Saying Good-bye to Lady

It’s hard to say goodbye.

Liam and Sarah with Lady

Last Sunday, after coming home from Catnip Hill, we packed up Lady’s things and sent her off to a new, cat-friendly apartment with Liam and Sarah. Their place is on the third floor. There is talk of cat hutches suspended from windows like swallows’ nests and cat ladders running up and down the house. Lady’s oblivious to the care and concern going into her happiness–on all sides. By Sunday night, I was texting to see how she was doing, and I’m a little embarrassed by how much I look forward to every new picture from Sarah. I miss her.

Lady wasn’t easy, but I loved the way she found us when we were outside and flopped at our feet like a slippery fish, and the way she came (almost) every time we called. Watching Terry’s heart melt the night she bounded across several yards at the sound of his voice will be with me always.

It took Lady a long time to accept us. After living with Sly—who talked and purred constantly—Lady’s near silence always seemed tense. The night before Trouble came to Lady Sleepingstay, she finally allowed herself to fall asleep on the couch next to me, sometimes resting one paw on my leg. That was after six months. The next day, she purred audibly in my arms for a full fifteen minutes while Trouble galumphed around upstairs. She never fully relaxed while inside again.

True, she got used to Trouble. Just last week she stretched out on the kitchen floor and pretended to sleep while Trouble crept past, settled nearby, crept back again—then pounced at the floor just behind her. When nothing happened, he walked away, bored. Then the phone rang. The minute I started talking he charged straight at her again and was promptly whisked away to his tower. It was probably entrapment.

It’s a shame we never got to see Lady and Trouble curled up together like soul mates, but if they had hit it off, I would have a large, bow-legged, despondent tom on my hands right now. Instead, when Liam took Lady out to the car, Trouble was sitting cheerfully upright in the second-floor window, mewing down at us the whole time. When we let him out of his room, he headed straight for the basement to examine the corner where Lady’s litter box had been, then he cased the whole house before spreading out regally in the middle of the living room for a bath.

All summer, PathI’ve been “planting” a stone walk alongside our house. Lady assumed it was for her. It was a favorite place to sun, bring prey, and sleep under the ferns. When I added my one step a day, she always came by, sometimes slinking toward me, sometimes leaping out of the brush.

There’s no question the path is lonelier this week.

But I know she’s with her people. Holy Sheboygan! gave us a private concert last June, and Lady was in heaven—rubbing against band members while the music played, contemplating climbing into the bass. When they left, she watched out the front window, clearly expecting to be the next one loaded into the car.

She watched them packing the car through the front window again last Sunday, and we know she was relieved when they came back for her this time. Lady

Terry and I wish them safe travels, warm nights, and even lots of bunnies. Who knows? Maybe Trouble was sending good wishes, too.

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Catnip Hill: Kitty Hotel

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Big St. Germain Lake, Saint Germain, WI

Every August, we rent a cabin up north where we water ski, fish, dive into the deep center of the lake, then wake up sunburned to the high-pitched bickering of bald eagles and do it all over again. This year, that meant our two bickering house guests would have to share a room at a cat-boarding facility for an entire week. We’ve never boarded before, relying on a nearly endless stream of neighborhood kids to give Sly food, water, and love when we were gone. But Lady and Trouble don’t always behave–and we wanted our neighbors to still like us a little when we returned–so we decided Catnip Hill’s very reasonable prices were well worth the investment.

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Catnip Hill, catnip-hill.com

Christine, owner of Catnip Hill is a bona fide cat whisperer who assured me our two house guests would be fine once on neutral turf. Christine has been running Catnip Hill for over ten years, having picked up the idea while living in the United Kingdom where, as she put it, they don’t have a culture of handing keys over to neighbors when they go on holiday. Since so many U.S. boarding facilities are designed for dogs, she thought a cats-only boarding house might be well-received. Judging by how quickly her rooms fill up, she was right.

I was still worried. Lady and Trouble don’t play at fighting; they fight. And since we want to return the two cats to our two kids unscathed, we have abandoned our intensive program to help them make friends. They have been leading separate lives, like roommates with a line drawn down the center of the room.

But Christine has so much experience, that when she told us all would be well, we believed that not only would they make it through the week, but they would be returned to us grooming each other and sleeping in each other’s arms the way I’ve always dreamed it would be if only I owned two cats.

The day we took them to the Kitty Hotel, the cats were not as optimistic. It was a forty-minute drive. Lady glared at us from her carrier the entire time while Trouble threw himself into a Houdini-like escape plan, which involved turning his mesh-and-fabric carrier inside out while he was still inside.

Still, as soon as we turned up the driveway and drove past the rolling fields surrounding Catnip Hill, we knew it was perfect. Inside, 20150809_084143each of the twelve rooms had a window, a chair, and three long perches. There was room enough for Terry and I to move freely as we unloaded cats and sacks. We put Lady’s favorite blanket on the highest perch so she’d feel comfortable, but she didn’t appreciate the kindness and let me know we were no longer on speaking terms. Meanwhile, Trouble was up and down the perches and chairs, checking out every corner. He kept jumping from the window to the door and back and didn’t even notice when we left.

20150809_084840 (2)For the first few days at the cabin, we watched our phone, waiting for Christine’s call…but it never came. When we picked the two of them up at the end of the week, not only were they both out of their carriers and enjoying the window sort of almost together from two different perches, they even interacted in cat “smalltalk.” It would be a stretch to say the conversation was pleasant. Still, no death threats were involved.

20150809_08454420150809_085152We packed them up and headed home, foolish enough to think the fact they were wailing in harmony was a good sign. What could be better after a week at a cat spa than a common enemy?

But once home, it took less time than the drive for Trouble to charge Lady and wind up locked in his room yet again.

Do you think Christine hires out?