How did I ever find a man who was absolutely OK with whatever is? Not just on the good days either. No matter what the circumstance or challenge Tom remains cool, calm, present and solution oriented. Whether it’s a midnight run to the hospital for one of my parents or a three-day stake out at a rest area in Georgia, sleeping in the car and eating bologna sandwiches, Tom is supportive, tireless and cheerful.
Monday I was a wreck. We have a van with a key fob that opens the sliding doors when you push a button and when we came out of the restrooms that evening (at Rest Area 22 near Macon, GA), I saw the side door of the van open and immediately knew that Izzy had jumped ship. That was at 7pm Sunday night. We spent the entire night looking for her; calling, worrying, yet here we were leaving her behind Monday morning as we drove away from the rest area where our beloved pet had escaped. That moment, that instant of awareness that I knew we had lost something precious, sacred and irreplaceable caused a tsunami of grief that took me to my knees. As we were driving away the thoughts of her hiding somewhere terrified by all of the noise of the place and so vulnerable made me ache with regret and fear for her.
Tom never wavered from his strong, supportive presence. As I released all of that raw emotion he was there; unwavering in his commitment to care for me and be whatever I needed him to be. He held the space for me without complaint or avoidance as I shifted between emotional collapse and finding all of the ways to garner support to find our cat. The internet is a wonderful gift. Within hours we had contacted several rescue sites, talked to countless people who rescue cats and got feedback from so many of our friends and strangers with suggestions on what to do next. By the time we got to Lakeland, we had a plan to return to the rest area the next day with live traps. We were prepared to stay there another night in our van. I had found a young woman who lived closer to the rest area and who was willing to continue the stake out for a few more nights if we didn’t find Izzy. Having completed all of the planning and outreach we could do, we slept, after praying for Izzy’s safety.
At four in the morning I woke free of the pain. I was able to surrender my kitty and any and all outcomes. A plan was in place that almost satisfied my need to search for her. I knew God had Izzy no matter if we found her or not. He already had Maggie so I figured he could take care of Izzy too. I was free again. (Faith at the level of knowing is the only thing that frees us from despair and suffering.) But I was not completely satisfied with the plan. Timidly I asked Tom if we could, in fact, do the whole stake out ourselves and spend two or three nights at the rest area. I told him we could go to a hotel during the day and shower and grab some sleep and then head back to the rest area in the evening. Tom, being who he is, said we would do whatever it takes. He knew I would not have asked this of him if it had not been important to me. We packed the van with a blow up mattress, pillows, blankets and toothbrushes and enough food and drink for our siege and headed back to Macon, GA. My hero drove happily along, satisfied with the bologna sandwich I had made for his lunch. We take care of each other.
We set out four live traps with Izzy’s food as bait in likely areas around the buildings. The roar of the truck engines idling in the parking lot was very loud and I knew, if she was still there, that she wouldn’t come out until it got dark and quieter. One trap was placed near her litter box which we had left in an area full of old spreading Junipers and Holly bushes. The two people who were servicing the rest area agreed to let us do all this and said they would be watchful for her too. Tom and I had a light meal at a picnic table and played a game of gin then turned in for the night. Our little ‘camper’ was quite comfortable and warm and we were soon fast asleep. It was about 9pm when we heard a knock on our door. Looking out we saw the two service people, a lovely woman and a bright, happy looking young man, searching in the Junipers with flashlights. We jumped out of the van and were told that a cat had been spotted approaching the trap but when it saw the man, it jumped into the Junipers. We had found her! She took some coaxing to get her to come out but she was hungry and finally succumbed to my mewings.
Today, Izzy is still a little disoriented in her new Florida home but she is eating and sleeping well and my sweet husband is going to sleep all day on the couch listening to the rain. He deserves a peaceful rest after a harrowing couple of days dealing with his own sense of responsibility for inadvertently triggering the van door to open, processing his own grief and holding me in mine.
Izzy gave me a story in which I could embed this tribute to Tom. He is a shining example of what a true gentleman is. Thank you, Izzy. Thank you, Tom.
Izzy also gave both of us the gift of all of you who read about Izzy and offered prayers, hope and well wishes throughout the days and nights of this adventure. I have never felt so connected to all of you including those of you I have never even met. We are one.
Things I learned about lost cats.
- Traumatized cats don’t run away like dogs. They hunker down in a hidden place until they are so hungry they have to go searching for food. But they usually don’t stray far from where they were lost.
- Traumatized cats won’t come out of hiding even for their owners who are calling them with familiar voices and treats. So, just because they don’t come when called doesn’t mean they are not there.
- Cats will usually return to the smell of their litter boxes when they feel safe enough to do so. But the litter box can also attract coyotes and other animals as well so be careful where you place them.
These are all things caring people told me as I was looking for answers. They have proven to be true.