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September 16, 2011

The Great Escape

This story has a happy ending. Let's get that out up front.

My new neighborhood isn't far from my old one, but in Los Angeles you can walk across the street in be in a different movie. Pockets here and there, each with its own flavor. I'm just close enough to Hollywood for the flavor to have changed, all rentals, high-rise apartment buildings that all look alike, transient and busy. The first few weeks I lived here I would walk the neighborhood in the morning and feel discomfited by each flier featuring a new and different missing pet. How did they get out? I would think. And then I had to stop myself because there are too many ways a pet can accidentally get outside where the world is dangerous and full of cars and coyotes and fleas and if I thought about it too long I would make myself crazy.

Like most people what I fear the most is losing what I have and love. For me that is my family, of course, and the felines. I'm not one of those women who refers to her pets as her "children" and I'm well aware that having three cats puts me in a category of dating that is only offset by some fairly impressive boobs, if I do say so myself. What I'm saying here is that I don't apologize for having a little herd of animals but I'm not ever wearing a sweater knitted out of cat hair, either. I do care for them and fret and worry about their safety and I freak out each time one of them sneezes.

Last night the weather was so perfect, I opened all the windows to get some fresh air in the apartment. When it gets chilly like this the felines get wild and there was some running and playing and Frankie's tail got huge and bushy like the puffer fish of cat tails. I was in the bedroom watching TV and painting my nails and all was well in the world.

I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of wine and that was when I noticed Bob perched on the back of the sofa staring out the window -- the window that had once been covered by a large screen which now was gaping and hanging by a corner. I knew instantly that two of the cats were gone. I can't even describe that feeling but it was like being set on fire and punched in the stomach at the same time.

By the way, there is a perfectly rational explanation as to why Bob was still in the apartment. Unlike the other two, Bob has the gastrointestinal equivalent of an electronic monitoring bracelet and he is physically incapable of being more than ten feet away from the food bowl at any time. Bob is no dummy. He may be afraid of air and light, but he knows where the Meow Mix is at all times.

I opened the door and there was Sobakowa, scared and disoriented, but sort of pacing back and forth below the window. I have no idea how long she was out there. I brought her back inside and went looking for Frankie. It was dark and late and the top floor was empty, so I walked downstairs shaking a bag of greenies like a crazy person. I found Franks hiding low in a dark corner behind the cement stairs. As soon as she saw me she let out a caterwaul that when translated into English said roughly, "My GOD, where have you BEEN? How could you do this to ME? THIS IS HORRIBLE."

After everyone was safely back indoors I did some CSI-style investigating. My best guess is that in Frankie's exuberance to chase her own tail across the apartment she jumped onto the windowsill and dislodged the screen and fell out and freaked out. Sobakowa, always interested in the downfall of a calico, arrived on the windowsill to investigate. She saw the open window and decided to jump through it to see what was on the other side (much like the alluring appeal of the closed bathroom door or the partially-opened kitchen cabinet.) Once outside she was too short to jump back in the window and had to watch as the fat orange one stared at her from well within range of the food.

It was a very exciting night. I overfed the cats, overdrank the wine and vowed to invent an escape-less windowscreen.

At the end of the evening three things were clear:

ONE. My Big Pajama Decision of 2010 paid off. Back in late 2010 we had a brief earthquake. I remember being inside my home and thinking, "Is this going to keep shaking...?" and simultaneously looking down at my grubby T-shirt and unattractive leggings and thinking, "I hope this isn't the Big One because I'm in serious trouble with this outfit." Immediately afterwards I got rid of all T-shirts and cruddy leggings that had holes, stains, or references to Jimmy Buffet songs from the 1980s. When the cat escape happened I didn't even have to change clothes before rushing outside with a bag of greenies. Learn from this lesson. LIVES WERE SAVED.

TWO. People who don't have animals simply can't understand what it's like to feel the surge of panic and horror over a pet problem. I have lived with Sobakowa for almost fifteen years. That is longer than most marriages and many friendships. I know my cats. I know their routines, their moods, their preferences. Later in the evening, after the whole ordeal had passed, I got a text from Bachelor Number 1. When I told him about the big scary evening he wrote back with an authoritative, expert opinion informing me that "animals want to roam and explore and hunt and they will come back when they've had their fun." And that was how I knew this man had never owned a housecat. "You're an idiot," I assured him. "But later maybe I'll give you some parenting advice so we'll be even."

THREE. After a trauma, even two cats who usually dislike each other need to bond over a little catnip.

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Swapping stories.

Posted by laurie at September 16, 2011 10:55 AM