Klinger Update: Cats, Eagle and Airplanes.
When I was a child, one of my favourite stories was about a cat who was in love with a little girl. The cat died in the story but because cats have nine lives, the cat came back to life and returned to the girl. This happened several times. I don’t recall more of the plot than that. I just recall how sweet it seemed for a cat to come back to rejoin the person she loved even after death. Klinger came back to me almost that way.
All through the summer of 2012 Klinger lived quite happily for the most part as an indoor cat. Once a week or so he would get out and disappear for a few hours and then return. We tried our best to keep him in but he always defeated us. I would not say he was a dedicated roaming cat. As far as I can tell he never went more than a hundred yards from the trailer. One early October evening he got out. The moon was so full it was almost as bright as daytime. The night air was as warm as summer. We let Fred out for his final pee before bed and Klinger escaped under my husband’s feet. We chose not chase him. We were tired, it was a lovely night and we figured we would just wait for him to come home on his own. He always did. Except this time he didn’t.
I awoke to the instant sensation that something was wrong and I looked around. No Klinger. My husband, looking as worried as I felt, reported that he had been up and walked the dog and had not seen the cat. I dressed and walked the campground calling that cat. The next few days were the same. We hunted everywhere. We checked sheds and barns nearby. We checked every drainage ditch and hiding place a cat might hide. We walked and called and called and walked. No Klinger. We put up signs in town and advertisement with the local cat rescues. My favourite picture of Klinger circulated among the cat rescuers. I left a description with the Winnipeg Humane Society. Nothing. Klinger seemed to have vanished off the face the earth.
Days became weeks and I began to give up. It was as if the ground had opened and swallowed my beloved kitty. I have had cats vanish before. I never felt like this with any of them. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Klinger was out there somewhere. One night about four weeks after he vanished I had the most vivid dream of him. He had been walking in the grass when suddenly he felt a terrible pain in his side as he was struck hard and slammed down, the blow knocked the wind from him and then intense agony, well beyond pain, hurting like nothing he had ever experienced before even as his body lifted into the air. I awoke sitting up in bed. I was now sure my beloved cat had come to some horrible end and he was dead. Even so I still found myself dreaming of him, missing him and often waking at night feeling he was with us. My husband reported the same thing. We began to joke about being haunted.
The time came for us to get ready to go south. No word of Klinger. Six weeks had gone by since he had vanished. We had a snowstorm and it was now below freezing every night. Klinger hated cold. If he were anywhere within earshot I was certain he would have come back. One last round of the area calling and calling and we gave up. We packed up our trailer and left. I hoped Klinger had found some safe place to be warm if he was not dead. I fretted about how he was overdue for his monthly flea and parasite medication. I also began thinking of getting another cat.
I carefully packed all of Klinger’s things into a nice box and closed it up and then found I couldn’t just discard it. I stuffed it into a rear part of the truck. We headed south. Every evening I would go hunting on line at local rescues and Humane Societies for a cat needing a home. I would look at pictures and think how I had get over Klinger because the world was full of cats needing homes and I didn’t have to be catless. I even wrote to various rescues describing our traveling lifestyle and looking for the next cat.
Two weeks into our travels and eight weeks after Klinger vanished we got to Georgia and set up to spend two full weeks at a campground at the edge of Milledgeville. Every time I went walking I thought about Klinger. We had been there before and Klinger had gotten himself stuck in a roll of chicken wire that was preventing erosion in a small creek bank. I had somehow known he was in trouble and I went looking for him. I called and called and he called back and he had been so relieved to see me. It had taken me a lot of maneuvering to get him out of that chicken wire roll. I had carried him home while he purred at me. There was no getting over it. I missed my cat.
I was working at my computer when my phone rang. I heard a strange woman’s voice.
“Is this Klinger’s Mom?”
“You are the one who put an ad in the Winnipeg Cat rescue about a missing cat?”
“We found him.”
My heart flipped over in my chest. “Is he okay?”
“Yes, for now. A woman in Ile Des Chennes has him. We need to make sure it’s him but by the picture I’m pretty sure. She also advertised in Winnipeg Lost Cat and posted his picture.”
