So. At the end of a long, manic week of doctor's appointments and school holidays, big fundraiser and an unexpected bout of over-consumption, one of our cats went missing.
Wednesday night. 36 hours is the longest Tiger's ever been gone -- three days is actually his record, but that was when he was still a feral cat, living in the woods behind our duplex in Georgia. We'd been feeding him, and his multitude of relatives, off old plates on our patio. Three days gone, and when he returned, his lip was torn from the corner of his mouth right down to his throat. I opened the patio door, and for the first time, he walked past me into the house, where he curled up behind the TV stand for another three days until he felt a bit better. We took him in for shots, and called him ours. No stitches, said our vet, won't make any difference; and for the rest of his life we jokingly referred to him as "Snagglepuss." He had about four teeth, having lost most of them in his second and third years. "Inbreeding," said our vet, "It happens." He drooled. And until we moved to Minnesota, he had seasonal allergies that would cause him to scratch himself until he bled. "Tigon the Destroyer" we called him, for some reason. More often it was "Tiger Buttskie" (again, reasons unknown.) He was a rather disgusting cat, and his pajamas never really fit him - he always seemed thin. But he was loved. He stayed with us through three moves, and even in the dead of winter Tiger couldn't stand being kept indoors more than a couple of weeks at a time. Even if he just sat on the back step for five or ten minutes, he needed to get outside regularly, otherwise he'd pace by the door and yowl his gravelly banshee best until you were quite mad. So out he want, and he always wandered farther, stayed out longer, than the other two cats.
This morning, on my way to church on my bicycle, I found him dead by the road a few blocks from the house.
He was older, at least 12 years. I had thought, maybe hoped, he could have just stayed out too late and been brought down by the deepening cold. We of course tried many many times to call him in. I think now that he probably died Wednesday or Thursday night. He had obviously tried to cross Central Avenue, the busiest street, about four blocks to our west. He was apparently headed for the golf course -- the parkway area, which makes sense -- if I were a half-wild feline, I'd head for the woods at night. But he'd been gradually losing his hearing over the past few years, and it had become quite easy to sneak up on him. A car got him. Always the fucking cars.
I stopped my bike, and turned around to look again, wishing it didn't have to be Tiger lying there. After a moment I took off my scarf, and wrapped his stiff body in it, wearing my cycling gloves. I staggered partway down the embankment away from the bus stop, and laid his body under a heap of dead weeds. I was on my way to teach Sunday School -- didn't want to call my husband, who was at home with our young son. Didn't want to put the sad carcass in my bike basket. So I left him there and went to church. Crying all the way.
By the time I left church for the day I was ready to face my family with the news. But it's still a sad time. Tiger was a good cat, and we'll miss him.