Okay, let's back up a few days--no, a week. Better make it two weeks....
The Saturday before last, we got up early to attend the national Petsmart pet adoption day. I'd been told there would be over a hundred animals up for adoption, so I thought chances were good that we'd find a cat we could all love. When we arrived, they were still getting set up, and there were perhaps ten cats stacked up in cages and carriers. Allyson promptly fell in love with a cute little fluff ball that was delightfully cuddly and playful. But Ethan gave it the cold shoulder. Ever since meeting the cat who lived here before we did, he'd had his heart set on a Russian Blue. Jackie had assured us that they were the best cats, and he was very impressed with hers.
The trouble is, Russian Blues are pretty popular, and there just aren't that many up for adoption, especially kittens. He'd been combing the Internet for weeks, and we'd only found a couple, and they were already spoken for.
"But this kitty is so cute, Ethan! Don't you want to hold it?" Allyson pleaded.
On the ride home, the grumpiness was palpable. Allyson was nearly in tears. Back at the house, she let the tears flow. "Why does ETHAN get to choose the cat? Why can't I have the cat I want?"
I explained for perhaps the dozenth time that Ethan had been begging for a cat for several years longer than she had, and that he may be moving out in just a couple of years when he starts college.
"I can only afford one cat right now, sweetie." I rubbed her heaving shoulders. "Besides, I've never had a cat, and I want to see how we manage one before I take on another. I promise you can pick out the next one, in a year or two. And we can all play with this one."
She sniffled. "Well it's probably gonna be forever before we find one. I don't know why Ethan has to have a Russian Blue."
"I don't know, sweetie. Maybe he'll change his mind."
After Bill had picked Allyson up, I called Gentle and did some whining of my own. "Picking out a cat was supposed to be fun. Instead my kids are fighting, and Allyson is crying her eyes out."
Gentle listened kindly and reminded me to find the treasure in this; it was a good opportunity to show the kids how to deal with disappointment. I repeated Allyson's prediction that it would be forever before we found a cat.
"Just trust God," she said. "He knows where your cat is. And tell Ethan not to settle for any cat but the one he really wants. He'll know when he finds it. If he's meant to have a Russian Blue, you'll find one at just the right time."
I sighed. Yet another lesson in patience. I remembered how hard it had been to wait for the perfect house, and how glad I was that I hadn't settled for something I didn't really want.
Over the next couple of days, I prayed with both kids about finding our cat. I asked God to make Ethan fall in love with the perfect cat for our family, one that would bring us all joy. I asked that He would prepare us to be a blessing to that cat and help us to give it a good home. Allyson and I also prayed that God would help all those cats we'd seen at Petsmart find loving homes.
Three days later, this past Wednesday, Ethan somehow convinced me to go to Petsmart after eight on a school night to pick up a few things just in case we might find a cat that weekend. On the way to the litter boxes, Allyson and I strolled past the adoption window. My jaw dropped when I spotted a Russian Blue kitten. She wasn't as small as Ethan had wanted, but she was gorgeous! The sign on her cage said her name was Reba, and she was six months old.
We both ran to find Ethan, who was looking at rats.
He loved her! Even without holding her, he knew she was the one. "Can we get her tomorrow?" he asked.
I picked up a flyer. "Maybe. I'll call tomorrow," I promised.
After picking out a couple of scratching pads, a fluffy toy on a stick, six fuzzy mice, and a cat bed, we were in high spirits all the way to the car. And then the kids started arguing about names.
"I think I'll name her Arwen," Ethan said.
"Are-when? I've never heard of that name," Allyson said.
"Oh, from Lord of the Rings?" I asked. Ethan nodded. "Nice."
"I've never heard of that name," Allyson repeated. "I don't think I can remember it. What was it again? Ar-what?"
"How about Farty?" Allyson suggested with a snort.
"Or Gollum," I said.
"How come he gets to pick out the name?" Allyson whined.
"It's his cat," I said. "But we'll all get to play with her."
That night, I was so excited I could hardly sleep. I couldn't stop smiling. God had brought us the very cat Ethan wanted, just like Gentle said.