I immediately opened my browser and pulled up the page. There was no mistaking him. It was my Klinger from his white front toes up to his funny nose spots. He was sitting outside in the snow at a patio door looking cold and lonesome. The telephone came on a Wednesday afternoon. I took down all the pertinent information and hung up, trembling with a combination of fear and joy. I called Air Canada and determined it would be $198 to fly him between Canada and Atlanta. It was a very reasonable fee to get my Klinger back.
I spent the next few days on pins and needles. Klinger had been befriended a little girl there but, being his usual self, he was fighting with the poor cat who already lived there. The kind lady who took Klinger in had decided she couldn’t keep him. Klinger acted wild and shy with everyone but this little girl who had only slowly gained his confidence and lured him inside over several days. I called my son Alan, and Alan went to pick up Klinger. When Klinger saw Alan it was obvious he knew Alan right away. He ran to Alan purring his furry head off, practically leaping into his arms, as joyous as a cat can get. Alan left the nice people with thank yous and gift certificate to Tim Horton’s. Klinger couldn’t stay at Alan’s house due to his wife being someone Klinger had special distaste for. He had ruined some of her special things in his spiteful mode with her. Klinger was dropped off at my other son’s home with my other daughter-in-law who had a house full of cats and knew how to handle my spoiled monster.
I continued making telephone calls and I determined there was one airline that flew to Atlanta from Winnipeg. When I called Air Canada to book the flight. I got a bad shock. No airplane that could carry Klinger would go to Atlanta. There had to be a special heated cargo hold and transport to move Klinger from terminal to airport in Winnipeg and a special air conditioned unit to move from airplane to terminal in Atlanta and Air Canada didn’t have that at either location at that time of year. They could fly Klinger to either New York City or Orlando, Florida but not Atlanta. In addition, Klinger had to have a stopover in Toronto. He could fly from Winnipeg to Toronto one day but there would be no connecting flights until the next morning. The flight was indeed only $198 but there would be an overnight kennel fee of $210. I gulped, thought about how much I missed Klinger and said I would call right back. I checked the distance to Orlando, talked it over with my husband. Orlando was a long drive, not our usual one day comfortable trip but it was doable. We decided to drive to Orlando the day Klinger left Winnipeg and that way we would have one extra day as a safety margin in case of a break down.
The next step was somehow getting Klinger’s paperwork back to Winnipeg. According to Air Canada it had to be the original paperwork showing he was healthy and had his shots. We debated back and forth about sending him to the vet again for a check up and more shots. My kids consulted together and decided he was healthy enough. He was hungry, and kind of battered looking but he not obviously injured. We emailed a scan of the paperwork I had with me and then my son printed it. He called to say it came out looking exactly right down to the blue ink colour where the vet’s signature was. We had legitimate paperwork. I called Air Canada back and booked Klinger’s fight. Thank goodness for credit cards. The $400 plus with taxes made me wince. I also had to pay my son back for the cost of the fancy carrier Air Canada required. I then called my son back and it was all arranged. In three days I would have my cat back.
It was a very long three days. I told our tale of woe and imminent reunion to the campground owner and he graciously agreed to give us a credit on the 6 days we had paid for since we would be back in the spring. He wished us luck. We said an early good bye to our hostess in Milledgeville. She was very kind and positive about it. The campground owner and our hostess both lived with cats so they understood.
We arrived Sunday at Orlando after a lovely drive. The cotton harvest was in full swing and we took some back roads in the Georgia portion and saw countryside we had not seen before. More than once the ground appeared white with snow to our northern eye. A closer look showed the snow was cotton. Somewhere before we crossed into Florida I spotted Spanish moss. The moss looked like an old friend. We continued driving and eventually we found our campground in Orlando. We arrived well after 8:00pm in the dark, tired and fed up. That evening we decided that since we had a day to kill waiting for Klinger we would take in one of the amusement parks. We decided on Epcot centre since neither of us had been to it before. Dick also called a long lost cousin he had not seen in decades and introduced himself by telephone. They invited us to come for brunch Tuesday. Since Klinger’s flight was not set to land until 1:30pm, we agreed.
