A Lesson on the Will to Live
by Connie Darago
No, it's not a Disney movie - though it could be.
I caught my first glimpse of S'more in a photo my daughter, Misty, sent from North Dakota.
A short note with the picture described him as a calico-ragdoll mix with crystal blue eyes and long hair. I'm not a cat-person, but I enjoyed watching him grow via photos.
Meanwhile, giving little thought to her indoor pets, I looked forward to the day my daughter would return home to Calvert County. She would live with us until a place of her own could be found.
They arrived on a crisp spring Sunday night. Bounding from the Toyota 4-Runner first was the 105-pound Weimaraner, Apollo, followed by daughter's fiancé and finally daughter, pet carrier in hand.
That's when I met S'more. Fresh from a 1,700-mile trip in a 12-inch by 14-inch carrier, he was not a happy camper.
Photos had not done the beautiful cat justice; still, I knew that two-inch hair would be a problem. However, S'more was part of the deal. He came with the humans, so I did my best to keep up with the ever-shedding white and calico hairs.
A male neutered cat, S'more wore his North Dakota collar and shamrock tags with that address.
In what quickly became his morning routine, he was allowed a brief encounter with the out-of-doors when buddy Apollo walked. S'more used his time to explore the huge azaleas and yew surrounding the house. He never went far.
But one Saturday morning, when Misty called for S'more, who always shot from shrubbery, no bushes moved or white-spotted streak headed for the basement door.
Frantically she searched and called. I joined in the hunt and called neighbors. Minutes turned to hours. After work, her dad joined the search.
By Sunday evening, flyers with the cat's description and our phone number were plastered on telephone poles and over 50 nearby mailboxes. Emergency numbers had been at the local animal rescue and the Tri-County Animal Shelter. Even the North Dakota vet was called in hopes someone finding a wayward cat with out-of-state tags would call.
Days turned to weeks, weeks to months.
We all formed opinions. Mine, he had become lost in the woods and fallen prey to hawk or fox. Misty held fast to the hope that someone had found him, was as captured by his beauty as she and had given him a good home.
Then came the August weekend Misty celebrated her 23rd birthday. She and fiancé headed to Ocean City Saturday morning. But they found no parking or lodging, and they returned home, disappointed, about 8pm.
Around nine o'clock came a knock on the front door. There stood two young men, one holding a wisp of a cat wrapped in a beach towel. Dirty, smelly, thin, balding and very near dead, he had just been rescued after 77 days. An elated, crying Misty squealed, "They found S'more! He's home."
The boys told how they'd found the cat and carried him to the house of a friend, who recognized the name and description on the name tag from a flyer months before. He'd gone to school with Misty and guided them to our home.
From here the story becomes speculation.
We assume he wandered down the driveway, followed the quarter-mile road and crossed the main highway. Finding his way to a rarely used open shed, he got locked inside - finally becoming trapped by his collar as he fought to be free. Fought so hard the collar became part of him as skin rubbed away and then grew to heal.
The once 12-pound cat was a mere five pounds when he came home. But the emergency vet assured Misty that he would make a complete recovery.
The wounds healed and silky new hair covers the once-raw flesh. At a fat and sassy 13 pounds, he now romps and plays with Apollo at their new house, seeming none the worse for his adventure.
How is it possible that he survived? What did he eat? Does a cat really have nine lives? Those questions will remain unanswered.
As for me?
I find a wayward hair now and then. I'll still never be a cat lover, but S'more's will to survive has gained my respect. He's now part of the family, not just an animal that came as part of a package deal.