goodbye Lola Jane

Today we say goodbye to Lola Jane Maxwell Henderson, the first cat I owned in my own right and did not just lay claim to via family rights and roommate situations.

The first time I laid eyes this tiny fur ball, I knew she’d be mine, even though my “now ex, then future” husband proclaimed to be allergic.

I figured, there are drugs he can take for that.

I adopted her from a woman who saved her from the wild. She was about 4 weeks old when we first met and being bottle fed. While I didn’t bring her home until she was 8 weeks, I saw her almost everyday during that time. (My EPW friends might remember this period in my life when I had a “kitty in a box” in my office.)

In the last 13 years, in addition to providing us joy, purrs, and more than a few scratches, Lola has defied death twice.

First, after her spay, she chewed the narcotic “pain patch” off her torso and ingested it, sending her into a drug overdose and us to the Betty Ford Clinic for Cats in the wee hours of the morning. (There is never a good time for the off-hours Animal ER.)

The second time, she was diagnosed with a recurring form of bladder stones that would require repeated operations to remove. We had just given birth to Colin and were in the process of trying to buy a house, thus thousands of dollars in vet bills were not affordable. We begged for alternatives. Meds. Food. The vet said nothing else would work but surgery. Until we scheduled her euthanasia, of course, at which point the vet gave Lola prescription food which she ate for a month, the stone dissolved, and she never had a recurrence.

We don’t go to that vet anymore.

She survived the birth of two little boys. She tolerated their toddler years then eventually adopted them as her own. She routinely sleeps on Colin’s bed. She was pissed off at first when we brought Fang and Fluffy home but grew to accept them and even gave Fluffy the cat equivalent of a fist bump upon her return from the wild. (We’ve had quite the Cat Spring.)

But the vet says there are no more miracles for Lola. A tumor on her heart the size of a grape and additional tumors on her lungs make breathing labored, and while she hasn’t stopped purring, she’s in great discomfort.

In a selfish way, I want to keep her until the natural end, but I know this isn’t the right thing to do. This morning, a mobile vet will come over and help ease her out of her misery.

As Jack said this morning when he found me sobbing, “it’s her time, Mommy.”




If you are sick of reading my struggles with our missing cat, then you probably aren’t reading this right now. You saw the tweet or the post on Facebook and rolled your eyes and scrolled through your stream.

If you are instead heartsick with me over the loss of a beloved pet, then bear with me as I list everything I’ve done to find this animal, and please tell me if you have new ideas.

Late night, early morning cat food bag shaking.

Anytime of day calling for her.

Trapping. With tuna fish.

“Lost Kitty” sign posting.

I’ve sent more than one email to our local community listserve, filed reports with the DC and Prince George’s animal shelters. I dragged my friend Rachel to go with me to the PG complex where we tried really hard to not make eye contact with any forlorn animals.

I used a pet rescue service where a volunteer brought her dog to sniff out Fluffy’s whereabouts. It yielded five places she’d been but she wasn’t in any of them at the time. Nor has she been there on my return visits.

I’ve knocked on doors. Trespassed into my neighbors’ yards. Brought Fang outside in her carrier hoping her meows and scent would call her sister home.

As mentioned before, my town councilwoman has been awesome. My friends have been outstanding. Two friends dreamed this weekend that she came back. Fluffy is not far from the minds of my inner circle.

And hopefully she’s still not far from home.


three days and counting…

Tonight will mark three days since Fluffy disappeared. To keep my spirits up, I’ve been trying to think of it as “Fluffy’s Adventure in the Wild.” But each day gets harder, especially since I have to be the tone setter at home. When little boys cry, I try to remain upbeat. When they say they’re scared they’ll never see her again, I tell them to have faith. When my younger son showed me the “come home soon” card he made at school, I assured him Fluffy would love it and bit back the tears until after he went to bed.

Last night I set traps. The “humane” kind that don’t injure, just capture. I checked them every two hours during the night (and thus am on my third cup of coffee). My haul? A really angry orange tom cat, a skittish gray and white cat, and in the wee hours this morning, a raccoon. All were immediately freed, of course, and hopefully will be smart enough to not be lured back by the tempting scent of canned tuna.

Thank you all for your advice and support. I have talked to neighbors. Posted signs. Filed reports with DC and Prince Georges County animal shelters. I called my vet and the nearest vet to my house. Speaking of my house, yes I’ve checked every nook and cranny.

I love your stories of cats that have escaped and been gone several days only to be found close to home. They help and I remind myself (and the boys) of them constantly.

Tonight the kids are with their dad and I’m planning a full out assault. More trapping. Crawling in bushes and under houses. Checking the premises of a nearby home that recently experienced a fire and where a tabby cat has been spotted. It’s kind of far for a scaredy cat to travel by paw, but who knows.

