My kids are obsessed with this commercial! They think it’s hilarious. (Click through to see video)
“Luna! Luuuunnna! Here, pretty kitty!” I crooned, shaking a bag of cat treats as I circled the tiny hotel room for the 50th time.
“Are you sure she was, ah, here?” The hotel manager asked as his assistant lifted up the mattress, peering between the box spring and the bed. “I mean, I haven’t seen her the whole time you’ve been here!”
Did he really just accuse of me of imagining my own pet?? “Of course she was here!” I said, exasperated. “She was here like 30 minutes ago!” Then, turning to the assistant, I added, “And why are you looking there? How could she possibly fit in there without becoming a cat toastwich??”
He shrugged his shoulders and dropped the mattress. “I’ve seen it happen ma’am.”
Before I could decide if he meant that he’d seen a cat hide between a mattress and box spring or that he’d seen a cat meet an untimely end in that matter, my son piped up. “I think I hear her! She’s… up there!”
We all dropped silent and waited. Nothing. I checked over the fridge where he’d been pointing. Nothing. I even checked in the fridge now that the assistant had got me considering the possibility of a dead cat. Nothing. Nothing! It was infuriating! In the entire month that the six of us had been living in this tiny 400-sq foot hotel room she’d always been here and underfoot! I couldn’t change the TV channel without tripping over her. And now, the day we were checking out to move into our new home she was nowhere to be seen?
“Did you leave the door open?” I drilled my kids for the umpteenth time. They dutifully shook their heads. I sighed. “Well, we have to leave now to meet the moving van…”
“What? We can’t leave Luna! I l-l-l-ove her!” my older son burst into sobs and my other three kids quickly followed suit. The hotel manager looked stricken.
Sighing, I got down on my knees again and tried to wiggle under the fold-out couch to look yet again for two glowing green eyes. Was that…? I reached out and touched something furry but it was definitely not my cat. It was also not moving. I shrieked and realized I was stuck under the couch up to my shoulders. “Somebody pull my legs!” I yelled, trying to wriggle out backwards. Apparently all my kids heard was a muffled “legs” so they jumped on mine, effectively pinning me nose-to-unidentified furball.
Screaming and kicking I finally managed to wrestle my way out. “Why did you do that?!” I yelled, sweaty bangs stinging my eyes.
My children stared at me with saucer eyes. “We were keeping you from getting sucked under the couch by the monster that lives under there,” Son #3 finally piped up. “We saved you.” Son #2 added, “Maybe we should go look in the pool! Luna loves swimming!” (She’s a cat. She hates swimming. I know this for a fact because one time she slipped and fell in the bathtub with Jelly Bean and she turned into a demon hellcat streaking around the house and yowling until she dried her butt by dragging it across every available surface.)
I sighed. Ever since we’d loaded her in her carrier and drove away from Minnesota, our cat had been trying to punish me for upsetting her daily routine of butt-licking and ankle-attacking. Eventually we gave her “kitty valium” (which I found out later is actually just people Valium that you don’t need a prescription for because a vet gives it to you) in an attempt to calm her but since I wasn’t sure if she’d actually eaten it – administering pills to cats is a sorely underrated skill – we didn’t know if her lack of calm was because she hadn’t eaten the pill or because it hadn’t worked. So after a few hundred more miles of meowling we finally gave her another.
I’d been told it would make her conk out for the whole ride. It did not. It made her punch-drunk. Son #1 was concerned about the funny noises she was making so he let her out of her carrier. Drunk or not, once she was out she was not going back in that thing! So now we were halfway through Nebraska with a sloshed kitty lurching around the car randomly sticking her butt in the driver’s face and toppling over the gear shift at inconvenient moments. Of course I didn’t see her puke until we were unloading our luggage at 2 a.m. and I discovered my shirts covered in crusty cat chunks.
But we’d made it to Colorado and hadn’t lost the crazy animal (or any of my crazy kids) and so I’d be darned if we’d gotten her all the way here only to lose her in a 400-sq-ft hotel room! And yet, here I was, an hour past check-out time, the moving company calling me every five minutes to know where to put the Pod containing every thing we owned, two frustrated but kind hotel employees that had strip-searched the room and still no cat.
“Look guys,” I told my kids, “We really have to go. But I know the hotel will tell us when they find her and then we’ll drive back and pick her up, okay?” They sniffled and rubbed their noses as I made a big show out of giving the hotel manager my cell number and describing – again- that she was a black and white tuxedo cat with a marshmallow mustache and penchant for shower-peeping.
As we drove the half hour to our house, Son #2 piped up, “I love Luna because whenever I was scared, I’d tell her my worries and she would tell me everything is going to be okay.” I remembered the past month of chaos and the toll it had taken on my kids but especially on my sensitive second son. Suddenly his daily ritual of lying with his face in the cat’s fur, whispering, made so much more sense. “Is everything still going to be okay Mom?” he asked, his whole world rocked now that his rock was gone.
Son #2 and his “best friend”
I felt my anger at our Houdini cat fade as my other kids chimed in with funny, sweet and silly stories about our cat.
“Remember the time she wouldn’t eat tuna fish but licked my Chia pet totally clean?”
“Remember when she sat on my bed the whole night I was sick?”
“Remember when she farted so bad you put her in time out in the garage?”
“Remember when she fell in the sink and kicked the faucet on with back paw trying to get out and then got her foot tangled in your curling iron cord and broke it and totally soaked herself and the whole bathroom?” (Seriously, she did that.)
