We're finally getting some warm weather again, so when I got home from work the other day I wanted to open things up to let the refreshing lake breeze pass through the house to cool things down. The storm door at one entrance has a nifty slide-down panel that reveals a half-screen, and then I opened the French door on the deck side of the house where a sliding screen is in place to keep the bugs out and the cats in. With that task accomplished I settled into the bathroom for some quality time after a busy day. Emerging relaxed, I grabbed a cold drink and headed toward the deck to sit outside and enjoy a little bird watching and all of the alcoholic content of my beverage.
As I approached the deck I noticed something odd -- a clear and unimpeded view of the backyard and lake beyond it. I realized the sliding screen was over to the left and not in its usual position at the entrance. This meant I'd left the house wide-open to the elements, which I quickly became aware of when a horse fly (so named because this one was the size of a pony) started to buzz my head. I managed to shoo the beast outside as I stepped on the deck -- where I was now greeted by our cat Nate. He was outside and gave me the briefest of glances before dashing down the steps and into the yard.
Crap! I started after him but then started to think like a cat would... After a few minutes of licking my palms and rubbing my face with them, I decided to cut back through the house so I could approach Nate from the other direction and achieve the near-impossible feat of actually herding a cat toward a given destination. Amazingly I succeeded, chasing Nate back up the steps and quickly opening the sliding screen so he could scamper in; I followed him and closed the screen behind me.
While I realize some of you with any cat-owning experience reading this may be impressed with my feline-like cunning, a few sharp-eyed folks may recall I mentioned "cats" up top. This means there was one more to be located, our orange and white furball Miles. I hadn't seen Miles outside with Nate, so my initial search was of all his usual indoor hiding places -- underneath the couches, behind the dryer, inside any of the floor-level cabinets (we often find him either nesting in one of the larger mixing bowls or scrunched within the blue recycling bin under the sink). He was nowhere to be found, so I went back outside and widened the search perimeter.
I checked along the boundary next to the marshy area -- no sign. I walked toward the wooden storage shed, where he'd once hidden underneath after his only prior escape from the house when we first moved in -- but he wasn't there, either. I walked the length of the driveway and didn't spot him. I then got in the car and slowly drove around our small community, looking left and right while calling his name. I did not see or hear him at all.
I returned feeling very upset with myself for not paying attention to the open doorway and permitting him to escape. Carol called at that moment to say she was leaving work and would be home after stopping to run an errand on the way. I advised her to drive slowly once she reached the house since Miles was on the loose and I didn't want him to be accidentally run over if he dashed out to greet her. Carol said she'd skip her errand and instead come straight home to join in the search effort. Once she arrived we scoured all corners of the yard and surrounding property again, then rechecked all his preferred indoor spots. Afterwards, Carol got back into her car and made another neighborhood sweep. Still no sign of our buddy.
I sunk into the couch, feeling morose and fearing for Miles's fate. He'd had a tough start to his life -- he was found on the street as a kitten, and some kind people took him in. They, however, decided they weren't really "cat people," so he ended up being adopted by some friends of our son Josh. He would cat-sit when the friends went out of town, and after one long trip the friends returned and asked if Josh wanted to just take Miles as his own. Josh readily agreed and served as Miles's foster dad for a few years... until Josh moved to a new apartment and asked us to "temporarily" keep Miles until he got settled in. That was eight years ago. Miles moved with us from Boston to Cambridge to Dorchester and finally up to Maine. He did so along with our four OTHER cats -- Nate (short for "Concatenate" for any spreadsheet nerds out there), Sammy (Nate's brother and the sweetest cat who ever lived), Sophie and Chloe (who were unrelated strays who showed up together on our front porch one day and eventually were lured into the family). We came to Maine two years ago with all five kitties relocating with us. But those numbers have lessened over time: Chloe came down with some undetermined illness that was resistant to all treatment; Sammy developed a tumor that grew very rapidly and caused him great discomfort before we decided to put him down; and then one Friday just a few months ago we took Sophie into the vet for what we thought might have been lethargy caused by a mild infection, and two hours later were presented with a diagnosis of lymphocytic leukemia and the vet's recommendation to prevent any further inevitable decline and suffering by euthanizing her. So now we are down to just two cats -- and one was missing.
Before it got dark I said I'd take one more ride around the neighborhood to look for Miles, and Carol offered to come along. We went out onto the main road for a bit, then doubled back and slowly passed through all the ins and outs of our neighborhood. We saw no sign of Miles and nothing responded to our plaintive cries of his name. We turned into our driveway and as we came down the hill I said aloud, "We will never see him again." I pulled up next to Carol's car; I turned off the ignition and we stepped out and toward the door. There, on the other side of the glass, inside the house, sat Miles. He looked at us like, "Where ya' been?" That little fuc... er, I mean feline had apparently hidden away in some unknown, inaccessible-to-humans spot and after ninety or so minutes decided to emerge to investigate the evening's dinner offering. I was so relieved to see him I burst into tears. We ran into the house and I scooped him up in my arms, giving him a big snuggle and kiss on the head which he tolerated quite well up until the last few seconds.
I am now reminded to always check the position of the sliding screen by the memory of the near-escape, along with the reality of two large puncture wounds on my left forearm.