When I answered, the knock on the door, the man introduced himself as the son of the previous owner of our house and said he believed his cat, Pip, was hiding under our deck. We were going out for lunch, so I told him that we would leave the screen door to the pool area unlocked and he was welcome to search for his pet. I didn’t think of it again until a couple of weeks later, when I opened the door of a cabinet in the covered area of our patio, and was startled by the cat as he darted out of the cupboard and scampered under the wood deck.
Realizing that the cat hadn’t been retrieved by his owner and that we were now sharing our home with a feline companion, I made the decision that he was and was going to continue to be, an outdoor cat. That arrangement worked fine until the weather changed and my wife, Terri, decided, whether he wanted to or not, Pip needed to come in from the cold. Food, begging: nothing worked to persuade the cat to come into the house. Finally, as I opened the cabinet door, he was a split-second slow and surrendered as I caught him in my arms.
If Pip was going to be indoors, Terri decided that he was going to be a clean cat; so, she filled the kitchen sink with water and prepared to give him a scrubbing. I, rather than be involved in what I believed was going to be a monumental battle, hid out in the living room.
It was quiet until suddenly there was a loud, continuous wail coming from the kitchen. Concerned that an infuriated tomcat had mortally injured my wife, I ran in only to find Terri laughing and Pip howling like a banshee as she scoured his back.
Like all of our pets, Pip tolerated me and worshiped Terri. He would run to greet her when she walked in the door, follow her like a puppy and curl in her lap when she sat. Terri and he grew to be great friends and I worried about how Terri would react when, inevitably, Pip squandered his latest life.
It was the weekend before the Fourth of July and typical for Florida, it was a sultry, hot morning. While Terri slept in, I arose early to drink a cup of coffee and quietly read the paper. As I poured water into the coffee maker I noticed that Pip wasn’t rubbing against my leg; I was puzzled but not concerned, until I walked outside to get the paper and saw a lifeless cat in the middle of the street.
I thought it might be Pip but not sure, I began a search of the house. After combing through every room, I knew it had to be our cat lying in the road. Wanting to spare Terri the trauma of dealing with a flattened pet, I decided to bury him before she got out of bed.
I wrapped Pip in an old blanket, grabbed a shovel and began digging his final resting place. It was a struggle, our yard was full of large oak trees and digging a hole required hacking through roots the size of my arm. After an hour, I was soaking wet and exhausted but the cat was buried. I said a short prayer and went inside and broke the news to Terri.
It was a sad day but we went ahead and played golf with our friends Frank and Diane. At the end of 9 holes, Terri and Diane quit and Frank and I continued the round. When we returned home, Terri greeted me saying, “There’s something you need to see in the bedroom.” As I walked into the room, I was greeted by a loud meow; I couldn’t believe it, lying on a pillow on the bed was Pip.
I had buried the neighbor’s cat!
I had done every thing right: I searched every room of the house, making sure to close the door when through; I looked for him outside, in the cabinets and under the deck but somehow he had evaded me. I was sure he had gone to cat heaven: only to find out he was asleep on my pillow. Pip’s disappearance taught me that you can do everything right and still be wrong.
“Never try to outstubborn a cat!” – Robert A. Heinlein