Losing Ms. Lizzie
Rescued September 24, 2000 in Kaaawa, Hawaii
Missing since June 2, 2002

Lizzie's disappearance was unusually painful, perhaps because it happened in slow motion and despite our best efforts. It has taken well over a year to get to the point where I'm able to write about her and, finally, say goodbye. Here's her story and some photos of her life with us.

You can see a larger version of the photos by just clicking on any picture.

Sunday the 24th of September back in 2000 started normally but very quickly veered off the planned course. As usual, we were up early and, after a few early chores, put on our walking shoes and headed out to connect with our friends down the street, then jointly launched the daily 3-mile walk down to the beach for the sunrise.

On this morning we got only a half-block down the hill and over three or four houses towards the fire station before we both saw and heard a bunch of kittens running down the street towards us. A few steps and we were scooping these cats off the road. Meda grabbed the first one, then Doreen, Chris and I each picked others up in turn.

So now we're standing there in the middle of a one-lane road at about 6 a.m. with four kittens we hadn't seen before, and we already had many cats in our respective households. The last thing any of us needed was another kitten or four.

A little later I walked back down and tried to find where they had come from, but checks with homes in the area turned up nothing. What in the world to do? What any self respecting cat people would do--divide up the litter. After a bit of swapping, we came home the black and white pair.

At first, they were hard to tell apart, but we noticed one had a bit more white, while the other tended towards the black. Sticking with the B&W theme, their names became Lizzie, named for women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harry, after abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

dscn0041 We had just lost one of our favorite cats to cancer earlier in September, and while these kittens couldn't take Mr. Buster's place, they did distract us from the pain of that loss. These kittens were more than a handful, but fit right in to our feline household.
dscn0438 When we lived in an apartment in Kahala, our two cats were indoor cats. But out here in Kaaawa, in the "country", it was hard to maintain that indoor status, especially once we broke down and started feeding and then adopting neighborhood strays. By the time Lizzie and Harry arrived, we had added a cat door that provided an easy in-out gateway. It wasn't long before they discovered the portal and found the outside world.
After the initial bliss of being outdoors, things started going wrong. We came home several times to find Lizzie stuck up in a tree, and devoted hours to coaxing her down.

We soon discovered that she was being spooked by two dogs belonging to new neighbors a couple of houses away. The dogs had discovered a way out of their yard, and while their owners struggled to find a fix, the two were transiting our yard during periods of play and sending Lizzie fleeing for safety. In retrospect, I don't think that she ever fully recovered from this early trauma.

liz2 Meanwhile, though, Lizzie and Harry were a big part of the family, always ready to play and continually winding up in odd places, whether a box on the floor or a paper bag left unattended.

Somewhere along the way, Ms. Lizzie became a partner in my daily update of ilind.net. She usually staked out a spot in my lap, or occupied that warm spot on the top of the computer, offering her encouragement to my writing efforts.

But at the same time, Lizzie was starting to drift away. She would be gone more and more frequently, and I had to go searching for her and bring her home. Eventually I was searching not only our yard and the adjacent overgrown field, but also several big yards down the hill and across the street.

liz1124 lizzie0325
We tried to intervene by keeping her inside with the cat door blocked, but she would just get frantic and eventually we would reluctantly relent. We didn't let her roam freely while were travelling, but we returned from one quick trip to find that she had broken several glass louvers, knocked out the window screen, and jumped to freedom from the bedroom up above the garage, not a simple escape.
img_8476 And then, one day, she didn't come home and I couldn't find her in any of the "usual" places. Later, searching the neighborhood, we discovered that she had ranged farther than we knew or suspected. Several people said they had seen her at the top of Kaaawa Park Lane, which is down the hill next to our house, across the road, past the row of houses where I thought she had been spending her time, across the stream and up a hill on the other side.
Not knowing what happened to Ms. Lizzie has been the most difficult thing. Saying goodbye feels like disloyalty and an abandonment of hope. And, of course, we hope that someone recognized what a sweet cat she is and has simply adopted her into a new family, although imagination is always willing to conspire with fear to create dark and haunting alternatives. But after living with animals for more than three decades, we've come to understand that you can't have the joy and love without accepting the inevitability of these moments of pain.

We're always hoping that someday Ms. Lizzie's microchip identification will trigger a call from her adopted family. That hope, or dream, has kept us from saying goodbye to Ms. Lizzie, but perhaps now it is time.

Goodbye, Ms. Lizzie. At least for now. Maybe you'll still prove us wrong.

Meanwhile, we've thrown ourselves back into life with Ms. Harriet and the cats other cats in the household as well as the ones still to come. As that famous Mother Jones quote put it, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Don't forget: Click on any photo to see a larger view

other links
Photo Gallery


Created with iView MediaPro | Tuesday, September 16, 2003 | 4:27 PM