The Great Escape


I had originally intended to write about an incident I witnessed last night involving the neighbors that live on either side of me. Long story short, I’ve grown tired of repeatedly reporting this idiot neighbor to Animal Control for having his dog off-leash and seeing it go after other neighborhood dogs — and their owners on occasion. I figure for as big a nuisance as that dog is, if those involved in the fracases don’t bother to report this jackwipe* and his wild animal then I shouldn’t really give a damn, either.

Not my circus, not my monkeys. Deal with it or don’t. It’s no longer any of my business.

Now onto my life.

We have two cats: Monte and Steve. And they are extreme opposites.

At 15 pounds, Monte is one great big lump of orange-tabby love. He’s the friendliest and calmest cat you’ll probably ever meet or as Ann and I like to say, “He’s a lover, not a fighter.” He really is.

Steve, on the other hand, is much different. He’s very skittish and will often wildly jump in the air if he’s walking by me and I happen to twitch my foot. We think he drank too much coffee when he was a kitten.

And Monte will talk to you in little gurgly bursts while Steve will just meow and meow and meeeeeoooooooooooowww at the slightest mention of his name.

We sometimes let Monte roam the backyard because a) we know any plans of an escape are practically impossible considering his girth and b) he likes to roll around in the dirt. Steve? We’ve tried but given his uh…skittishness, the outdoor life is just not for him. Sometimes even the indoor life is scary for him.

Take, for example, the day we brought him home. Tommy, the name he was given at the shelter, was running all over the place trying to find a place to hide. Eventually he did but he was so well hidden that we came to the conclusion that he had escaped. Ann and Anthony walked up and down the street calling for The Cat Formerly Known as Tommy but didn’t get a response nor did they see him.

We eventually found him hidden not only underneath the couch but inside the bottom of it. Steve is funny that way.

In the past, Steve has made a few runs for the door and 99% of the time, we catch him. Given his personality, who knows how he would handle himself if he ever escaped into the wild.

Well, Monday night we sort of found out.

The patio screen door has a hole in it but it was a little warm that day so we left the sliding glass door open so get some air flowing through the house. We covered the hole with a piece of Anthony’s child safety gate that we normally put in front of the couch at night to keep Arliss off of it.

Monday night as I was nodding off, I heard a noise at the back door that woke me up. By the time I realized what was going on, Monte had slipped his chubby body between the gate and the screen door, and squeezed his way outside. Seeing this, I jumped into action and brought him back in the house.

After a minute of scolding him, it dawned on me: I need to see if Steve had gotten out.

No chance, I figured. He likes sleeping in the closet at night. Or on our bed, in the kitchen window, etc. He’s got his spots.

But I checked all of them and Steve wasn’t in any of them. I started to panic and woke up Ann.

We then grabbed flashlights and began to search the backyard — every corner of the backyard. We called for him and he never responded, something unusual for Steve. With that in mind, we went back in the house to check again.

Still not in any of his hangouts; still not speaking up.

Then we really started to panic. Remember, this skittish Steve. He doesn’t even like when any of us P-pop in his face (as when using a word such as pepperoni or anything else with more than one P in it. He’ll run away because it annoys him so much.

That’s why we were worried. If Steve can’t even handle something like a P-pop, there’s no way he would do well in the wild — especially considering the coyote population in our area. Yes, in southern California, even in a city with the word “beach” in its name, we have a coyote problem. They do and have eaten neighborhood cats.

Total panic mode. Ann even woke up Anthony to help us join the hunt. They went to search the backyard again while I got in the car to drive around the neighborhood and look for him.

None of us had any luck. At this point, after exhausting pretty much all we could do by 2:30 am and knowing that work/school alarm would be going off at 6 am, the only thing I could do was sob and think of what a great cat Steve was.

Even though he was tweaky, he was still our kitty. He loved having his belly scratched and batting LEGO pieces around the floor. Oh, and chewing on Anthony’s Nerf darts. Temptations cat treats were his favorite and at the sound of the crinkling bag, he’d come running. That didn’t happen Monday night.

We were nearly certain Steve was gone and there was nothing we could do. The thought of coyotes just gave me chills and I would have lost it if I had heard him put up a fight while…ugh. Just never mind. I was a mess enough as it was.

We decided to go to bed around 3 am and we were all upset. Then I saw Monte sitting at the patio door, looking outside as if he was expecting Steve to come back any minute.

I sat down next to him and pet him, quietly sobbing and looking out the door with him. My heart hurt. I got to bed at about 3:30 am.

The six o’clock alarm went off. I hadn’t gotten much sleep between then and 3:30, as if running on 2.5 hours of sleep would be healthy to begin with. As usual, Ann was up first. This was our first day without our tweaky Steve.

I was still in bed, obviously tired. I started to compose a Facebook post regarding Steve’s escape along with a picture of him curled up with Monte. It was almost a goodbye to him, considering his demeanor and lack of outdoor experience.

I then started to compose a flyer in my head that we would post around the neighborhood, then thought about when we should start looking at the shelter for him. Even though he’s chipped, I’m certain the phone numbers are not current.

But as I started to compose the somber Facebook post, I heard Ann calling me from the den quietly then progressively louder.

“Dave! It’s STEVE! IT’S STEVE! I found Steve! OMIGOD, he’s on the patio!”

I dropped everything and ran to the patio. Yes, it was Steve in Ann’s loving embrace, the hug that only he allows her to give. Anthony was excited. Ann cried. I was relieved.

Then I grabbed him and gave him a big hug as I cried. It was chilly that night but Steve was warm. The only thing we could figure was that he had gotten inside the shed in the backyard and found a nice little nook to sleep in. That, or he hopped the wall and curled up on our neighbor’s patio furniture. Steve’s good at curling up. Monte? Not so much.

But wherever Steve was hiding that night, it kept him safe from harm and that was a relief to all of us. For as little sleep we got that night, we were all so happy and excited to have good ol’ Steve back in our lives — even if he was only gone for a matter of hours.

Steve and Monte

Here’s Monte (background) keeping an eye on his brother from another mother the day of his return. Steve seems a little more reserved now, as if being in the wild sort of humbled him a bit.

Regardless, I’d rather have him back and meoooooooowwwwwing around the house than worrying if he is going to end up as coyote chow.

Welcome home, Steve. Now don’t ever do that again.

*Jackwipe: a phrase coined by a friend of ours, combining the words “jackass” and “ass-wipe.

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