Monday, June 7, 2010

Nothing is lurking in the shadows...

As with most newly married couples, there is a certain path of responsibility that is traveled in life. Before couples jump into the big commitment of having children together, they usually test the waters by getting a pet. Some couples will treat their pets like children, choosing to spoil and pamper them. They allow their pets to sleep in their beds, dress them up in little pet outfits, and pose for family pictures by the Christmas tree with their pets. Trey and I are not that type of couple.

Before I met Trey, I had a pug named Kacie and a cat named Bella. When Trey and I got married, he basically had to accept that I came with a pet package and he chose to adopt my pets into his family. With Kacie it was pretty much love at first sight. Kacie was an adoring, loving, sweet pug packed into a broad 26 pound package. She was not exactly the type of dog that you allow to sleep in your bed, because she was heavy and snored loudly, but she was the best dog that I ever owned. Trey agreed and they quickly developed a devoted affection for each other.

It wasn’t quite the same with my cat Bella. I adopted Bella at a SPCA event when I lived in Louisiana. She was a cute little puffball of a kitten and the adoption volunteer told me they guessed she was a Siamese/Himalayan mix. Just six short weeks before, I had put my nine year old Himalayan cat named Chubby to sleep due to medical issues. It was such a painful experience that I vowed to never again own a cat. But that little puffball tugged at my heart and I wondered if she could soothe the stabbing pain from losing Chubby, so I signed the adoption papers and was the owner of a new kitten once again.

To be quite honest, Bella and I never really bonded. She was more of an attack cat that hid in the corners and behind furniture, then leaped out when I walked by, either scaring me or biting my ankles and drawing blood. Within a few months my sweet little puffball had grown into a menace that literally climbed the walls; she used her claws to hang from the shower curtain, she sharpened them on the door facing in the bathroom, and she terrorized my 26 pound pug who was literally three times her size. Maybe it was her start in life as an orphan, her Siamese nature, or her jealousy of Kacie - but Bella has had a bad attitude from the beginning. Bella’s one redeeming quality was rarely seen but it was the quiet comfort by her presence. Whenever I was sick, hurting, or deeply sad, she found her way to me and lay nearby. It was as if she sensed my pain or sorrow, and she would not leave my side until I was feeling better. She lay in my bed for a week after I had jaw surgery. Each time I was pregnant, I would find her in my bed each night, curled up under the covers beside my legs.

However, as soon as I was feeling better Bella was back to her old tricks; like running at my feet when I was trying to walk down the stairs and tripping me, attacking my ankles when I walked through the kitchen, biting my hand when I petted her more than three times, sneaking up behind me when I sat on the couch and swatting me on the head when she felt that I was her way. Bella was a long haired cat, so she sheds in big white clumps which were also the reason for the hairballs that she threw up all over the house. We tried to shave her long hair about once or twice a year, but this involved sedating her because she attacked the groomer before and that did not make anyone happy.

A few months ago, pretty much after Tallen started crawling, Trey and I discussed the possibility of finding a new home for Bella. In the past, I had been reluctant to even consider this possibility because of the promise I made on the day I adopted her. She was my responsibility to care for and provide for, she just didn’t show her gratitude often. Recently, Bella’s hair was shedding in clumps again and we had to make sure Tallen didn’t pick it up and put it in his mouth. Both of the kids appear to have allergies (sorry kids, you get that from your mom) and the cat hair did not seem to be helping. Bella had not been getting much attention or affection lately, due to the busyness of taking care of two kids and her lack of status in our house before the kids even arrived. The final decision to look for a new home for Bella came after an incident that could have been much, much worse. While Sophia was walking down the stairs, Bella raced over her feet and tripped her, making her fall down several steps before she stopped on the landing. Sophia was scared but unhurt, this time. That same week, Bella had tripped me while I was carrying the baby down the stairs but I managed to grab the handrail before I fell. Again, the fall could have been much worse and we didn’t want to take a chance that it would happen again.

The next day, Trey called the local animal shelters and we started asking around to see if anyone wanted to adopt our cat. Unfortunately, not many people want to adopt a 9 year old cat that swats, trips and bites people. Ultimately, I refused to let Trey take Bella anywhere but a no-kill shelter but those were full, and to be quite honest, even thought she has caused me hurt and heartache for almost the past decade of my life – I could not bring myself to go through with the act of giving her away. So Bella stayed, still lurking in the shadows and occasionally leaping out to bite my ankles. This spring she started going outside more, enjoying the backyard and digging up the newly planted flowerbeds. We let her go out as much as she wanted, because it did cut down on the amount of hair that she sheds around the house. We still find ourselves picking up clumps but just not as often.

