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One thing that you need to know about me is that I have a hard time giving up on things.  Even though I knew that the likelihood of the kitty surviving alone in the woods was slim, I needed some closure. If I don’t get that closure then with every storm I will wonder how she’s going to stay dry. When winter hits I will wonder how she’s going to stay warm. With every predator sighting I will wonder how she will stay safe. How she will escape its clutches? I need closure to stay sane.

So I packed for another weekend off the grid. Another weekend of roaming through the woods. Another weekend of tears. Because you see, even though I must search, I have no hope. The hope ended Tuesday night when I saw a fox in the woods but no kitty. I knew when I saw her bound off into the woods last Monday in sheer panic that she was done for. But still I searched.

I began packing for the trip. I found an old sweatshirt of mine that I was going to leave under the camper when I left at the end of the weekend. I brought her stuffed fish that she loved to play with that I was going to leave with the sweatshirt. I had to do something on the remote chance that she was out there somewhere.

The plan was to search on the 4wheelers this time instead of by foot. The plan was to find any sign of her remains so that I could get that desparately needed closure. The plan was, if by some miracle she were still alive, the noise of the 4wheelers would scare her out of wherever she may be hunkered down. So, it was to be a loud, noisy search instead of the “quiet, on foot” searching that we had been doing.

The truck was loaded and we began our 40 minute drive up north to the woods. The ridiculously silent drive. In fact, our  whole week has been ridiculously silent. Me, because if I so much as mention her name, I cry. Him, because if he so much as mentions her name, I cry. So we drive in complete silence.

We go through the gates and head down the gravel road and I get more and more tense because I know what task lies ahead. We turn onto our road and pause briefly at the two lots that we’re going to buy this week. I ask him if we can just look at them tomorrow. I’m hungry. I want to eat. And I want to search.  He complies even though I really don’t think he wantes to.

We continue down the road and are two lots north of ours and I can’t believe my eyes. “Oh my god!!!  Stop the car! She’s under the camper!!!!” Mark immediately throws the truck into park and  kills the engine. I’m out in a flash and doing my best to not run towards her. I knew she’d be freakd out so I calmly walked to the front of the camper as I called her name. She began talking back to me but was very hesitant to come out from under the camper. I sat on the deck with my hand extended to her. “Come on, Bandit. Come here.” She made a very tentative approach to me meowing with every step. She was scared and it was clear she didn’t want to step up onto the deck. She was frantically looking around as she meowoed and cautiously approached. Mark came walking down the driveway and she backed again towards the underneath of the camper. “Stop where you are.” I quietly said and motioned with my hand to stop. He instantly complied. He knows how she gets over very simple things so he stopped and waited as I continued to try and coax her out into the open.

I quietly talked to her for what seemed like an eternity, but in all reality was probably only ten minutes. She continued to respond with her meowing. She continued to come a little closer.I had to resist the urge to reach out and try to grab her. I know how quick the little shit is and I didn’t want to risk her bolting again. So I mustered every ounce of self control I had and talked to her until she climbed into my lap. It was all I could do to not hug the stuffing out of her.

She was in my arms again!! Mark stood where he was until I had ahold of her. I asked him to unlock the door and when he hurried to the front door she began freaking out and trying to get out of my arms. But I wasn’t letting go! Mark got to the door and realized he’d left the keys in the truck and he took off running to get them, which freaked her out even more. She doesn’t have front claws, but  she still has hind ones and she ripped my T-shirt in multiple places trying to get out of my grasp.

Once the camper was  unlocked I carried her to the back room where her food and water were waiting and I let her down, then I dropped to the floor to just hang out with her. I’m not sure whether she wanted food more or snuggling more! She’d take a bite of food then come rub up against me meowing and purring. It was clear she had lost some weight after not eating for nearly a week. I had left a huge bowl of water on the deck when we left last Tuesday just in case, and I’m glad I did because it’s been dry here. I don’t know at what point between Tuesday and Friday that she found her way back to the camper, but at least she had water available to her.

I don’t know how long I laid on the floor with her. She wouldn’t stop chattering at me. She’d come brush up against me. Then eat. Then brush against Mark. Then eat. Then rub up on me. I was laughing and crying all at the same time. I don’t know if I was more happy to see her or if she was more happy to see me. I just kept saying, “I can’t believe you’re alive!”  HUG. “I can’t believe you’re alive!” HUG!

She’s exhausted! She wouldn’t sleep at all the first night. I don’t know if the sounds of the night were still freaking her out or what, but she was all over me all night long. As I write this, she’s sleeping on my lap. I’m writing with actual pen and paper. I didn’t bring my computer because I didn’t anticipate having time to relax so I’ll have to type it out when I get home, but that’s OK because right now??  I am relaxing with the baby kitty sleeping on my lap. I guess I can’t call her a baby kitty anymore. She’ll be one  next month. She’s not a baby kitty. A baby kitty couldn’t have survived a week alone in the woods. She’s a cat now! My big, brave cat the somehow managed to find her way back to me. A little skinnier. Burrs in her tail. Ticks in her ears. But relatively no worse for the wear. Purring non-stop. So here we sit. Totally relaxing.

::happy, contented sigh::

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