After 4 weeks lost in the Tillman Wilderness, my housecat Tybalt returned home Sunday night. He had lost 3 pounds but had obviously eluded the resident coyotes, rabid armadillos, and unruly raccoons - not to mention my 3 territorial canines. Here, he's just survived a welcome-home bath.
Last weekend was a memorable one for me on several counts. I'll write about our Class of 1960 reunion next, but by far the most heart-warming part of the Oct. 1 weekend was that my little furry friend Tybalt made his way back out of the woods to the safety of home!
He had been gone 4 weeks, after slipping out a new screen door that I had obviously left unlocked. What happened to him on his adventures in the wilderness is forever locked inside my lively, resourceful little Prince of Cats, but he survived with no more than a loss of three of his nine pounds of body weight.
I'm always bewitched by the series of circumstances which lead to an unexpected discovery, and Tybalt's happy return Sunday night about 8 p.m. is no exception.
For several days, I had been putting two of my three dogs up in the pen, so that they wouldn't bark all night and I could get some sleep. On Sunday night, well after dark, the red-coated, blue-eyed hound dog named Chigger had not come in for the night, so I stood on the porch and called her with a series of whistles and shouts, aimed out into the darkness.
Imagine my elation when I heard a very faint meow! I listened closely - nothing. I called again for Chigger and then listened. There it was - an answering meow. I hardly dared hope, but I called, "Tybalt? Is that you? Where are you?" The meow I heard was his familiar voice, answering me. As I called, the meows got closer and closer. Then the crashing started, and I had a flash of doubt: Could such a small cat cause such a commotion in the dense brush of the old goat pen? It occured to me that it might not be my cat at all. I could be calling up some totally alien creature that would spring from the goat pen and slash me to pieces!
However, the moment that my flashlight beam reflected on those yellow eyes on the other side of the fence, I felt an immense flood of joy wash through me! My little lost cat stepped out and erased a month of guilt and longing.
Though he didn't appreciate the bath he received immediately to wash off the poison ivy and bugs, he was overjoyed to be home again and has eaten me out of house and home ever since! His bones are beginning to be less prominent. He still sleeps a good part of the day, but by the time my daughter arrives this afternoon, our little black cat should be ready for another game of monopoly on the living room floor!
I feel very, very fortunate that it was not my little companion's time to die. The Monday trip to the vet revealed no feline leukemia or parasites - just a 3-pound weight loss. Considering the creepy creatures in the Tillman woods, and the fact that Tybalt had no front claws, the outcome could have been far different. I feel that his experience in catching the mice that I used to have in my basement (and the play mice that my daughter brings home for him) may have kept him in shape for his trek into the Outback.
Thanks for the encouraging words of many of my friends, who told me remarkable stories of survival for the animals they had lost and refound. I held onto those accounts to give me hope, as I prayed for my little buddy's return.