Maybe it’s a chapter of Fluffy’s Adventure in the Wild.”


come home

Having three cats makes me borderline crazy cat lady. I completely recognize that. It’s hard to admit sometimes, particularly to men, that three purring beings live in my home. But there’s a pet heartbeat for each of us, so that makes it acceptable.

Except we are missing one of those heartbeats right now. And that’s anything but okay. Fluffy has been gone about 36 hours now, if I’m calculating correctly how and when she slipped out the door without my noticing. Of course, because I have three cats, I didn’t detect her escape right away. It was 3:30am yesterday when I realized the warm blob in her usual spot in the middle of my bed was her sister, Fang. By 5:30am when I woke not to the pesky Fluffy begging to be fed, I sensed something was horribly amiss.

(I know that by sharing that last paragraph I do indeed solidify myself as a crazy cat lady. But why does no one call people who let dogs, big dogs even, sleep in their beds crazy dog people? Dogs drool, shed more, and have the potential to take up a significant portion of bed space. And they don’t purr. But I digress.)

I went outside with a bag of cat food and for nearly two hours called her name. I sent a message on my neighborhood listserve. But time was ticking so I went to work and steeled myself for the conversation I knew I’d have to have with my boys.

I left the office early to beat them home, armed with Fluffy’s favorite wet food, “lost kitty” signs to blanket the block with, and a confidence that she’d come back by dinner.

She didn’t.

After teary kids went to sleep, I walked the perimeter of my heavily treed yard and my neighbor’s bamboo wonderland, flashlight in hand. In one heart-stopping moment, I heard a literal cat fight. Or maybe it was a cat something else. They can make some noise. Noises I’ve never heard from a cat. Not sounds I ever want to hear again. I broke it, up but neither feline was my Fluffy.

At 11:30pm, I threw in the towel. I set out some open cans of food hoping the scent would draw her home. Not even five minutes later, I looked out my kitchen window to see a fox eating the food. Hopefully he’s nice and full now.

None of us slept. Jack even climbed in bed with me briefly, something he never does. Colin – my cat whisperer – called out to Fluffy in his sleep, and woke up twice to ask if she’d come home. So I got up for good at have been outside since 5:00am, her favorite hour to eat, because we have to find her.

I have to find her.

crazy cat lady

who can say no to kittens?

I never intended to have three cats. Really, I was fine with my aging one, Lola. She had never really forgiven me for giving birth to Jack but had finally warmed up to me many years later.

Then a year and a half ago, Jack made the pitch for a new pet.

Me: We have a pet.

Jack: But she isn’t really mine since you had her before you had me.

I saw the logic in his argument but wasn’t ready to give in yet. I explained that owning a pet is a huge responsibility and that he needed to prove he was up for the challenge. I told him that if he cleaned out Lola’s litter box everyday for a month, I would take it as proof that he was ready for his own pet.

Of course, it didn’t happen. For six months, that is. Then one day last May, he did the job. And he did it again the next day. And the day after that. Everyday for one month.

Jack: Mom, I did it! Can we get a turtle?

A turtle seemed harmless. A turtle seemed cool. I’d long ago put the kibosh on lizards and snakes, but a turtle, specifically, the Red-Eared Slider (the most common pet turtle) seemed reasonable.

Until I polled my parenting listserve.

Parent One: Absolutely do not get a turtle.

Parent Two: We’re in the process of transferring our two turtles out of their 90 gallon tank they’ve outgrown. They require UVA light and UVB light and are very expensive.

Parent Three: Did your son tell you they can live to be 40 years old?

That did it. If our turtle lived to be 40 (and I’m sure it would) I’d be in my 80s and still be a turtle mommy.

I broke the news to the boys. No turtle.

Jack: But Mommy, Colin and I would take Sirius Black (the name they’d already decided on) to college with us.

Yeah, right.

That’s when I suggested kittens. Two kittens seemed like a good compensation for losing one turtle. I was told that two would be less stressful to Lola, as the little ones would play with each other and not pester her. Plus, one could sleep on Jack’s bed and one could sleep on Colin’s.

Yeah, right.

We got two kittens. We named them Fang and Fluffy, after Hagrid’s two dogs in Harry Potter. And much like Hagrid’s dogs are facetiously named, Fang is the fluffy and prissy one and Fluffy is the short-haired alpha kitty.

But do these (now full grown) cats “belong” to Jack and Colin. No way. I’m their mommy. They sleep on my bed. They follow me around the house. They don’t consider themselves fed unless I put the food in their bowls.¬†And, you guessed it, Jack no longer helps with the litter box.

I never thought I was a crazy cat lady though until the other day when I tweeted about Fang wanting to play fetch.

No wonder I haven’t been on a date in awhile.