like without our silly Charlie. I hated myself for all the times he had come to me for pets & I pushed him away, wanting to avoid cat hair on my business clothes. I thought about how different it would be to go to sleep without Charlie snuggled into my legs. I imagined Charlie being out there somewhere scared & cold & alone...if he was still alive at all. Or what if someone found him & took him in? He had no collar or tags to let anyone know that he was our Charlie. I couldn't think about what we would say to you when Charlie never came home.

It was late that night, the last time Daddy & I shook the cat food outside & called for Charlie, using a flashlight to try to find his eyes in the woods. Nothing. No Charlie. Not even one little cry. I went to bed feeling absolutely hopeless.

You woke up incredibly early the next morning. I heard you moving around, looked at my watch, and then closed my eyes again. It was way too early to be awake. We probably should have been concerned when we heard doors opening & shutting, but we were too tired to comprehend much. I kept my eyes closed, trying to get in last moments of rest before starting what was likely to be a busy & emotionally taxing day.

You had been up for a while, & I remember thinking it was a little strange that you hadn't come into our room to say good morning. Doors were still opening & slamming downstairs. I heard your footsteps coming up the stairs & down the hall, & then I heard something that made my heart soar: a little meow. At first I thought I was dreaming, & then I looked down on the floor next to our bed & saw Charlie! You were standing behind him, in the doorway of our room, looking very nonchalant. "CHARLIE!!!" I exclaimed. "Em, where was he? How did he get in here?!"

You were very matter of fact. "Well, I woke up because I thought that I heard him this morning. I went outside, & he came on the deck. I sat with him for a long while, & then I told him it was time to come inside. So, I opened the door, & he followed me in."

I couldn't believe it. After Daddy & I calling him, the fliers, & the ads, it was you who brought our Charlie home. We scooped Charlie & you up for big hugs. We called you our hero, & you beamed. We celebrated you by putting on cartoons & Daddy made you a special breakfast in bed. Charlie's fate was not as happy as our hero's. After two nights outside, Charlie got a bubble bath. He hated every second of it.

You smiled proudly as you told everyone at school the story of your valor. After dropping you off, I headed straight to the pet store to buy our furry family members collars with tags. Should they ever become little escape artists again, I'll feel a little better knowing that people will know they are ours. The cats don't love them, but they're dealing.

Over he last couple weeks, life has settled down again. Joey is back to being the family grump, & Charlie is back to being our little snuggle bug. Daddy & I have talked about it. He almost seems to appreciate us more, after his two night adventure outside. He seems so happy to just be with us. After imagining a life without him, I know I appreciate him a lot more too.

This whole episode taught me a lot. It has reminded us how big of a network & how much support we have there for us in challenging times. It has taught me to be more hopeful, things seem to have a way of working out for the best more often than not. I'm also reminded to be more appreciative of what we have. You know the saying, "you don't know what you've got until it's gone"? I'm going to try a little harder to know what I've got when I have it. Because sometimes a little snugglebug of fur can mean the whole world, & he should know it.

I love you so,

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