Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.
A little over one week ago, I shared the story of Peanut’s taking leave of this world. Little did I know that an ordeal a few hours later would completely distract me from grieving the old guy.
I have what I refer to as a ghost cat; a 10-year old calico rescue named Izzy. Peanut was her best and only friend. It took several years before she’d even approach me for affection and it was unrequited. Everything spooked this cat, even seeing headlights coming down the driveway. She spent 18 hours a day hiding behind the furnace, only emerging after dark to be with her friend, Peanut.
Peanut died on a Friday. Izzy was suddenly on my lap and behaved the role he’d played all of these years, as though she’d been waiting for her opportunity and only been an intern who learned how to be a companion from observing him for a decade. I loved it. We soaked each other up with mutual affection for hours. I think she knew all along how to do it, but Peanut stood in the way because all of her affection was used up on him.
About 2AM, I went to use the bathroom and smelled gas. My furnace and water heater are behind louvers in the bathroom because there’s no basement here. I called the gas company and they sent out an emergency tech. He found carbon monoxide coming from the 50-year old water heater and shut it down. While standing there, I noticed a 5” hole in the floor, below which the dungeon exists. This is a crawl space beneath the cottage made up of a maze of tunnels with a rocky dirt floor and about a 20” clearance to the studs above which hold the place up. I knew at that moment that she’d gone down the hole.
I called and called her name, put tuna in a baggy with a string to tease her up, and opened up the trap door to the dungeon below. In the dark with a flashlight, swiping away a hundred years’ worth of cobwebs, I crawled through the scary tunnel looking for her. My mind went to thinking the gas tech’s commotion scared her into the vast duct system snaking throughout the underworld.
The next morning, the guy who used my dock walked by. I ran to him, hysterical, and asked for his help to find her. He then entered the dungeon and came out empty-handed. This tunnel is so tight that it can only be exited by crawling out of it backwards. An hour later, one of his friends went into the dungeon and found a collar she’d lost many months ago.
The light went on. I realized in that moment that she had not been hiding behind the furnace all of these years; she’d taken up residence in the vast dark underbelly beneath the cottage! She’d been leading a double life all along. Still, I clung to the vision of her being so spooked that she’d dived into and gotten stuck in the venting system, so I called an HVAC guy to come and dissemble the entire network of ducts. He said he’d be glad to for only $200 an hour. I told him I’d hold off until the next day. Next, I called Animal Rescue, Pest Control, and ultimately the police.
Two officers showed up, full of empathy for the little old lady who’d just put down one cat and now lost the other. One of them was hefty in size but insisted on crawling through the dungeon anyway. I truly worried that this brave cop would get stuck.
Every minute she was gone felt like I was letting her die down there. Later that night, Mary texted that she’d probably breathed in carbon monoxide and peacefully died. This seemed like a plausible reason that she hadn’t emerged from the hole she’d dived into, so I crawled the dark tunnel one more time, only this time looking for a body, then went outside to break a small window to peer into the dungeon. I’d resigned myself that she’d died down there. The thought that I’d forever live on the floor above my deceased cat was very unpleasant. I even posted her obituary on my Facebook wall right above Peanut’s obituary.
On Sunday, I decided to force myself to go dancing because my favorite band was playing. I got home around 1AM, went into the bedroom, and there she sat on the window box right outside my window. She obviously had exited through the broken window. Shocked but indescribably relieved, I popped open the pull-down screen and she flew in right past me to the second floor. My heart sank recalling that I’d removed a panel up there which allows access to the plumbing behind the wall. Sure enough, she dived into it. I gave up at this point.
Another 12 hours passed, then, out of nowhere, she sauntered into my bedroom, acting as though none of this had even happened and took up residence on my lap. Now I am the one living a double life because my generous son paid for two purebred Ragdolls last Thursday. I knew that these exotic cats would not only heal my heart, but would be the best companions for what remains of my life. I’ll be 88 by the time of the average lifespan of these kittens. That’s why I wanted two: so they have each other if I die first. It’s also mesmerizing to just sit and watch these fur balls rolling around and chasing each other. The name “Ragdoll” comes from the fact that when picked up, they go limp in your arms. They look like giant, long-haired Siamese and can grow to 20lbs. Years ago, I owned three of this breed and have longed for more ever since. They’re rated as the most affectionate breed there is.
My double life resembles Izzy’s, only hers was below the cottage, and mine is splitting the days/nights between my little Ragdolls blocked into my downstairs bedroom, and my all-nighters sleeping upstairs to comfort Izzy. I don’t know if she’ll ever meet the downstairs cats, but she knows they’re here and will not come down.
And so, one door has been shut, and another one has opened, bringing with it new life, peace, and soul-healing.
When has one door opened for you as one door shut?