“She has an ID chip, her name’s Veronica, here’s the phone number,” said the vet entirely too happily, quick-marching out of the back of the clinic with a torn sheet of notebook paper.
Dr. Cohn, who is fairly young, wears light-colored oxfords and quiet ties, and has a translucent complexion that you usually only see on mannequins. He is about the nicest guy I ever met in the vet business. I think he noticed I wasn’t overjoyed.
“I thought you might like to be the one to tell them you found their cat,” he added rather gently. “One of the techs will have the carrier out in a minute.”
Veronica — Veronica for Christ’s sake? — didn’t screech coming back into the house the way she had going out, jolted by the sight of my two ginger boys into a horripilating (for her and for me) dominance display behind the wire mesh of the sturdiest carrier. The more people handled her the quieter she got. You could tell from that alone that she was a breeder cat. She weighed seven and a half pounds (not five) and seemed to ail for nothing, except the possibility that her roundish tummy might mean worms. She had been wolfing food nonstop for three days, of course.
A few hours later “Dana” returned my call. Oh, unbelievable. They had put out three hundred flyers and signs and called all the shelters. They were sure Veronica was a goner. In fact her son was just desolate and they had gone to the breeder to get another cat so now they were going to have three…. “If you’re stitched up with cats I’d happily keep her,” I said. I didn’t laugh very convincingly, I suspect, and quickly asked “Is she an Oci or a Bengal?”
“Aren’t they just works of art???” said Dana. “We actually have another one from her litter. He’s a marble Bengal…”
“I’ll bring her over this evening,” I said.
“I’ll let it be a surprise for my son,” she said. “He’ll be thrilled.”
The kid was at the dining room table when I arrived with the carrier. He looked about nine. Besides the two other cats, there was a great loutish English setter woofing and goofing around the dining room.
“Is it Veronica?” the kid said without getting up and with what seemed a consciously blase smirk. I took an instant dislike to the little fucker. I hated him even more a few minutes later when, showing a little more animation, he reacted to Miss Nickel’s release from the carrier by seizing a “kitty fishing” pole and poking it at her. Confronted with two other cats, a dopey dog, and a rotten insensitive little kid with a fishing pole, she did the only thing I would have done: she zoomed out of the tiny house’s living room and down the cellar stairs by way of the kitchen.
It looked like “Veronica” had covered about three miles, along the path of a local creek, before hitting the road that ends up at my gym. “Paul put the dog out in the yard New Year’s Eve and didn’t get the screen door shut tight,” the woman explained, “and I guess that’s when she got out. He was heartbroken. I can’t believe you found her.” The kid actually didn’t seem to be experiencing any strong emotion, except to want to break out some catnip, any excuse for commotion, it seemed.
“She’s probably up in the ceiling,” said Dana. “She always goes there.” She led me down to show me the little joist space over the laundry room and, sure enough, there was Nickel peering out nervously. “Let me go put the dog out back.” The punk kid remained, with his frigging fishing pole, and poked it up at the poor beleaguered cat. As gently as I could make myself I pushed it out of the way.
“Don’t do that,” I said. “She’s scared. I know because I Am The Cat Lady.” I couldn’t tell if it had sunk in or not. “Bring tuna,” I commanded.
He trotted upstairs and, shortly, reappeared with tuna in a cat dish, which I put up into the joist space. Nickel began gobbling.
I told him to leave her alone with the toys and the catnip for three days. On the way out I noticed a furniture-quality cat tree, higher than my head, that must have cost about four hundred bucks. Bengals themselves are in the five hundred dollar range around here.
Two months went by. After a few e-mail exchanges I heard no more news from Dana. I was profoundly bummed.
The message showed up about ten on a May morning.