We were just exiting the Epcot ride featuring Nemo and friends when my cell phone rang. It was Alan with Klinger at the airport. He was frantic. They had to have the zip code of our address there or Klinger couldn’t fly. The clock was ticking. He had called and called and left multiple email messages. Zip code now or no cat and $400 shot for nothing.
I was stumped. I didn’t know the zip code. I told Alan the name of the campground. Alan googled it on his cell and he got the zip code. A few minutes later he called me back. Klinger was on his way to be stowed into the airplane and fly to Toronto. Klinger hadn’t been too happy in his carrier as it was rolled away from Alan, but he was on his way. I was so excited I jumped up and down squealing like a little kid.
The rest of Epcot visit was a wonder and a joy. Everything I saw, everything I did, in the background I could only think of my cat being back with me. My wonderful cat was coming home. I worried a bit about what he must be thinking, stuck in a carrier inside a giant metal bird with roaring noises, strange smells, bumps and the pressure changes making his ears pop. Dick made an exasperated noise when I shared my concern.
“Well if we’re lucky he’ll be so traumatized he won’t ever want to leave the trailer again.”
We finished a very full day at Epcot with sore feet. I had a terrible time falling asleep. All I could think of was Klinger. Before I went to bed I checked the Air Canada website and according to the computer he had arrived safely in Toronto. His flight was all booked for the next day. I finally fell asleep about 2:00am. I woke up early and ran to check the computer. Nothing had changed.
We went off to brunch and it was great fun meeting Dick’s cousin. They looked related and they were wonderfully charming. They were also animal lovers so they shared our joy at the upcoming reunion. They didn’t hold it against us that is was a cat that finally got us to visit. We had a nice brunch and then checked the computer and saw Klinger was in the air and about to land and it was time to go meet him. Their adult son went with us to make sure we found the correct air freight depot. As we drove to the airport we saw an Air Canada jet landing precisely on time above us.
I cried out “There’s Klinger’s plane.” I looked at my husband and he was as excited as I was.
“You missed him too,” I said.
“Yes, that stupid cat,” he replied. “I have been missing him.”
We arrived at the freight pickup, our paperwork in hand. We had what seemed like the longest wait for the airplane to be unloaded and our cat delivered to us. There was one small hitch. Once Klinger arrived we could say hello to him and check him over but we couldn’t let him out of the carrier or take him. We had to take his attached paperwork to another building a few blocks away for his customs clearance. Only after we got the customs clearance stamp and paperwork, could we then return and get our precious kitty. There was also another fee, a “landing fee” we had to pay. I sighed when I heard. This was an expensive adventure.
At last a man arrived with a blue carrier. From inside I could hear a familiar meow. It was Klinger giving us his “Help me! Let me out! Where am I?” cry.
“Klinger, puss puss, it’s me, kitty.”
He went silent. I could see him in the carrier turning about and then looking at me. He then gave the most pathetic hello mewl I have ever heard from him. I couldn’t bring myself to go to his cage and then walk away so I just talked to him over the counter while one of the workers got his paperwork in order. It was really hard to drive off to the customs place to get that stamp.
We hit another snag. The custom’s officer wanted to see my passport. It didn’t occur to me that I needed my passport and I had left it at the campground. I had brought his original veterinarian paperwork along just in case someone spotted our reprint job. I hadn’t thought about the passport. Fortunately, my husband had his passport and the customs officer had a pet cat himself, and after a few minutes, our cat was legally released to both of us. We had the precious stamp on the papers. We drove back to the cargo place, said goodbye to the very nice second cousin who had escorted us and we loaded the carrier. Klinger cried to get out but he was staying in that carrier until we were safely in our trailer home.
