Insomnia is most definitely one of those mixed blessings. Ever since Helena ran off, I’ve largely micro-napped, save for the brandy-induced coma I put myself into Sunday night so I could force a recharge. I truly hate relying on that, but I knew I’d need my wits and strength for Monday, and that came in handy. Even so, it seems like every time I close my eyes, I see her. Sometimes my writer’s imagination takes over, and I see all manner of grisly deaths to which growing up in the country has opened my eyes. Other times I see her happily bounding through the bushes, playing with other cats and enjoying her freedom. It’s hard. It’s very hard.
My neighborhood is dangerous for human and animal. For people, there are gunshots, beatings, dog mauling… For animals, there’s all of these things, combined with the knowledge of using strays or farmed pets for sport. There’s also the nearby nature preserve, and we get all manner of visitors from that: skunks, coyotes, bobcats, hawks, snakes… the list goes on. All of the above have been seen in the neighborhoods after dark, and sometimes in broad daylight.
I spent a lot of time last night walking through the adjoining (and just as bad) neighborhood where Helena was reported to have been seen the morning before. A flashlight, my phone, a pocket full of her favorite treats… I felt so helpless. I’m fully aware I’m taking my life into my own hands in doing this, but I’ve also not really cared about that much when facing off against other people. Swordfighting has a way of building confidence to the point of arrogance, and I’ve never had a shortage of that. I wasn’t focusing on me anyway. It’s all about Helena. When you have enough time to think and an active imagination, you can do one of two things. You can either dwell on what might happen, or you can dwell on what you will do if given an opportunity. Last night I forced myself to focus on the opportunity.
Here are the facts as I understand them. First, Helena is friendly, but she’s highly skittish. Even at home, she would run from me whenever I’d enter a room, circling back to “home base” of the living room end table in the hope of treats. Without this idea of base, she will not come to me, and I have very little hope of catching her. Second, even in the event I do somehow catch her, she will flay the hell out of me because she hates being held. The solution, of course, is to put her in her portable kennel. Thing is, she spent months in a kennel before I adopted her, and she has made that negative association. She won’t even enter a room if the kennel is visible. I had to keep it in the garage. So if I find her in the wild, somehow corner and catch her… if she sees the kennel, it makes all of that harder. The only way I can approach her is without the kennel. The only way I can do that is to leave it at home. If I do that, I have no means to transport her back home in safety. Either she will do me great bodily harm in the process of freaking out, or she will do herself great bodily harm in an effort to twist from my grasp. She definitely won’t come near me if I have my Kevlar swordfighting gauntlets. She hated those the moment she saw them. No matter what else happens, I’ve learned from experience I have less than two seconds before she goes into a Tasmanian Devil spin attack. And she’s good at it.
There’s also the consideration that she may have already moved on to a new area. Hard to know for sure, and I can only deal in known quantities and hope. The two things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that she is a survivor, and she’s clever. Dare I say, she’s systematic in her approach to things and learns quickly. I hope it’s enough to keep her safe and content.
I also had another realization last night that brought me zero comfort. Even in the event that all things play out perfectly and she makes it home, it would take one home invasion, effective or not, for her to run loose again through the first broken window. This sort of thing has happened before, and it’s a constant threat in my neighborhood. This is why most of my neighbors have dogs.
I did have a new development last night. Upon coming home, I learned the food I’d been leaving on the front porch was being eaten, not by the neighbor’s cat who constantly visited Helena through the library window, but by a newcomer. A little roly-poly black kitten, perhaps the size of both of my fists, has been snarfing up the food quickly. I got a good look at it, but I still don’t know if it’s a male or female. I watched through the window in the front door as it crept in from the side under the bushes slow enough to avoid tripping the motion sensor on the porch light. And then, of course, it relaxed, strolled up to the bowl, triggered the sensor, turned on the light, and the little bit sat at the edge of the porch at distance from the bowl, nervous about whether or not it was safe to approach. I assume it got the message though. At 2 am, the bowl was mostly empty. By 4 am, the bowl was licked clean. I filled it again before I left for work.
What can I say? My heart went out to the little one. I would gladly watch humanity burn, and there are days I’m tempted to light the match myself, but I’m a sucker for dogs and cats. I know I can’t keep feeding it because that will train it and cause a lack of developed survival skills. At the same time, I probably can’t catch it for the same reason I can’t catch Helena: cats are a lot faster and more agile than I am. But given the rise in snakes this year, and given ever-present squirrel problem, it’s always good to have a cat around. I learned that in the country too, especially the bit about snakes. Maybe Helena will find her way back to me. Maybe she prizes her freedom far more than she prizes my company. I don’t have those answers, and maybe I never will. I’ll never give up on her until some day when I’m forced to move away myself. But maybe in the meantime, I’ll earn another friend.