I made inquiries first thing Thursday morning and learned that they only do adoptions on Saturdays at Petsmart. The kids were just a wee bit let down when I broke the news to them that evening, but I was a little relieved. This gave me more time to get the cat supplies that my mom, my sister Emily, and my friend Elizabeth were donating.
On Saturday afternoon, Ethan and I set off for Petsmart. (Much to her disappointment, Allyson was unable to come along.) At the store, we met Arwen in a tiny room. She spent much of the next 20 minutes or so trying to find a place to hide, but the volunteer who helped us was able to get her to play. I thought it funny that the urge to play seemed to outweigh Arwen's fear. While we got acquainted, Annette told us what she knew of Arwen's history. The most significant thing we learned was that another family had tried to adopt her during the adoption event the weekend before. She'd been brought in later in the day, so we'd missed her. The other family took her because she looked like the Russian Blue they'd lost recently. But they had to bring her back after two days because she reminded them too much of their old cat, and they couldn't stop crying.
Annette returned her to her cage and gave me some paperwork to fill out. While I worked on it, I listened to several families admiring our cat. "Nope, she's ours," I thought. "God brought her here at just the right time so we could find her." After over an hour and a half, we left the store at last with a little cat in a cardboard box and a giant tub of kitty litter.
Following Annette's advice, we settled Arwen into a small room for the first couple of days--Ethan's. She promptly hid under Ethan's futon, but she did let us crawl under there and pet her; she even purred a bit.
The next morning, Allyson had just a few minutes to get acquainted before church. That was all it took. She was over the moon. We were all ecstatic for two solid days.
And then came yesterday morning. At 7:00, a bleary-eyed Ethan emerged from his room. "Can I sleep in a couple more hours?" he asked. "The cat kept me up all night. She was playing on my window sill. And one time when she tried to jump up there, she missed and fell in her water bowl. She spilled all the water and launched her food all over my carpet."
Two days had passed, so we figured we could let Arwen out. She'd been trying to get out anyway; we'd had to chase her down twice. So we moved the litter box and food bowls into the bathroom, and Ethan scooped Arwen into the hall. She tried to run back inside, but he shut her out.
She stared at the door for a second and then darted into the living room, behind the potted palm, under the couch, and into Allyson's room. She ran under the foot of Allyson's bed and then around and back behind the headboard. With much prodding, I managed to get Allyson ready for school, without a moment to spare. Still, I took the time to close all the bedroom doors and the laundry room door in hopes of keeping Arwen out of trouble.
"Close the door quickly," I urged as we eased out the front door. "Don't let the cat out." I closed the door firmly and pushed the lock button, and then we hurried down the sidewalk without a backward glance.
I left Allyson at the front doors just as the warning bell rang, and then I hurried back. Instead of taking my usual leisurely route through the park, I went back the way we'd come. As I approached the house, my stomach tightened at the thought of the mischief Arwen might have gotten into. Why hadn't I confined her in the bathroom?
Stepping between the storm door and the front door, I punched the code on the lock. The deadbolt whirred, and I pictured a curious kitten on the other side of the door. In one smooth motion, I cracked the door and pulled the storm door shut behind me.
Inside, all was quiet, and everything appeared to be just as I'd left it. "Are-when," I called softly. "Where are you?" If I'd expected her to come bounding to my feet like Lola used to do, I was sadly mistaken. Nothing but the silent house greeted me.
I quickly searched all the rooms that didn't have a closed door: the bathroom, the hall, the living room, and the kitchen. No cat. I laughed nervously. "Are you hiding, kitty? Where are you?"
I lay down on the floor and looked under the chairs, couch, and coffee table. No cat. I looked behind the toilet and in the bathtub. No cat. Then I noticed that the kitty door to the garage was slightly ajar. Whew! She must be in there.... Nope. Not behind the water heater. Not behind the stack of flattened moving boxes. Not underneath the extra dining room chairs. My heart thudded. Could she be... outside? No. I'd been way too careful. I would have seen her.
