Sometime after this, when everything was back to normal, Mema began to have problems and thought she had a terrible kind of cold. She would cough very hard all night and day. Doctors just gave her cough syrup, but it didn’t help. They told her it seemed more like an allergy than a cold. She didn’t believe that. Eventually, Pepaw convinced her to see an allergist. She did and found out that she was now allergic to many things: grass pollen, certain trees, dust and yes, cats. If she picked up the cats or had their fur touch her face or arms, those areas would get all red and itchy. Mema was devastated. She loved her cats, but this was a serious problem. To make things better, they bought a large crate and kept the cats in the garage all the time and put them in the cage when they had to open the garage door to go somewhere. This way, they were safe, but not in the house. Mema had to stop holding them and was very disappointed and frustrated.
This worked for a while, but when Mema and Pepaw decided to move to another house with a double garage, they realized this was not going to work well. Also, it was not going to be a good idea to get cat dander in the new carpet. Sadly, they resigned themselves to the fact that they would have to find another home for their beloved pets.
They talked to a lot of people and advertised at the local vets and one day they got a call from a lady that wanted to get a pet for her kids. The lady came to see the cats and agreed to take them. So one day, Mema took the cats to this lady’s home. Mema was appalled. There were four wild kids and one was a girl only two years old. Mema was concerned that they would not be careful enough to be sure the cats didn’t get outside. The front door was right in the middle of the house and the area was somewhat rural. Still, she left them and cried all the way home.
About a week later, this lady called Mema.
“I can’t get these cats to eat and one of them pooped on my son’s bed. My husband is furious. Right now they are under my bed and won’t come out!” she told Mema.
“I’ll be right there,” Mema answered, gathered up the cat crates and some tuna fish, hoping she could coax them out from under the bed.
It took a while, but the tuna did the trick. As soon as Sawdust got close enough to try to get the tuna, Mema grabbed her and put her in the crate. Sneakers was not quite as eager to come out, but he was finally lured out by the tuna fish, his favorite. Mema snatched him up too, but had to put him in the crate backwards as he was flailing around trying hard not to go in the crate. Mema wasn’t going to leave them in this horrible place anyway. She took them home and continued to ask around for a more suitable home for her precious babies.
Fortunately, Mema talked to a girl working at Wal-Mart with her who was interested in getting a kitten. She convinced her she would love these cats and they were already house trained. The girl, whose name was Kendall, agreed and came and took them to her home. However, unlike the other place, they liked their new home with Kendall and her fiancé. She told Mema later that Sawdust especially liked her boyfriend and loved to sit with him and sleep with him. So Mema felt that this was a good home for the cats even though she missed them very much. Cats don’t usually like change, but Sawdust and Sneakers adjusted well to their new owners and lived happily ever after.
One year, in October when it was close to Halloween, disaster happened! Mema and Pepaw had just gotten back from a long weekend at the beach with Pepaw’s brother Fred and his wife, Jeanette. Pepaw opened the side door to the garage and they entered. Mema put her luggage down, picked up Sawdust and took her inside the house. Sneakers ran under the car parked in the garage. Pepaw let the garage door up so he could get their bags into the house easier, but didn’t bother to put it down again when all their stuff was inside. Mema told him that Sneakers could get out, but he didn’t think he would. Ha! Mema knew he had done it before. The next thing Mema knew, Pepaw had a flashlight looking for Sneakers under the car, but the cat wasn’t there or anywhere in the garage. Mema said he wasn’t in the house either. So everyone went outside to look for him. Apparently, Sneak had made his way to the back yard, but just when Pepaw was about to get to him, Bruno, our neighbor’s large collie, decided to trot over to see what was happening. This obviously did not set well with Sneakers and they saw him bolt and head into the woods next door which covered about ¾ acre.