Friday afternoon while I was at work, Trey called me and said he needed to tell me something. Bella was missing. Before he called me, he searched all over the house and could not find her anywhere. He said he didn’t remember letting her go outside, but that he could not find her anywhere. I was not surprised or even worried because I sort of remember letting her go in the backyard the day before. Neither of us could remember the last time we had seen Bella, although I remember hearing her crying outside the bedroom door the day before, while I was getting ready for work. I told Trey to check all the bedrooms and the closets, because Bella often finds odd little cozy places to take a nap; like in the laundry basket, between the pillows on the bed, or on a stack of blankets in the guest room closet. Trey had already checked every room in the house and even looked for her outside, but Bella was gone.

Once I got home from work Friday evening, I did the same thorough check of the house. Every room, every closet, the backyard, the garage, the front yard; I walked around calling her name but she didn’t answer. Trey said that her disappearance was an answer to our prayers, Bella was finally gone, but at the same time he felt a little bad. It had been over 24 hours since the last Bella sighting, so based on the rules that apply to a missing person, our cat was officially missing.

Still no sighting of Bella. My emotions are mixed at this point. I still believe that she can turn up any day – cats have a knack for finding their way home. But I also worry that she is hurt or overheated and unable to get home. We had bobcats in the neighborhood that were sighted chasing household pets and earlier this year several pets went missing. That haunts me, thinking she could have been attacked by another animal. The best theory, which Trey is clinging to, is that someone found Bella wandering around the neighborhood and picked her up. Hopefully someone is caring for her and adopting her as their pet. But that theory also seems too easy after our recent issues with Bella. This whole disappearance is what we have been wanting – but I feel guilty for being thankful that she is gone.

The house does feel a little empty. Bella has been a constant presence in the background of our life; slinking up the stairs at night and into the bedrooms, curling up on the back of the couch, or hiding in the laundry basket – usually on top of freshly clean clothes. So basically I have mixed feelings. Sadness, guilt, relief, but what I am missing is closure.

A few days after we moved into our house almost six years ago, our pug Kacie disappeared from the backyard while we were at work. Kacie had always been an outdoor dog and when I lived in Louisiana she had plenty of room to run and play during the day in addition to a cool spot in the shade on the porch of the storage shed. Once we moved to Dallas, we lived in apartments for about a year and a half so she spent a lot of time on the outdoor patio. We were excited when we bought our house that she would have the freedom to run around the yard again. But just a few days after we moved in, Trey came home to find the backyard empty and Kacie was nowhere to be found. Suspiciously, two men had been working in the back yard to install the cable, although they claimed they had never seen a dog. They also had limited English speaking skills so we never really understood the details of how they were in our backyard but our beloved Kacie pug was not.

So we have been through this before, the disappearance of a pet. When we lost Kacie, I spent hours walking through the neighborhood calling her name and knocking on neighbors doors to ask if they had seen our dog. In no time, we had fliers up on every street corner offering a reward for her return. Sadly, we never found Kacie. A few months later, after the sorrow and sadness had finally started to soften, we decided to get a new pug puppy. That is how we got our Coco Puff. Adopting Coco as a little puppy was our first big step towards responsibility together as a couple. Coco will never be a replacement for Kacie but she was the first member of the family that Trey and I added after we got married. She was ours and we promised to raise her together.

This time there have been no fliers on the street corners. I have not searched the neighborhood for signs of Bella. No neighbors have been notified of her disappearance. I’m not sure if we are resigned to the fact that she is already gone or if we are afraid that we might actually find her. I feel guilty saying that. I do think it is best for our kids that she is gone. On Saturday, I told Sophia that Bella was missing and we had not been able to find her. Then I asked Sophia if it would be okay if Bella did not come home. Sophia looked at me and said “I don’t want Bella to come home, I don’t like her.”

So sad, but so true. I can only hope that Bella has found herself a better home, one where she will be loved better than we can love her.

1 comment:

Trisha said...

Wow Bella is gone?! Well, it's sad y'all had to lose her that way but like you said it's a relief at the same time. Thanks for sharing the story with us :)