I threw open the bedroom doors and looked under the beds and behind the dressers. I looked inside the dryer. I looked in the pantry even though the door had been firmly shut. And then I looked everywhere I'd already looked before. And then I searched all those places again.
And then I started to cry. I sobbed out a hurt, angry prayer. "How could you let this happen, God? Haven't we been through enough? Haven't we lost enough? How am I going to tell Allyson that the cat she already loves is GONE? After just two days? And what about the $200 I just spent? Why? Why did this have to happen to us?"
To think I'd been reveling in the thought that God had brought us this cat. Why would He give us the cat Ethan wanted only to allow her to run away two days later? Surely it had been just a coincidence after all, an unfortunate mishap.
I can't even put into words how distraught I was over this cat. It wasn't that I missed her, exactly. No, it was a heart wrenching disappointment over a bitter loss, after such short-lived joy. I felt rejected by the cat, and God too. I felt the way I'd felt about the oleanders when the deal on my first dream house fell through.
I prayed some more and cried a lot more. I asked God to forgive me for blaming Him, asked Him to help me trust that there must be a purpose in this. I told Him I knew all of this grief wasn't just about a cat and asked Him to heal the hurt in my heart. And I thanked Him for understanding that I am just dust, and for loving me even though I am sometimes so faithless despite all He's done for me.
I talked to Mom on the phone, and then Gentle. They both assured me that Arwen must be hiding inside the house somewhere, that cats can hide in the strangest places. But I didn't believe them. I'd searched too thoroughly, and this is not that big of a house, and she is not that small of a kitten.
At 9:30 I woke Ethan, and he helped me search the house again. He had to agree with me that she was gone. So we walked around the neighborhood, but we knew that if she'd truly slipped outside, she was long gone. Unfortunately, Ethan had removed her collar during the night because the bell was keeping him awake. He'd meant to put it back on in the morning, but he'd forgotten.
"If anyone finds such a perfect little cat, they'll keep her," he said.
After a few more hours, I sent an email to the adoption group, apologizing for losing their cat during the one-week trial and asking if they had any suggestions.
About an hour later, a lady named Michelle called and said that she and Annette were on the way. They were coming to help me search.
"Really?" I said through my tears. "That's awesome." But I felt guilty that they were wasting their gas money (a 45-minute drive each way) on a cat that was clearly not in my house. While I waited, I made the flyer that I posted at the start of this entry.
They came fortified with kitty treats, Arwen's favorite toys, and a recording of kittens mewing, which Michelle said rarely fails to bring a kitten out of hiding. They went all through the house, calling sweetly, "Reba! Here kitty, kitty! Come play with your birdy!" They looked under and behind all the furniture, just as I had done. They also opened all the dresser drawers and shone a flashlight--which I'd borrowed from the neighbors--into the crack next to the dishwasher.
After 15 minutes, Michelle admitted that she was worried. "The kitten sounds usually work. I'm starting to wonder.... Say, did you check that drawer?" She pointed to the coffee table.
"It's probably too small," Annette said.
Nevertheless, I pulled on the knob. And saw gray fur! "Oh my gosh!" I shrieked. "She's in there!" I slid the drawer out very slowly to reveal a drawer clear full of cat, books, and drink coasters. "I think she was stuck," I said. "Oh, if you hadn't come! I NEVER would have thought to look in there."
Annette pulled Arwen into her lap and held her by the scruff, crooning softly to her and petting her head and chest. "It's okay, sweetie. You're okay. You're okay."
They let me feed her some treats, and then they had me put her back in Ethan's room. "It's too soon," Michelle said. "She needs to be in a small place where she feels safe."
After they left, I rushed to Allyson's teacher's conference, so thankful that I came bringing good news--even though Allyson had never known Arwen was missing.
Afterward, I stopped at the neighbors' to return the flashlight. They celebrated with me. They'd seen me crying earlier, and now they saw me laughing. I stayed for over an hour and got to know them better. And then I went home and petted that naughty kitty.
Funny, it was less than a month ago that I relinquished Naughty Dog to Bill (she came with the house). And now I have Naughty Cat to replace her. Good thing that cat is so cute!