When we moved to our cabin in the woods where we live now, our cats were excited to learn that they got to be outdoor kitties. It was so fun, exploring what was for them a whole entire new world. There was always another tree to climb, leaf to punce on, log to sharpen claws on. The first time I took them up the hill, they all followed me like I'd trained them. Except Lilly.
She got scared, and holed up under a bush and wouldn't come out. I had to grab her- she and her brother like laps and pettings but hate being picked up- and run down the whole hill with her. I went so fast that none of the kitties knew where I went, and after I deposited Lilly at the house, I had to run back up the hill to find them. At first I could only see Pheonix and Clarence. I thought, great, our first fieldtrip into unknown territory, and I LOSE A KITTEN. ( I'm good at that, have you noticed?)
I panicked. I searched and called and got those two back down the hill and home, and by now I was shaking and out of breath from having climbed and descended the mountain twice, in such a hurry. The panicking didn't help either, but then Roger walked up to me, and I realized he was such a good boy that he had followed me when I ran down the first time, with Lilly.
After that we all stuck together, and we were one big happy family. Clarence and Roger loved being held, and Roger would literally climb onto my shoulder, purring and wiping on me, and then tuck his head to roll into my lap, looking up at me. Then he couldn't stand it and would have to get up and wipe his cheek on mine again, climb onto my shoulder, and summersault into my lap again. At night they would sleep on me, and often I woke to the incredibly ticklish licking of my toes. They had a toe fetish, them kittens.
This is not to say I loved them more than Pheonix and Lilly, they were just more physically affectionate and demanding. Still, I made sure to give every kitty equal amounts of love and attention. When I came back from work, every cat/ kitten would come greet me, and my heart was tight and bursting at the seams with more love than I ever knew it could hold.
And then one day when I got home the head count was one short. I asked Honey when he last saw Roger, because I never missed a day without seeing and petting each of my darlings. Honey said, "I saw him yesterday". They were all pretty good about coming when I called, so I walked around the yard calling for Roger, and the others followed in curiosity. The day passed. He didn't come home. The next day was a weekend, and first thing in the morning I was scouring the hills. I never saw Roger again.
I tortured myself with the possibilities. Did he get accidentally locked in some shed, starving to death? Did he get hit by a car? Eaten by a coyote? Was he lost, scared and alone? It hit me hard. That's when I quit reading the paper. I quit emailing "save the seals" or whatever the petition of the day was. I stopped being a vegetarian after six years of it, yeah, because I lost my cat. I lost hope in trying to make a difference in the things I believed in, because it didn't seem to matter. Life was going to dish out bad things no matter what I did, and I withdrew. I threw myself into the pursuit of ingnorance, because it was the simplest kind of bliss. It's easier to not get upset about the people dying in wars, the animals tortured in labs, if you just keep all that information away from you. It was a cop-out, but I didn't know how else to deal.
I guess loss can bring a heavy apathy. I didn't snap out of it, it was more of a slow drawing back to reality. It changed me forever though, losing that orange orphan. My little redheaded stepchild. I tell myself that he found a family somewhere, and is healthy and happy, all grown up and handsome like his brother. In fact, he BETTER be (shaking my fist at the universe). As I type this Lilly is curled against my belly, and I'm thankful for her comfort. Hard to believe the power of these small furry creatures.