Missing cat

There are aspects of parenting I hate. It looks like one is going to hit me square in the face tomorrow.

Kalista’s kitten, Mittens, is missing. Our back yard is fenced in and the 3-month-old gray and white tiger has no history of getting out. Consequently, I wasn’t too concerned when it didn’t respond to my calls to come inside with the other cat and our dog at the commencement of a thunderstorm Friday night.

Now all I can see is its tail straight up in the air as it ran away from the house. The rain hadn’t begun to fall; the kitten wanted to stay outside. I did not give chase.

God, I wish I had.

Tonight I checked the borders of the yard with a flash light, fearing I’d find it dead and caught in the fence where it’d tried to get out at some point. That news would have been horrible enough to deliver my 5-year-old daughter, but this – the answer to the question I’m sure to get by tomorrow – could actually be worse.

“Where is Mittens, Daddy?”

I don’t know. Maybe someone picked it up. Perhaps it got outside the fence and was hit by a car. Maybe it’s at the animal shelter waiting for us to come by. I just don’t know.

What should I say? I don’t want to say the kitten’s gone for good only to find it later, but false hope has a tendency to extend torment. I’ve got this vision in my head of Kalista opening the back gate each day for the next six months hoping to have the kitten greet her as it has before – and my beautiful little girl who deserves no pain in this life being crushed every time as she realizes that day is not the day Mittens comes home.

Yes, I think I would rather know the kitten is gone for good. At least the coping process could begin.

Naturally, and particularly because I’m at a complete loss as to what to tell Kalista, I consulted the Internet for advice. The first site Google brought up was this one, which addressed the following topics in California-like fashion: 1.) Am I crazy to hurt so much?, 2.) What can I expect to feel?, 3.) What can I do about my feelings?, 4.) Who can I talk to?, 5.) What do I do next?, 6.) Will my other pets grieve?, and 7.) Should I get a new pet right away? The site’s front page included “A Poem for the Grieving.”

Not only did this site seem inadequate and a little ridiculous, but it downright discouraged me. One topic dealt with what to tell children whose pets have died. “Never say the pet ‘went away,’ or your child may wonder what he or she did to make it leave, and wait in anguish for its return,” the site cautioned.

Great. So what do you say when the pet really did just go away?

It kind of contradicts this parenting site, which says lying to a child will destroy trust between him or her and the parent once the truth comes out.

So I found this: petamberalert.com. You have absolutely got to stick around and read about petamberalert.com.

Step 1, according to the site: You make a poster that gets faxed to animal shelters, hospitals, vets and pet stores in your area.

Step 2, and I quote: “A Missing Pet Voice Broadcast is sent by PHONE to the whole neighborhood. Local neighbors and residents in the area the pet was last seen receive a personalized recorded message about your pet within minutes. When someone finds a lost pet, they typically take it home first where they decide what to do next. With our Emergency Phone Alert System, they will receive a voice broadcast with your contact information on their home phone. Your neighbor will then call you to arrange for your pet’s safe return.

Step 3: “The alert has been issued and within minutes your whole community will be out there searching for your missing pet!!”

It can even alert “the entire state,” according to the site. Man, those people in Charleston aren’t going to know what hit ‘em once petamberalert.com saves the day.

I am almost ashamed to say I considered this service, even after deciding it is absurd. I stopped considering the service once I saw the cost: $90 to $290, depending on the number of people you want to annoy the crap out of.

Regardless, I’m glad Kalista’s missing kitten led me to a corner of the Internet I would have otherwise assumed – probably hoped – didn’t exist. It was good for a chuckle during an otherwise tense time.

Still, Sunday morning’s going to come. We’re going to get up, eat breakfast on the front porch, go to church and visit Grandma and Poppa. We’ll probably end up at the lake. Maybe Chris, Ginger and Connor will come. All in all, it will be a wonderful Sunday … but I’m sure it’s also going to be the day she knows something is missing.

“Where is Mittens, Daddy?”

I pray I’ll have an answer.

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