My wife’s mother used to have a few semi-domesticated cats living outside her house. Occassionally the females would get pregnant and have a litter. One day, when we were visiting we noticed that one of the kittens was very sick looking. We were planning to take a pet in so we found a box, lined it with newspaper and tissue and took the little creature (which we dubbed “Fortuna”) home.
When we got her home and had a good look at her, Fortuna looked like she was on death’s door. Her eyes, which we had thought had not opened yet, we in fact closed due to an infection. She was dirty, flea bitten, thin, and coughing. My wife called the nearest vet and begged him to see our kitten. he said it was 11:30 at night and could we wait till morning. My wife started to cry. “You’re a vet. You’re supposed to love animals. If you don’t see our kitten I’m afraid she won’t make it through the night.”
The vet had a kind heart and told us to come over right away. He didn’t liek the look of Fortuna and, after cleaning her eyes, injecting her with anibiotics, and so on, gave us a less than promising prognosis. She migth not make it still, but we were to bring her back the next day.
Well, the next day, little Foruna was still alive. We wrapped her in swaddling clothes and lay her (no not in a manger) in a Mountain Equipment Co-op bag and rode our scooter off to the vet. The vet said she looked a little better. He gave her another shot, forced some nutritional supplement down her throat and said to come back in two days.
Then the unimaginable happened.
I put Fortuna back into my bag, zipped it shut and got on the scooter. When we were close to home my wife asked me to pull over near the 7-11. There was a pet shop here where we could pick up some kitty litter for Fortuna. While my wife went inside I opened the bag to take a peek at Foruna. But she wasn’t there. I froze then collected myself and searched the bag again. Still she was not there. My wife came out and I broke the news to her. Neither of us could imagine where she could have gone. She was an emaciated, weak little kitten sitting at the bottom of a foot high zipped bag. How could she have possibly climbed out? And even if she did climb out (of a zipped bag), how could she then leap from between my legs (the bag sat on foot rest area of the scooter) onto the road without my or my wife’s seeing her?
We rushed back to the vet’s to see if by chance she had escaped when we first put her in the bag. We searched the vet’s office, the neighboring stores, the sidewalk, ditches, cars, and alleys. She was gone. I told my wife to drive back to the 7-11 and search there. I would walk back home and check under every car and on every sidewalk for her. Which I did. Took me about 2 hours. I searched everywhere for her. I new there was little hope of finding her alive but I wanted at least to find her little body so we cold bury her properly.
But nothing. We never found Fortuna nor discovered how she had escaped from the bag.
A few months later a friend’s mother’s cat had a litter of two. We only wanted one cat but my wife couldn’t bear to part the brother and sister so she took them both home. The boy was handsome, solid and heavy in the hand, the girl cute and fluffy. We named them Fran and Zooey, after the brother and sister in JD Salinger’s novel but the names didn’t stick. I renamed them Paolo and Francesca, after the ill-fated lovers in Dante’s Inferno. Oddly, these names did stick and five years later Paolo and Chesca (as we call her for short) are still with us, making us laugh with their talkative ways, funny stretches, and quirky manners.
In short, I can’t imagine living without my pets now. Though they leave hair everywhere, break down the bathroom door to demand petting while you’re on the toilet, and though they occassionally pee on the sofa when we haven’t cleaned the litter box to their satisfaction, they add so much color and character to our life I forgive them anything.
Bring on the string orchestra.