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Bad November, Part I: Enterprise

About a week ago, while we were tramping around miserably in the green-belt area near our house, Kathleen pointed out that November was turning out to be a pretty awful month, and it wasn't even half over yet. I had to agree: it was sucking pretty badly so far.

It started, of course, on Tuesday evening the 2nd, but at least then, millions of other progressives were suffering along with us. We were out late that night, visiting with some friends, watching election returns, and playing a game so that at least something would be fun. We got back home at about 11:30pm or so, and were pleased to find that three of our four cats were already inside for the night. Zap and Voyager had come back in via the open cat door, while Maisie, who's never figured out how to use that door, had been inside when Kathleen had left, earlier that evening. That left only Enterprise to account for.

We live in one of the southeasternmost neighborhoods of Bellevue, an area we share with coyotes, cougars, and the occasional bear, so many people advise us to keep our cats indoors. But all of our cats are strongly oriented towards the outside world: they all beg to be let out each morning, go in and out all day long, pout for a while when we keep them in at night, and stare out the windows much of the rest of the time. We've decided that going outdoors is a quality-of-life issue for our cats. A long life is not necessarily the same as a good life, and we feel that we and they would prefer a shorter, more stimulating life to a longer, more boring one.

Easy beliefs in the abstract, eh?

Although we strive to get the cats in every night before we go to bed (ideally, by soon after it gets dark), we are not always completely successful in this. From time to time, a cat still hasn't shown up at the door by the time we finally give up and turn our lights out for sleep. On these occasions, we leave on the light over the balcony outside our bedroom and we leave the black-out shades partially open, so that we'll be able to see from the bed whether or not a cat is waiting on the rail out there. We then try to remember to look out the window each time we wake up during the night, to see if our Prodigal Son or Daughter has yet returned.

This strategy has worked out pretty well for us. Almost always, by the time our alarm goes off the next morning, the miscreant cat has reappeared; if not, they've always shown up by 10:30am or noon at the latest. If I'm going to work that day, I always ask Kathleen to call me as soon as the missing cat turns up, so that I can stop worrying about it.

As I said, Enterprise wasn't yet inside the house when we got home on election night, so we followed the routine described above, leaving a light on for him, and looking for him to have arrived by the next morning. He didn't show up during the night (or, at least, not that either of us noticed between dreams), so I had to go off to work grumbling about our "incorrigible little boy" and asking Kathleen to call when he came back.

Around 12:30, while eating lunch, I got the call from Kathleen. But this time, it wasn't good news: Enterprise still hadn't returned. This was getting more worrisome, for both of us, but we supported each other with as much optimism as we could muster: surely he'd be back shortly; he always came back, right?

By 5:30, neither of us were able to keep up the optimism so well. I came home early and we went out with flashlights to walk the neighborhood, looking under bushes and calling for him everywhere. We walked all the way into the next cul-de-sac and back, but there was no evidence of him at all. Now we were getting pretty scared.

We came back home and, while Kathleen continued calling for him from the front and back doors, I settled in for the emotionally difficult task of making up Lost Cat posters. I don't know if you've ever had to do this, but I found it really hard to go through our collected photographs, looking for the most representative shots of a beloved pet we might never see again. We printed up 20 or so posters and went out again, to spread the word.

We rang the doorbell of every single house on our cul-de-sac, in many cases meeting neighbors for the first time. Every time, we told them about Enterprise and left them with a copy of the poster. Every time, they promised to call us if they spotted him. In a couple of cases, we learned new things about our little "cow kittie". One woman told us about how Enterprise liked to sit outside a window of their house and look in, driving their dog crazy. A little girl instantly recognized him from the poster pictures and related how he was always going around the neighborhood trying to get people to feed him. Charming stories, sure, but hard for us to hear at that point.

It was pretty nippy that evening, so we decided to go back home and warm up before taking another batch of posters over to the next cul-de-sac. I sat at our breakfast table, reading the newspaper in an attempt to distract myself, but Kathleen, unable to be inactive, went out the back door to call once again, just in case.

And there he was!

Enterprise was sitting on the rail of the balcony outside our bedroom; at the sound of Kathleen's voice, he instantly jumped down and ran over. A moment later, he was inside again. Our relief was immense, as you'd expect, and poor Enterprise had to put up with being "double-teamed" with attention for quite a while. He was a pretty good sport about it.

Well, we thought, we really dodged the bullet on this one. That was a really scary little episode. Let's not do that again, OK?

But November was just getting started, wasn't it?


But the pumpkin pie will turn out just fine. It will.

The enterprise never had problems that couldn't be overcome. Now why is it that all of your cats seem to have star trek related names?