While Pepaw was in the woods searching, Fred was hanging around also with a light. Mema got the food bowl to rattle to attract Sneakers with food and headed down the road towards Weavil Road. She spotted Sneak outside of the woods meowing rather pitifully, but just as Mema headed towards him, he took off down the road back towards the house. Okay, this was a good thing. He didn’t want Mema near him at first, but then he stopped and Mema was able to pick him up and drape him over her arm, still holding the food bowl in the other hand. Big mistake. Mema yelled triumphantly, “I have him!” She was approaching the house when Sneak got very heavy and Mema was losing her grip on him.
“Pepaw! Please help me before I drop him,” Mema pleaded. “Take the food bowl so I can get a better grip on Sneakers.”
Pepaw reached out to take the cat instead. Maybe Sneakers didn’t recognize Pepaw since it was very dark out by this time, but he started squirming very hard and the next thing Mema knew, he had scratched up her face with his back claws while trying to escape her grasp, bit Pepaw hard in the thumb and they both let go long enough for him to hightail it back into the woods. This was terrible! There’s nothing more difficult than trying to find a black cat that doesn’t want to be found in the woods in the dark!
The search was on again. Pepaw was back in the woods and Mema was trying to stay by the road in case he came out of the woods to keep him out of the street. There wasn’t much traffic, but there was some at this time so it was dangerous. After a while, almost at Weavil Road, Pepaw said he had found him. The only way he could see him was when the light shined on his eyes and they glowed! However, Sneak had found a very cozy hiding place in a spot thick with brush and we couldn’t get very close. Mema kept talking to him nicely, but when Mema tried to reach out and pet him, he hissed at her very menacingly! This was usually a very laid back kitty and they have never seen him hiss before in his whole life, but he was obviously very scared and didn’t want anyone near him at this point. So after a few hisses, Mema knew getting him was not going to be easy this time. Pepaw said he wanted to go back for some thick gloves which seemed like a real good idea, so Mema just kept her light on Sneak and talked to him trying to get him to calm down. Well, as soon as he heard Pepaw rustling the underbrush, he bolted! Mema never even saw him move, he was just gone again! It was back to the search.
Pepaw finally found him not too far away huddled next to a tree. He was behind Sneak, Fred was in front of him outside of the woods trying to distract him, and Mema was on one side. Pepaw was able to get closer and closer and finally got his hands on him. Mema quickly laid a towel down she had brought and they put the errant cat on it and wrapped him up inside it. Mema told Pepaw to just get him to the house while Mema picked up the flashlights, food bowl and sheet that he had left behind. Mema and Pepaw finally let him loose in the garage where Pepaw cleaned the brush off him and saw he was all right. As soon as Sneakers went into the house, he was just as sweet and loving as usual and they gave him lots of rubbing and attention. Mema felt that she was more traumatized than Sneakers was!
Mema put hydrogen peroxide on their wounds and hoped they didn’t have any ill effects. The cats were indoor cats and had all their shots, but there was still the chance of infection.
Mema told Pepaw never to leave the garage door open while Sneak was out there because he WOULD “sneak” out, true to his name. And he could be very fast when he wanted to be. This was just the first time Sneakers was lost in the woods.
Most kittens have their Mommy Cat to teach them the things they need to know in life just like children’s mommies teach them. However, Sawdust and Sneakers didn’t have a Mommy Cat for this. Mema noticed that Sawdust, after using the litter box, would take her front legs and attempt to cover up her poop. This is a normal action for cats. Sneakers, however, did not do this. Whether it was because he wasn’t taught how or because, being a guy, he just didn’t care about cleanliness much, would do his business and just walk away. Mema once tried to show him how to cover up the poop, but to no avail. This was one of the first signs that Sneakers just wasn’t as bright as Sawdust. He proved over and over again that he had missed out on the brains department. He just was not too smart. They often said he was a dumb as a brick. He was beautiful, but dumb.
For instance, the house had sliding door closets. Sawdust was observant and saw just how these doors would move. Mema would come home and notice the closet door in the bedroom was open about 6 inches.
