Escape

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This adorable little jerkface likes to make escape attempts whenever possible. Only once has he been successful, and only did he need a 2-minute window of opportunity to do so. My sister-in-law stayed with us once and opened the egress window in the guest room. Jax saw this, hopped up and out, and gave us all a heart attack. He found him sniffing the backyard only a few minutes later.

That was his only successful escape attempt… until yesterday.

It was said Barry Bonds would frequently only get one good pitch to hit per game, and at a fairly remarkable clip, he’d turn that one pitch into a home run. Similarly, Jax might get only one real chance per week at bolting out an open door, and without absolute vigilance each and every time, more frequently than not, he’d get most of the way out, if not the whole way.

And that’s all it took Sunday night. An errant trip outside, something less than perfect form regarding such a mundane task as closing the door behind you while watching your feet, and the cat’s gone. As it was close to bedtime (and this is a big enough house), we simply didn’t notice he had snuck out. It wasn’t until the next morning that we discovered his absence, which made us feel both neglectful and incompetent.

But as soon as we noticed, panic set in. What do you do? I mean, what the fuck do you do? If you’re us, you start shaking the Tupperware full of treats – which pretty much ALWAYS causes the cat to come running – and going walkabout throughout your neighborhood. It’s an exquisitely helpless feeling as you’re searching the vast ocean that is your neighborhood for an animal that can’t call back to you, and may or may not know which house is actually yours. But you search because what else can you do?

And then you learn more things about your neighbors and neighborhood than you expected.

* People’s backyards are generally horror shows. I worried about the clutter in my own house, yet so many backyards I discovered while walking the alleys of Denver look like post-Apocalyptic wastelands or episodes of Hoarders. If you’re a cat, these places have got to be goldmines for rolling the dice on many of your nine lives.

* My neighborhood is filled with remarkable diversity. And while searching intently for this little beast I love, I initiated conversation with all types. There was the Asian lady at the bus stop who barely spoke English. The grizzled bearded guy who looked like an Appalachian axe murderer, but was remarkably soft spoken. The shirtless, middle-aged black dude who asked me if my cat was “a real big bastard?” He is, but not the particular “real big bastard” he was referring to. The metal kid somewhat aimlessly poking a spade shovel into the dirt in his backyard who was either real stoned, did not appreciate me talking to him from the alley behind his house, or both. Two different nice jogging ladies who live on our street. All kinds. Under different circumstances, this would have been sort of a fun exercise just initiating conversation with “strangers” who live within a quarter mile of me. As it stands, I was merely desperate and getting as many eyes and ears on Jax as possible.

* There’s a cat a couple of blocks over who really looks like Jax, but is a tad smaller, not exactly the right color, and runs away from the rattling treat container. I stared at this cat for so long, I think the rest of the neighborhood (if they were watching) wondered if I was kidnapping him.

* There’s a main artery three blocks west of our street, and another two blocks north. I hoped with all my being he was smart enough to avoid those. Never have I been more afraid of those streets.

After roughly four hours of walking around in what felt more and more like futility, we made some posters and opted to change tack slightly by putting these up on every pole within a half mile radius. It’s the original viral marketing. Someone had to see this little bastard.

For whatever reason, I checked in our basement again, and what did I see? In the egress window, from whence he escaped once, was Jax curled up.

I sprinted outside and thought I had hallucinated our cat laying in the window. My heart sank. But as I peered into the window well further, sure enough, there he was. I shouted for Kristin who brought treats and a blanket.

Jax wouldn’t let us near him. Cold, exhausted and pissed off, he hissed when we tried to pick him up. He meowed and growled at us. He finally bent down to eat a treat or two, and we slowly regained his trust. He was home. I began to cry tears of joy, tears of relief, and tears of ebullition.

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I collapsed on the bed and felt the gratitude wash over me. We love this little dude, and as much as I put one foot in front of the other, never giving up the search, I couldn’t prevent the dreadful worst case scenario thoughts from creeping in. I was as happy to have our buddy back as I was to cast those horrific hypotheticals out of my head. Love keeps you going, fear keeps you walking.

I realized I am both ready to be a parent because of the amount of love inside of me for those I care about, and terrified of the even larger volume of emotions the new baby will create.

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