Leo’s Nine Lives

Leo’s Nine Lives

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I have just had one of the most roller coaster, harrowing weeks of my rather lengthy life.

We have a year old cat named Leo.  After being catless for a year or so, Bill and I decided to give it a go last summer, and so we took the plunge.

I consider adopting a new pet a pretty dangerous proposition.  It’s not like marrying the wrong man, who you can up and divorce.  Oh, no.  You’re making a lifetime commitment, based upon a meeting that usually lasts the time it would take you to get coffee at a drive-through.  Which I have never done, by the way.  No kidding.  (I know how to make my own!)

Anyway, Bill and I went to this great no-kill shelter here in town last summer.  We really like gray/brown tabbies, because our tabbies have always been very sweet and cool cats.

As luck would have it, there were about 6 tabby kittens in various play cages in the room.  We observed them for a while and decided on two to take out and play with.  Both were adorable, but Leo was curious and playful.  Living in the country, we needed a cat that wasn’t too shy or cautious.  On top of that, Leo was a cuddler.  And the gals who ran the place said he didn’t do a lot of meowing, which in my book is an absolute requirement for a good cat.

Leo was a tiny, 3 pound piece of attitude.  When we got home, he took on our two huge labs, Molly and Bo, like he was the boss.  They would chase each other round the dining room table, and Leo would get up on his two hind legs and playfully swat at Molly, and another chase would begin.  He also would eat Molly’s dogfood, which left poor Molly just standing there, watching, staring woefully at her food being eaten by a 3 pound kitten.

Baby LeoMolly and Leo sharing

In not much time, Leo went from 3 pounds to 13 and was becoming quite, shall we say politely, “rotund.”  When Spring came, he started demanding to go out at night.  I mean, nothing would keep that cat in.  If we tried to keep him inside, all hell would break lose.  He’d go tearing around the house, jumping on all the furniture, clawing Bill’s recliner and our one nice rug and, in general, making a pain of himself.  He would also stand at the front door for however long it took, meowing loudly the entire time, for us to finally give in and let him out.

It is nice to have a good mouser, but I’ve always worried, because we have raccoons, owls, coyotes and God-knows-what-else lurking out there on our 7 acres.

But the best thing about Leo was his decided preference for Bill.  Bill did not grow up in a cat family and in fact, had never shared a home with one until we got together, 15 years ago.  He liked a few of those kitties, but didn’t really consider them “his.”

Leo definitely changed all that.  He became “Daddy’s kitty,” which was pretty hilarious.  Bill didn’t even mind my teasing him about this and what a soft spot he had for Leo.  They’d cuddle every evening and Leo would often come in after a night of hard-core hunting and get into bed with Bill, lying right on top of him.

All in all, he was the best cat, ever.

Well, last Thursday night, I didn’t see Leo.  He has left for one night only once before, but he had shown up the next day, so I figured that’s what he was up to, this time.  But he didn’t show up the next day, either.  Or the next.  Or the next.  I spent hours every day, calling his name and walking around the property, trying to see if he’d gotten stuck in the barn or the woodshed or God knows where.

Bill emailed all the neighbors to please be on the lookout.  I put up a sign at the mailboxes and posted a notice on facebook and on craigslist.

Finally, last night Bill and I came to the conclusion that something had gotten Leo.  He’d had some swollen lymph nodes a few weeks earlier, and the vet had given him a long acting antibiotic, in case it was just an infection. But the vet was worried it might be lymphoma, which is fatal.

Leo had also been losing weight this summer.  A couple of pounds, I would guess.  But our last cat, Smokey, did this every summer, becoming very gaunt, and then ballooning up to about 16 pounds each winter.  So, I figured this what was causing Leo’s weight loss.

We came to the conclusion that Leo had either met with some horrible creature, or did, in fact, have Lymphoma and had gone into the woods to die.  I spent the evening crying uncontrollably and woke up a mess, with eyes so puffy, I could barely see out of them.

Well, I had an appointment with a dermatologist in town, and I had to get there.  I grabbed my purse and phone and keys and headed out to my car.  Got in the driver’s seat and suddenly, up pops Leo, absolutely right as rain!

I nearly had a heart attack, as you can imagine.  I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.  My hands were shaking, my face was flushed as I grabbed him and ran into the house.  I had just enough time to give him fresh food and water before having to leave.

While in town I kept thinking, there’s no way he could survive 4 days and nights without water!  And he hadn’t even looked particularly scathed.  What if I had had some weird out-of-body psycho experience and I had dreamed it up?  I mean, I might be a little weird, but surely not THAT weird?

I raced home and yep, there was Leo, doing pretty darned well.  He’s been eating and drinking and is currently running around the living room like a maniac, or in the kitchen, chasing the shadows his paws make on the ugly linoleum floor.  He looks a little shell shocked, and he does sort of flinch when there is a loud noise or something, but miraculously, he seems to have survived, fairly unscathed.

Fat Leo

And, thankfully, he doesn’t seem to be blaming me.

I think he got in my car while Bill was unloading 3 new propane tanks from the car to the garage.  It  was dark out and Bill had had to make several trips to the garage and back and had the doors open.  And that’s when Leo must have made his move.

What kind of tortures me is – what if I hadn’t had that appointment?  I usually only drive somewhere once a week, if that.  Ugh, what a thought.  Also, what must that little guy have gone through, hearing me calling for him, hour after hour, day after day, and being unable to reach me?  I feel so guilty about that, not even thinking to check the car.  It simply didn’t occur to me.  Lesson learned, though.

As far as I can tell, the swollen lymph gland is no longer swollen.  So, with any luck, we might just have dodged that bullet, too.

But, the moral of today’s story is, miracles really do happen.  Glad I said my prayers.  I’m very happy and grateful tonight.  I’m even giving Leo canned food, and willing to put up with the inevitable flatulence it causes him!!!  It will be well worth it!

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