“Now, how did that happen? I’m pretty sure I closed it this morning,” she would remark. Oftentimes, she would then open that door and there, looking comfortable and smug, was Sawdust, hiding inside on the floor. One day, Mema watched and spied Sawdust pawing at the door in just the right way to make it slide. Once the door was open just a little, she was able to sneak inside. Speaking of Sneak, often Mema would close the closet door and leave the house. Upon arriving home, she would not see Sneakers anywhere. Once again, the search for him would begin. Eventually, she would open the closet and Sneakers would race out! He had gotten locked in without Mema knowing he was even in there. Sometimes he spent the whole day stuck in the closet with no way out. Not the brightest bulb in the box, as the expression goes.
The two cats were shy around strangers so when someone came over, the two of them would scatter and hide. Sneakers would sometimes come out and greet the guest, but Sawdust would not. Mema and Pepaw would search everywhere, even under chairs, in closets and under beds. No Sawdust. They never did figure out where she would hide, but whenever the guest left the house, there she would come, trotting out all fat and happy that it was just the family once again.
Almost six weeks from the day Sneakers got out, we got a call from Bud again. It was a Sunday morning and they had seen a black and white cat around their house as they were leaving for church. Mema and Pepaw gathered up some supplies: a bowl of food and a towel and a net to catch him with. The good news was that they did find Sneakers lying near the neighbor’s house. However, he was so weak from malnutrition that he could not walk! But he was still alive. They wrapped him up in the towel and scooted back to the house.
“He is so light!” Pepaw exclaimed. Sneakers had become a large cat weighing about twelve pounds. “It’s like picking up air,” he added with concern. Sneak had not fared well out in the open.
They took him to the garage and unwrapped the towel. Poor Sneak! He tried to walk, but was so weak he just flopped down unable to move. It broke their hearts to see him so obviously sick.
Mema immediately called the vet, but because it was a Sunday, they were not open. Their voice message gave the phone number for an Emergency Vet in Winston-Salem. They had no choice but to take him there. After this long a time, it was possible he wouldn’t last until the next day. They bundled Sneakers up and drove to the vet. Sneakers was meowing mournfully the whole time. He was obviously in distress.
The vet took Sneakers back for an exam while Mema and Pepaw waited anxiously.
“He is very sick, but to really determine what’s wrong, we’ll need to take some tests. It’ll cost about $400.00,” the vet informed them. They gave permission and waited.
The news about Sneakers was bad, but the vet felt that with care and medicine, he could make a recovery. The worst thing was that he was so malnourished and dehydrated. They weighed him and the poor kitty was only seven and ½ lbs. He had lost almost half his weight during his ordeal.
“We would like to keep Sneakers overnight because he needs to have an IV to try to keep him alive. You can pick him up tomorrow,” the vet told them.
Mema and Pepaw were relieved and yet saddened. They could only hope that Sneakers would pull through.
The next day, Monday, they picked up Sneakers, but had arranged for their own vet to take over his care so they took him there. It was extremely hard for them to leave him again, but he needed a lot of special care from professionals.
“You can come by and visit Sneakers, but we will need to keep him a few days to be sure he is stable and on the road back to health,” the nurses at the vet told them. It felt so strange to visit with their pet for a short time every day, but with each passing day, they could see progress in his condition. He began to eat a little and poop like he should.
Thursday was Thanksgiving Day and they were going to be able to take Sneakers home the Friday just after.
“He’s going to need to be contained in a safe place for a while as his condition is still delicate,” Mema said to Pepaw. They went to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day, thankful that the store was open and purchased a baby play pen that would be perfect to keep Sneakers safe and contained.
