Thursday, December 01, 2005
"Momma, is it Boots?"Hurricane Katrina has moved from the front pages. Except for the occasional follow up, the nation is going about its business, the horrific scenes of New Orleans, broadcast over the television and internet, fading from our minds, competing with jumbled messages about "Black Fridays," "Cyber Mondays," the over-commercialism of Christmas, and the Iraqi war.
Except for the victims still putting their lives together, many with amazing grace and resiliency.
We received a message this morning from HSUS; it was a tangled message about somebody or other, calling on behalf of someone else, who thinks that "Cranks," the testy black and white tuxedo cat might be theirs, and can we please call the possible owner and let her know?
If you have been following along, you know that shelters who took in Katrina pets, all over the Bay Area and the country, are fielding calls like this daily. Frankly, many of these vague leads are dead ends, and heartbreaking to follow. But we have to try, because like with Sophia/Selma, you just never know.
But this was a super-duper long shot: Cranks is our resident Cranky McCrankypants. We think she may have been a former feral who was scooped up inadvertently in the pet rescue frenzy. She is just not nice. Even though she was found spayed, she won't let anyone touch her. She hisses at you if you dare enter her line of sight. She can't be placed in a foster home (but we, and a brave soul trying their hand at fostering, did make an attempt). The idea that she may have belonged to a real home at some point was laughable.
But a guy named Joe, called a woman named Sheryl, who called us, thinking our "Cranks" might be the cat belonging to a woman named Daphne. Daphne had been evacuated to Salinas, Kansas with her eight-year old boy, who is missing his kitty "Boots," terribly. This is the kitty that his Mommy got the year he was born and who, until that even crankier hurricane, spent every night of his life that he can remember in bed with him.
Joe or Sheryl or someone hoped that based on just the scantest of information, maybe it was a match.
I finally reached Daphne tonight by phone.
I warned her right up front it was probably not a match, that this cat was likely not a pet, and had not been found in a house, but had been found at the Intersection of I-10 and I-610. She gasped. That intersection is two blocks from her home.
We had time to kill while she booted up the nearby computer to go online and view the photos we'd posted of Cranks. Listening to the most gracious Southern accent, I found myself chatting with this remarkable young mother about her experiences.
She was up to her neck in floodwaters. She was rescued from the roof of her home when a boat came by to take her, her son, and their cat, to safety. Boots would simply not go along with this plan. This sweet, loving, pet clawed and badly scratched at Daphne, refusing to be carried into the boat, refusing to be held. Darn cat. Faced with risking her son's life or leaving Boots behind, she left Boots on the roof of her house. Boots often played there in the sun anyhow.
She told me that she has spent nearly every day in Kansas looking at online pictures after pictures of slightly-different-but-all-eerily-similar black and white cats, hoping to catch a glimpse of Boots. I asked if she had a current picture of Boots -- most survivors have no pictures -- and she said she didn't but she didn't need one; she would know her Boots when she saw her.
While her dialup was connecting, I asked her what her plans were. They were returning to the South, to Mississippi, on Sunday where she will live with family and find a new job. She spoke so plainly, and confidently but without bravado or drama or seeking pity. Simply another chapter in a life that was unfolding exactly the way it was intended, whether it seemed to make sense or not. To say she is a "True Survivor" is such a cliched description, but it fits so well. It doesn't seem so cliched anymore to me.
Her serenity and composure impressed me.
"Oh, that's not my Boots. That's not her," she said when the page finally opened, "but we had to try."
I was surprised at how sad that made me. I wished her the best and we chatted for just a few seconds more, and then I hear in the background a little boy's eager voice, "Momma, is it Boots? Is it?"
And in that composed Southern lilt, with compassion and strength she replies, "No, Baby, it's not her."
We said our goodbyes and couldn't help my eyes filling with tears at the sound of the little boy missing his kitty. Keep searching, Baby.