And this time, her timing was especially bad.
It was nearly 11 o’clock at night. I was tired and ready to head off to bed. I opened the back door to let in Henry and Vlad The Impaler — two male cats who were the last ones out.
Vroom! Suzie sprinted out and headed for wide open spaces.
Suzie is less than 2 years old. She’s a feral cat. (That’s her in the top photo.) She showed up on the back porch one raining summer morning, absolutely soaked, crying in a pained, little-kitten voice. She’d gotten separated from her mother, evidently. This little ball of wet fur was all alone in the world.
Or so she thought.
We adopted her. Took her to the vets. She was healthy. And VERY much afraid of people. She’s gotten a little better over time. Now, she’ll curl up behind me and purr when I’m sitting on the chair in front of the computer, as she is right now. She’ll roll on her back to have her chest rubbed in the morning. She loves to eat vegetables and will beg shamelessly for them.
But much of the time, her feral fear kicks in and she keeps a distance.
She loves to look out the windows at the outside world, the one that she feared and escaped. From time to time, she gets it in her mind that she wants to be out there experiencing that world.
Suzie has escaped about a half-dozen times. And each time, it’s been a real chore to get her back inside where she’s safe.
As soon as she darts through the door, she goes a little crazy. Hops, runs, climbs the trees. You can tell that her mind is racing. She gets a wild look in her eyes. She’s totally freaked out about being outside.
Luckily, there’s Henry.
Henry adopted us one cold winter, coming to the back door and yelping until he got fed. I opened the garage door and let him sleep there for a few days. Eventually, he was invited into the house to meet the other cats. He got along just fine. Henry is the biggest and most gentle and easy-going of the cats. Also, the most talkative.
And has a special thing for Suzie. And her for him.
She fixates on him — as soon as he comes in, she runs up to him, rubs against him, smells him. He licks her forehead. He seems to care about her. They’re a team.
When Suzie escaped this latest time, Henry ran after her and called out to her. When she headed for the street, he lured her back. Henry was hungry but wouldn’t come into the house so long as Suzie was out there in the night. It’s like he sensed she needed help.
I was out there, too. Traipsing through the neighbors’ yards, getting mud on my shoes and my fingertips as tried to grab her but came up empty-handed. Not even a bag of tuna-flavored treats could coax her back.
Suzie would have none of it.
She ran here, there and everywhere, with Henry playing the role of four-legged shepherd. He herded her one way, then another. I got cold and then frustrated.
Why won’t she come back so we could all get some sleep?
After midnight, we were still at it. Totally frustrated, I stopped for a moment, looked up at the stars and said to the deity: Hey, how about a little help here?
Now, I don’t believe that God waves a magic wand and makes things happen. That’s not how prayer works, in my experience. But I pray on such occasions anyway. Figure it can’t hurt. And my experience is that God works in mysterious ways and always has some type of response, though it may not be particularly the response that I’d like at that moment.
The response this time? I was reminded of something bigger than the moment.
I was reminded that there’s always someone chasing after each of us, calling us lovingly to come back and sit on the lap. And that this someone enlists helpers — cats, dogs, people, bags of treats, whatever and whoever is handy — to try to herd us away from self-destructive things.
Someone keeps chasing after us even when we’re a bit crazed and running around aimlessly. They’re not worried about the mud or the cold. And they won’t give up on us. Ever.
Even when the chase goes on and on and on …
Two hours after her great escape, Suzie decided she’d had enough and walked back into the house through a door I’d left open. She was tired, spattered with mud and breathing hard. But safe for another night.
And that’s how it works.
The door is always open. The chase is always worth it. And there’s always the chance to return home, jump on the lap and purr while someone strokes our forehead with fingertips.
Muddy fingertips. Familiar fingertips. Fingertips full of love.