On Friday, Mema and Pepaw paid the vet $200 for caring for Sneakers for four days. They dubbed him their “Six Hundred Dollar Cat” and laughed about that. Sneakers came home and was placed in the play pen. They had medicines that they had to give him which was quite a chore. They had to get a syringe full of the liquid and squirt it in his mouth. Try to imagine this. Sneakers didn’t like it and would squirm and turn his head to avoid it. It took the both of them to administer the medicine. When Pepaw had to go on a trip, Mema did the best she could alone, trying to hold him down and squirt the medicine in his reluctant mouth. Often there was more of the liquid on the floor than in Sneakers!
Sawdust had a strange reaction to her brother being back. She wasn’t too happy about it. She approached the play pen cautiously and when she sniffed Sneakers, she gave out a hiss. Then she walked away. Mema thought that maybe she smelled all the strange odors he must have picked up from his time in the woods. Either that or she preferred to be the only cat in the house. It took her a few weeks to finally stop hissing at Sneakers. She eventually adjusted to his return.
Sneakers didn’t much like the food they were told to give him and would barely eat it, so Mema tried tuna fish from a can. He gobbled that up so that is what he got. Before he was lost, he would eat a little at a time all day, but when he got better, he ate everything he could at one time. Being without food for so long had a big impact on him. Day by day, Sneakers gained his weight back until he was his former size. Because Sneakers would eat everything in sight, they had to only put out enough food for each meal. As a result, Sawdust, who had been a little overweight, lost some of her extra pounds which was a good thing.
It was so sad to see Sneakers try to jump up on the furniture like he used to, but he was too weak for a long time and would fall back to the floor. He probably couldn’t understand why and had to be frustrated. Mema picked him up and he would stay on her lap for hours and hours at a time. He needed help getting down too. However, it was gratifying to Mema and Pepaw when the day finally came that Sneakers had recovered enough to once again be able to jump up on things by himself.
So in the end, it all worked out although Mema and Pepaw had to be extra vigilant to be sure that Sneakers would not get out ever again. They were amazed and thankful that he had been able to survive his long ordeal in the big outdoors. It was, indeed, a miracle.
One Tuesday, when the cats were grown, Mema had to go out. Sawdust was in the house and Mema thought that Sneakers was also. However, at some time, he must have slipped into the garage unbeknownst to Mema. She, naturally, raised the garage door and drove away. She came home sometime later. She felt a certain strangeness in the house and immediately went searching for the cats.
“Hi, Sawdust. Where’s your brother? Where is he hiding?” Mema asked. She proceeded to look in the usual places Sneakers would be, but to no avail. She began to panic and just had a bad feeling. She could sense that he was not there. After a complete search, she knew he was gone. Pepaw was away on a trip, but she called him, trembling and afraid to tell him the bad news.
“Sneakers isn’t in the house anywhere. He must have gotten out! What do I do?” Mema wailed distraughtly.
“Try putting out some food and water in a bowl and leave it outside. When he gets hungry, he’ll come eat,” Pepaw suggested.
Mema tried this, day after day, but the food remained in the bowl. Pepaw arrived home that Friday from his trip. As he pulled up to the house, Mema went outside to greet him.
“Look! There he is!” Pepaw said. Sure enough, Sneakers was sitting next to their little outbuilding in the backyard.
“Hey, Sneak. Come here, buddy,” Pepaw coaxed him, but Sneakers turned and ran into the woods. They were so shocked! They immediately went searching the woods for him, but were unable to find him once again. Eventually, it got dark and they reluctantly had to give up for the night.
“At least we know he’s still alive,” Pepaw said. They had worried that Sneakers could have gotten run over by a car.
Mema made flyers about Sneakers and posted them all up and down the road. They told all their neighbors to be on the lookout for him. Mema took her flyers to all of the local vets in case someone found him and took him there. They checked with all of the local animal shelters also. They even put his photo and information on lassiecomehome.com which is a website for lost and found pets. They did everything they could think to do.
