My senior year of college I went to Scotland, UK to study abroad. Some time after my return I was talking to one of my neighbors, a young girl I used to baby sit for, and she tells me, "I wasn't supposed to say, but your cat got out!" Only once did Babette ever make a break for the door and hide in some bushes in our front yard. It took about 10 minutes but I eventually coaxed her back in the house. And I'm thinking that my mom must have had to ask a neighbor to help. When I mention it, laughingly, to my mom later that day, I got the whole story. Babette hadn't been gone for a few minutes. She got out in November and was gone for month!
My mother and her husband made frequent trips to the local shelters, put ads in the paper, and flyered the neighborhood. One day a man called not with news about Babette, but with a suggestion for retrieving her. Apparently, cats, not having the same sense of direction that dogs have, don't wander too far from home (usually). So he suggested getting humane traps, placing her favorite food in it and place them around the property near places she might use to hide.
Right after thanksgiving a neighbor mentioned to my mom that she thought our cat was living near, her home, if not directly under her deck. At Thanskgiving they found a hungry gray cat crying by their back door and gave it some turkey. My mother new instantly that she had found Babette and took the humane traps over to the neighbors house and with a few days, Viola! Babette was back home. Turkey has always been her favorite meal. The minute it started to cook she sat directly in front of the oven until it was done and cried until she was given her fair share. Leave it to Babette to smell from outside this family's Thanksgiving dinner! Needless to say she never tried to get out of the house again.
Babette is the reason I became a vegetarian. It didn't happen right away, in fact it wasn't until I was done with college and studying abroad, and was on my way to starting my Masters in Library Science.
I was living with my father at the time and since he and Babette didn't get along, she stayed with my mother. The hour drive wasn't terrible and I was home nearly every weekend, particularly after I was accepted to "Library School" and was going to move back to my mom's anyway. During a routine check-up the vet found an abscess in one of Babette's teeth. To prevent infection and the loss of all her teeth she had oral surgery performed the week before my LIS orientation and a few days before my mother left on vacation.
Babette needed seven days of antibiotics and pain medication. I was still working at the community college near my dad and couldn't move home yet. So, it was decided that she would come live with me for the week. After her surgery Babette went from living in a huge home, to being confined to an attic bedroom. She was miserable. She spent every day hiding under the bed and every night curled up on it with me. Giving her her medicine was a huge ordeal. She would hiss and spit, bat at me with her paws, and hide so far under the bed that coming after her was a dangerous prospect for both of us. It was an agonizing week for both of us.
Around the same time I saw a documentary about chickens and factory farming. As an animal lover, I never really liked the idea of meat (my mother used to lie to me about where meat came from when I was young enough to believe her) and in that week of watching my cat scared out of her mind from pain and incarceration I put two and two together. Those animals feel pain and fear too. At that point I stopped eating meat.
Babette lived with us for 13 years before she finally succumbed to old age and illness. On July 11, 2009 I realized she wasn't well and took her to veterinary emergency where they took her and made her feel comfortable. Two weeks ago today, on the 13th, exploratory surgery discovered a tumor obstructing her bowel, growing into her intestines and effecting her lymph nodes. At the veterinarian's recommendation I made the rough decision of letting her go.
Pet loss is a rocky road. Not everyone understands the deep feelings of grief that come after losing a family pet. I'm lucky to have very supportive friends, family and colleagues. It's been a rough couple of weeks beginning with her trip to the hospital, but it's getting better.
The librarian in me will leave you with these helpful resources:
apbl.org - The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
petloss.com -Pet Loss Grief Support Website
pet-loss.net -Ten Tips on Coping with Pet Loss
Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet by Moira Anderson, M.Ed.
For anyone else dealing with grief after pet loss, check with your local human shelters, or animal hospitals for support networks, groups, or hotlines.