When I brought the carrier into the trailer I was surprised to see both dogs react with joy to find Klinger inside. They were wagging and jumping about as if he was a dear buddy returned. Could they have actually missed their cat too? It seemed unlikely, but Fred certainly stuck his head right into the cage as soon as I opened it. And of course, Fred immediately got rewarded by hissing and spitting and striking claws. Fred quickly pulled his injured nose back out and gave me a look of pure mournful hurt. Did I really have to bring that demon cat back?
Klinger left the kennel and went straight to his litter box. The towel in the travel kennel was wet from urine in the rear and a pile of kitty poop was carefully wrapped in back corner. Poor kitty had been through an awful flight without toilet facilities. As soon as he had used the clean litter box, he made a bee line for his shelf with the food dish. There was no doubting he knew exactly where he was. He jumped up and began nibbling on his food, his eyes wary and wide.
I went to the bed and lay down and waited. He took only a few bites of food and then he stopped and jumped down to greet me. Oh the greetings we exchanged. He walked around around and, he purred, he mewed, he cuddled up and rubbed my face and then walked around me again. I am home, I missed you so much. I cried and cried for you but you didn’t come. I am so happy to see you. This prolonged greeting lasted for over thirty minutes and we both cried. Finally, he settled down and gave himself a very thorough grooming. I just stayed and watched him for a while.
Eventually I got up and went to sit at my computer. Klinger reacted with anxiety and followed me. He would not settle until I moved the stool to a place nearby where he could reach out with a paw and lightly touch me every so often. He sat there dozing, his face messed up with a sore on his nose and a whole lot skinnier than he should be. It was while checking his ribs that I found the scars.
He had one dime sized circular scar on one side of rib cage just below the shoulders. On the other side there were three of the same circular scars. It all made sense then. Two days before that full moon night, two adult golden eagles had arrived on their migration south. They were taking advantage of the windbreak around the campground, sitting in the tallest trees, watching as the harvest had finished up or circling in the sky above the campground. The harvest activity of the farmers meant a lot of rabbits being displaced and the eagles had been feasting on them. From the air, Klinger had probably looked like one more lapidus treat and one of the eagles had swopped down and carrier him off. Somehow Klinger escaped without being killed but he had been injured. He would have done what injured cats do. He crawled into a nook somewhere and stayed there until his wounds healed. He would have had no way of knowing where he was because the eagle liked dropped him somewhere far away from us. If he had been recuperating somewhere when we were hunting for him and calling for him, he couldn’t respond. Possibly the eagle carried him off to somewhere we couldn’t find him.
Eventually Klinger got better and came out from his hiding place. He may have returned to the campground to find us gone. He may have not known where the campground was. He was attracted to the town of Ile Des Chennes where, being a retiring unfriendly cat, he hung around at the edges of the human zone. Eventually it got cold enough so that his natural inclination to be warm overcame his natural inclination to be antisocial. That was when he befriended the little girl who saved him.
The story has one final part to end it. Klinger is much more a trailer cat now than he ever was. His first out of the trailer dash turned into a disaster. He ran off, climbed a tree and then froze up, so terrified of the big world I had to get a ladder and fetch him out of the tree. Even now, the odd time he does run out, maybe once in a month, but he just runs out and then runs back in again immediately acting terrified. A world full of eagles is far too scary to stay out in. As a compromise, I bought him a collapsable tunnel that can be set outside so he can be outside and watch the birds and yet be safe. I equipped him with an electronic locator on a breakaway collar, just in case. Klinger also lost that fussy attitude he used to have about his food. He is now quite willing to eat anything we offer. Nothing like starvation to make you appreciate good food.
I also found that I just couldn’t bear to go back changing that litter box after eight weeks without the chore. So I toilet trained him. That was easy to do. I put the litter box next to the toilet. I gradually raised the box to the height of the toilet. I moved the litter box onto the toilet and so forth. The full directions are on line. Klinger adapted quickly and was using the toilet in about four weeks. Once he got used to it, he acted like he really preferred not having the litter box as much as I did. We left the litter box and the spare travel cage with a friend with cats. The very last act in the story of Klinger’s great adventure is my husband’s. He installed a cat door for Klinger to use so he always had his own access to the toilet even if we were traveling. Klinger was most appreciative.