When none of these measures had results, they borrowed animal traps from Animal Control to try to trap Sneakers. They put food inside and placed them in various places hoping he would take the bait. No luck, although they caught the same white cat twice. Mema went to check the trap one day and in the dusky morning light, she thought it was Sneakers inside! Her heart soared, but as she got closer, she realized it wasn’t Sneakers at all, but a large possum staring back at her. She wisely waited for Pepaw to come home later to let it free.
Their neighbor, Bud, called one day to say that a black and white cat had been hanging around his barn. Bud had a house, barn and a large tract of land just a few houses away from theirs. Mema and Pepaw tramped down there looking, but found nothing. They later left a trap which did result in the capture of a large black and white cat. However, it wasn’t Sneakers, but another similar looking cat. They called Animal Control. A man came and took the cat away. It had no tags so they didn’t know if it belonged to anyone or not.
Weeks had passed, too many weeks. With each passing day, it became more likely that Sneakers could not survive alone outside without any means of finding food. He had absolutely no skills like a cat who had grown up outside would have. Plus, he wasn’t too smart. He didn’t even go for the food in the traps. Hope was waning that they would ever see Sneakers again.
Meanwhile, Sawdust was now the only cat in the house and she seemed to know that. She became a little more affectionate and sat on their laps more often.
Another day, Bud called again to say their cat was near his house. They raced over and searched around not seeing any sign of Sneakers. Pepaw took a flashlight and shined it in a drainage pipe that was open on both ends.
“I think I see him!” Pepaw exclaimed. “I see two eyes shining in the light.” He got down and looked inside. “It is him! I found him.”
They were so glad, but Sneakers showed no hints that he was going to budge from his hiding place. He was too far from either end for them to reach him.
“We’ll have to go back to the house to get something long to flush him out,” Pepaw said to Mema.
“Wait,” Mema said. “We should cover the ends of the pipe so he can’t escape.” But they didn’t have anything handy, so they went back to the house. They decided to call Animal Control to come help rescue Sneakers. By the time they got back to the pipe, they could no longer tell if Sneakers was inside. The man from Animal Control arrived and tried a few things that would have flushed out anything inside the pipe. No Sneakers. They realized he must have left the pipe while they were away. He was lost again. Mema and Pepaw went home very upset that they were not able to retrieve Sneakers. He was so close, and yet, so far. He had been outside for about four weeks by this time.
Just a short time after Sneakers arrived and before they got Sawdust, Sneakers disappeared. Mema and Pepaw missed him and began to search every room in the house. They called his name, although it was unlikely he would answer.
“Where could he be?” Mema cried, beginning to get frantic. Where could a tiny kitten get to?
They looked high and low and all around. No Sneakers. They began to become very scared for him. Mema went back to Adam’s room again, although she had already looked there a few times. She noticed a pair of Adam’s dark navy running shorts lying on the floor where he had apparently dropped them. This time, she looked closer and to her surprise, there was Sneakers, curled up on top of them, blending in so well with the dark color that he was virtually invisible!
“Pepaw!” she called out. “I found him!” He came running and they both laughed out loud at the cute sight. Sneakers looked so peaceful and cute, but safe and snoozing away, oblivious of all the excitement and worry he had caused.
Because the kittens were so tiny, at night they stayed in an extra bedroom that had a bathroom where the litter box was located. This was so they would learn where it was. While Mema and Pepaw would have liked to put them in their bed, they were afraid that they would roll onto the kittens and hurt them. When the kittens got a little bigger, they were allowed to sleep with Mema and Pepaw. It was comforting for all. However, when they grew up, they began to jump on Mema and Pepaw around 3:00 in the morning wanting to play or eat. This became very disrupting and annoying, so the cats were banished to the garage for the night and let back in the house in the morning. Mema and Pepaw were then able to get a good night’s sleep without cats waking them up.
One time, Susie had to go somewhere for a few days and the kitten she had kept was named Angel. Mema and Pepaw agreed that Angel could come to their home and visit with her siblings. It was such a joy to see those three adorable kittens all together, eating and playing.