Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where’s Bandit? A Missing Cat and the Lessons Learned

A “till death do us part” pet owner rants about her missing cat – and the lessons learned.

About six weeks ago – August 15th to be exact – my cat Bandit went missing. I began searching for him immediately. Knocking on neighbor’s doors, putting up flyers with his picture, calling and showing up at the local animal shelters, placing an ad on Craigslist, and walking the streets calling his name day and night.

Bandit, a feral cat whom I had adopted about three years ago, was an inside-outside cat, and enjoyed his freedom immensely, but always returned to the safety and comfort of his loving home. So, I was no stranger to him staying out for a day at time. This means that early on I had hope that he would walk – I mean strut, because Bandit was cool and charismatic – through the little doggie door, give me that “hello meow,” approach me for a quick pet and purr, then be off to eat and take his nap. Yet, as days turned into weeks, my heart sank and I even tweeted my concerns and grief – "Where's Bandit?" I was consoled by a few of “my tweeples,” Facebook friends, and a Blogcritics writer as far away as Israel took the time to provide some newfound hope. Thanks so much Ruvy, but Bandit is still missing.

I have always been an animal lover and I am no stranger to losing pets, but as an adult it has always been due to death, not going missing. It started with my two purebred, papered, German Rottweilers (Rotts) [1996 Marilyn (L) and Brigitte (R)] who both died of Lymphoma cancer. This evil disease hit Marilyn at age three and she died in my arms (naturally) on a hot summer day in 1999. In the meantime, Brigitte was diagnosed when she was eight and in an eager attempt to prolong and hopefully save her from this dreaded disease, I went ahead with chemotherapy that my vet told me about, which only kept her around a few months longer than her sister who did not have chemo. In a short time, Brigitte went from a strong, robust, and blissful 130-pound energetic dog to a fragile 90-pound weak one – unable to eat or even walk. Still intact to the bitter end were her unwavering loyalty, the love expressed in her eyes, and her attempts to wag her tail. One of the most heart-wrenching times for any animal lover is when we make that decision – to “put down” our pets. Unwilling to see her suffer anymore, Brigitte’s time had come and on another sad summer day (2004 this time), I said, “Good-bye” to my other best friend.

I blame the pathetic breeders and their inbreeding practices for the cancer that took the lives of my Rotts, and since then I refuse to get purebred dogs. Not to mention that we are overpopulated with domestic animals and there are so many pets that need to be rescued. In fact, every time I visit a pet rescue center or the government-run animal shelter, I always leave in tears – from anger when visiting the latter, especially the one here on the Central Coast where I live.

In between the tragic suffering and subsequent deaths of my Rotts, I adopted Jessie, a Chihuahua-Corgi mix [R] and Whiskers a Terrier-Dachshund (Wiener Dog) mix [L]. From their"issues," it was obvious they had been abused and/or neglected by someone out there. Both are long, painful stories and sadly Jessie and Whiskers are no longer alive.

After the heartbreaking loss surrounding Whiskers in 2007, I decided take a break from dogs. My sister found two feral cats that were brothers (around seven months old) being kept by a girl who needed to find them a home. We were both immediately smitten and my sister adopted the white one and named him Zeus, while I took in the grey and my daughter named him Bandit. My sister and I scheduled "play dates" for Bandit and Zeus and, amazingly, they would frolic around with such affection every time – proof of the bonds of brotherhood. Later I sought out a friend for Bandit when I rescued Tinkerbelle (a Calico cat) from that hellhole government-run animal shelter in my area. Tink, as I call her, is so wild she won’t let anyone come near her, yet after a year she finally started seeking my physical affection, though only on her terms.

Since having two cats, I realized that I am more of a dog person, so off I went to find my new best friend – Shorty, a Chihuahua-Terrier mix, this time from a local animal rescue center called Woods Humane Society – a pristine place, with a loving staff, where the cats have a special place to run free and the dogs are treated with the utmost care and dignity. As with most rescued animals, Shorty has his issues, anxiety and a few others, but it's nothing unmanageable. What is funny about my trio of pets was that Bandit preferred my dog Shorty to my cat Tink, and watching them play together was so refreshing – something I miss very much.

[Photo from left to right: Bandit, Shorty, and Tinkerbelle]

I still look for Bandit, yet with a heavy heart, feeling like I failed him somehow. You see, I’m a “till death do us part” (warts and all) pet owner and Bandit was part of my family. What upsets me is that there are people out there who abandon their cats and other pets with no feeling whatsoever and I don’t understand that type of apathetic mentality. But I’ll move on because animal neglect and cruelty, which unfortunately rages on in our country and around the world, gets my blood boiling.

What I will expand on is that this experience has hindered my desire to engage in activities that I enjoyed before Bandit went missing. Including not completing two series that I had started here on Blogcritics in fitness and politics, which cast a shadow over my sense of follow-through. Hopefully, I will re-surface soon because I'm sure my liberal friends here on Blogcritics miss me. Furthermore, and on a more serious note, it brought up dark thoughts of how distressing and overwhelming it is for those dealing with missing children – another topic entirely, yet to me, as a mother of two terrific daughters, it is by far one of the most horrific things that could happen to any parent. Unfathomable – and just thinking about it sends a chill down my spine.

Even though these past weeks have been filled with sorrow, lessons have emerged, including the usual ones that come out of losses: be kind to those around you and savor every moment with those you love, including pets, because you never know, you may never see them again. Also, to me, the death of a pet is easier to handle than wondering and worrying, which I do every day. Is Bandit dead or alive? Is he suffering? Is he hungry or thirsty? Does he feel abandoned? Is he lost? Is he trying to find his way home?

Will I ever get over my missing Bandit? Eventually, however, those thoughts will only occur incrementally. Yet, no matter how much time goes by, I'll always wonder, "Where's Bandit?" Unless of course, I find him!

Article first published as Where's Bandit? A Missing Cat and the Lessons Learned on Blogcritics.
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Sep 27, 2010 at 6:33 pm

1 comment:

  1. What a great thought.
    I really appreciate your perspective.
    John Chappelear