Coyotes, Jessica Simpson and Me

I didn’t really plan on not posting any other posts this week.

It’s just that I couldn’t write for a couple of days.

During a two day span earlier this week, my little family at the PlaneBusiness Worldwide Headquarters was pretty much decimated.

I’ll spare you the gory and painful details.

But on Sunday morning I lost the love of my life.

His name was Max.

And he was the most handsome cat you ever saw. Not only that — but Max had one great friggin’ attitude. He actually bounced when he walked. Some might have called it a swagger. He had muscles, he was strong. He was sleek. I often considered writing a children’s book about Max and how he conquered Manhattan.

I could just see him with a top hat, striding down Fifth Avenue.

Max had style.

It didn’t matter how he sat. Or how he lay on the ground. He always had the perfect look. The perfect pose.

All black, with just a little slight white patch on his tummy, his eyes were gold, and he had one heck of a vertical leap.

But aside from his outstanding physical characteristics, Max and I were hopelessly in love. We had been, ever since his mother had brought him up from under the house I had just moved into back in 2001, dropped him on the front porch, and then looked up at me as if to say, “Okay, here you go. I trust you to take it from here.”

And I did. From the time he, all of him, including his tail, could fit curled in one hand.

Over the years Max brought me an assortment of presents. Some alive. Some already dead. Some in-between and in need of rescue. And every time he did, he would do so with tail straight up in the air, with that little hook at the top. All with that same bounce in his step. Only more so. And a different voice. It was his, “Hey Mom, look what I have for you!” voice.

He especially liked to bring me snakes.

Two weeks ago, it was a rat.

Thankfully the rat was smart enough to play dead long enough so I could grab him in a towel and get him back out the door, while at the same time I had to make sure Max was locked up in the office so he couldn’t go back out and repeat the process. Thankfully, said rat, who apparently understood the process, came to his senses out on the back deck and got the hell out of dodge.

When he wasn’t bringing me presents, he was curled up next to my head. Or licking my ears and purring. When I underwent surgery a few years ago and was bed-bound for weeks, he would curl up next to me every day — and never leave.

Then there were the business trips. Every time I traveled, Max got depressed.

I mean seriously depressed.

His most manipulative (and effective) trick was to simply lay out fully on the bed, with his head hanging down off the side of it. He would be, of course, next to the suitcase. The overall effect was nothing short of devastating.

He wouldn’t even pick his head up to acknowledge my presence.

This would go on for hours while I packed.

That night, he would then sleep on the suitcase.

The next morning, when I left, he would get under the bed and refuse to say goodbye.

Every trip, it was always the same routine.

Unfortunately, last Sunday morning, Max was taken. Violently. And neither of us got to say goodbye.

I can’t write about it except to say that because of where I live, no animal stays outside after dark. I know that there are too many predators in my environs. Coyotes are only one possible threat.

That’s okay. My cats spend every night inside. Actually Mom spends most of her time inside anyway, Ernesto would spend his time either in the house or in the back yard. Max was the only one that would go out, check his territory and then come back for a snack and a nap before repeating the process in the afternoon.

Sunday morning I was up early, as I wanted to get PlaneBusiness Banter finished and posted on Sunday.

The days are getting shorter.

Because I was up about 6:20 or so, it was still not fully light outside. That fact never even registered in my mind.

All cats and dogs were fed.

Meanwhile, I went out and got the Sunday paper, put on the water for coffee, and Max was, by this time, done with his breakfast. I open the door and let him out.

That was the last time I saw him alive.

I know what happened. I know what did it.

All day Sunday I was on edge. I kept going out and calling for Max. I knew something was terribly wrong. Max was a cat with a schedule. He never just “wandered off.”

As the day wore on, it became harder and harder to write. I became more and more upset.

Monday afternoon I found out what had happened. After I had posted PBB.

But it gets worse.

Monday night, the house was, no surprise, in lock-down mode.

All animals were inside by 6.

I was a basket case.

Tuesday morning, I feed my two remaining kitties. Momma Kitty, who has now lost the love of her life, and Ernesto. That morning it was not dark outside. It was about 8:30. The dog had already been out. The kids were waiting for the bus down the street. People were walking their dogs outside.

Ernesto had finished his marinated tuna and was sitting at the door. I went outside and looked around. I looked behind the little storage hut in the back yard. I looked down the private drive that runs behind our house. The one that shoots over to the lake.

I didn’t see anything.

I let Ernesto out.

I put the water on for some coffee. I go outside and get the paper. (Creature of habit, aren’t I?)

I go into the bathroom.

I am not in there but 2 or 3 minutes before I hear the dog start going crazy. She comes banging into the bathroom, whining.

I say something to the effect of, “What is YOUR problem?” She just won’t stop.

I walk out into the kitchen, let her out the door, and she makes a frantic dash to the back corner of the yard.

I then, in a split second before I even looked, knew what I was going to see.

Ernesto was gone.

While Ernesto was not the love of my life, I felt a particular closeness to him. He had the most perfectly beautiful blue eyes. His coat was magnificent as well — a kind of buff color with little ginger color points on his ears. He also had little freckles on his nose. Little brownish color points on an all-pink background.

Ernesto showed up at the back door one night, years ago. He was skinny, dirty, full of fleas, and was licking the bar b-q grill on the patio. He was also very scared of humans.

Over about a six month period Ernesto bit me about 6-7 times. But I kept working with him, because it was clear he was a very good cat. He had just been abused.

Little did I know — those humans lived right across the street.

Yes, I guess you could say that Ernesto just decided that he had gone through enough, and he finally decided to leave home because of it. This prompted a little “child custody” tiff that erupted one afternoon with the drunken boyfriend of the young lady who supposedly “owned” the cat. But the tensions eventually died down and Ernesto was, once and for all, a formal member of the household.

Ernesto’s funniest trait was that he drooled. The happier he was, the more he would drool. And purr. And drool. And purr.

Like I said, I can’t go into the details. I also don’t want to talk about how the coyote’s turf is being intruded upon. I don’t want to talk about how this is just Mother Nature in action either.

I don’t want to talk about how it just feels so empty. How it feels like somebody grabbed a piece of my insides and threw it away.

I don’t want to talk about how Momma Kitty is grieving. She goes to where Max used to sleep and just sits and looks at me. She goes outside to where he liked to lay in the sun. And she just sits. And waits. She threw up her food for three days.

I sure as hell don’t want to talk about how guilty I feel.

If only I hadn’t…if only I hadn’t gotten up so early, if only I hadn’t moved into this house, if only ….

Wednesday I did think about teaching myself how to shoot a shotgun.

I figured I could stay up all night, about 25 feet from a piece of fresh meat, suspended from the tree in the backyard.

And when this animal, which is larger than a large german shepherd, decided to jump into my backyard again — that would be the last time he jumped anywhere.

Nah, I’d probably miss him and shoot out my neighbor’s windows instead. Or my neighbor.

It just hurts.

A lot.

I miss them terribly. They were my family.

The weirdest thing about this week? I never thought I’d ever be accused of having anything in common with the Tony Romo-less Jessica Simpson.

But yesterday, as I stood at the grocery store and read the tabloid headlines about how she had just lost her dog to a coyote, I could certainly relate. Perhaps I need to write her a note.

Having said that, I wish I didn’t know how she felt at all.

And that instead, I could have just glanced at the headlines in passing — as I pulled out my Tom Thumb card, paid for my groceries, come home, and once again been able to ask Max about his day, watched as he and Momma Kitty staged one of their “mock boxing” matches, marveled at how Ernesto’s coat was already bulking up for cooler temperatures, and enjoyed a quiet normal night.

Never again.