By the time we got to the house, we were all in tears. “We can always get another cat. I guess,” my husband offered. Which was really quite generous of him as he wanted a dog from the beginning.
“But I don’t want another cat! I want Luna!!” I cried, imagining her all alone in the dark hotel without us.
Sometimes you really don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone. I’d been so focused on the inconvenience of travelling with a critter who makes Elmo look like a rocket scientist that I’d forgotten all the wonderful, kind, beautiful ways she helps our family.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt indebted to an animal. Growing up, my dog Tanner put the “pee” in Whoopee! A Cocker Spaniel-Golden Retriever mix (no matter how I imagine that happening I just cannot picture the logistics, I mean…how did that conception even happen??), he had the bladder of the latter but with the incontinence issues of the former – especially when he got excited. Much to my mother’s chagrin, every time we’d come home he’d run up to us and start simultaneously wagging his whole lower half and peeing, thereby turning himself into a furry sprinkler. Of urine. It was like he was christening us with his love and marking his territory all at the same time!
Sure it was annoying having to wipe down the walls and floor every time we said hello to the little guy but when was the last time someone was so excited to see you that they literally lost control of their bodily functions? And that time he ate three 20-dollar bills and then barfed up all the pieces along with an entire pack of gum? Just showing my mom how much he liked her new purse. Oh and the time he was so happy to meet my brother’s prom date that he dragged a pair of his used underwear up and dropped them at her feet? It’s okay we didn’t like that girl either.
But it wasn’t until I was in college and he had to be put down that I finally realized how much a part of our family he really was – whether he was letting my sister and I dress him baby clothes or my brother try to make him a one-dog dog sled or even when we rushed him to the emergency vet on the 4th of July because we thought he was choking on a golf ball when it turns out his tongue was just blue from hyperventilating because he was terrified of fireworks. When he died, we cried like we’d lost a loved one. Because of course we had.
See, there’s a magic about animals. They’re innocent and forgiving and will love you unconditionally for no good reason at all other than that they find you utterly loveable. Even without being able to speak our language they can calm with a touch, heal with a lick, love with a look. And we often don’t realize how much they do for us, taking for granted their undying devotion.
One of the best surprises about moving to Colorado is all the animals where we live. The day we moved in, our neighbor’s garage opened and a horse came trotting out to greet the new folks. There are even signs on different sidewalks saying “No horses allowed” which always makes me laugh because who has so many horses that they need signs to tell them which sidewalks they can use? And also, horses can’t read. But in addition to being surrounded by three horse farms, we’ve got cattle grazing across the street, a sheep farm a couple of miles down the road, and alpacas, llamas and donkeys roaming in people’s yards. Plus there’s all the wildlife. Coyotes howl in the night, cougars stand guard over hiking trails, bunnies ransack our meager garden and elk lined the highway the other morning like a military honor guard.
It’s strange to me how much these animals help me, even though none are mine. Every time I drive past the house with the miniature donkeys grazing in their front yard it just makes me grin and grin. Tiny! Donkeys!! The cows somehow make me feel grounded, the sheep, safe. Watching mustangs run in the pasture down the street fills me with an incredible sense of peace. Oh and sure the ubiquitous prairie dogs carry the bubonic plague but their little fat butts are so stinking cute as they waddle across the road!
So when the hotel finally called three days later and told us that Luna had finally deemed to take off her invisibility cloak and rejoin society, the kids and I raced down to pick her up as fast as we could. I wish I had video of that reunion, it was so joyous. And I think Luna learned her lesson too – she’s never run away again, even when the kids leave the front door wide open. It’s almost as if she’s saying that she chooses us over freedom. (Either that or she’s as scared of the coyotes as I am.)
Now every night as I sit with my laptop and work, Luna curls up by my head on the top of the couch, keeping me company into the late hours. After she makes sure I’m going to bed, she makes the rounds of the house, checking on all my kids.
There’s a reason cat and dog memes are the bread and butter of the Internet! Not only are they funny critters, they’re also good for our health, with research studies going back decades showing that pets reduce allergies in kids, lower blood pressure, ameliorate depression and anxiety, improve people’s immune systems, lessen perception of pain and can even help you recover from a heart attack faster.
Animals are amazing gifts and so for Operation Give a Little Day 6 I’m asking you to give a little love to an animal. Throughout my life I’ve had a lot of pets – growing up we had 3 cats, one dog, 3 rabbits, a turtle named Geronimo because he loved to jump (not kidding!), hundreds of fish, two newts, some crabs and tree frogs, a lizard and even a baby bird (until it died, oops) – and while not one of them has ever dragged me out of a burning house or pulled me from a well Lassie-style, they’ve all enriched my life and made it better. They deserve a little holiday love too! If you have a pet, great! If not, you could try feeding some pigeons at the park, throwing bread to ducks, taking a friend’s dog for a walk or even visiting a shelter.
For me, I bought Luna a new toy – one of those long wires with a feather and bell on the end – and she’s been enjoying playing chase with the kids with it. She leaps and pounces and gets her Jungle Kitty on. That’s the other great thing about animals – they’re super happy with any gift you give them! You’ll never see your dog asking for the gift receipt or your cat complaining about the color of her catnip. (Okay, cats are weird. Maybe they do complain. Who knows what they’re thinking?)
But I do know this: They tell me everything is going to be okay.
Do you have a pet or a favorite pet memory/story? What nice thing did you do for an animal? Anyone else’s pet obsessed with watching them shower?