Dexter, part 2
From the start, Dexter wanted to be an indoor/outdoor cat. I guess it’s not surprising when you consider the fact that when we found him, he was already outside. At various times, we tried to keep him inside and he hated it, which he conveyed to us with lots of sad meowing and by scratching the heck out of our furniture.
But the outdoors, he loved the outdoors.
For a lovely but brief period of time, he hadn’t figured out how to get over the fence in the back of the condo and we could let him out to play without him being able to roam out of our sight. But then he realized that he could jump from the AC unit to the top of the fence and come and go as he pleased.
We developed a system. He was allowed outside, but once it got dark outside we would call him back in and not let him out again until it was daytime. During those early days, I feel like he didn’t spend as much time outside as he did later, and there were plenty of great photo ops:
Then we moved from our condo to the house that Josh grew up in. When it came to cat safety, this was not as good of a location as the condo because we were two houses away from a very busy street. Again, we kept him inside for a little while, but eventually we relented and let him go outside again. He also had to adjust to living with Dade the black lab, but that went fine after a bit of a nervous start
So we were back to our normal routine, but gradually Dexter seemed to want to stay out more and more. And sometimes he just wouldn’t come when I called for him at night. I hated it, but I didn’t feel like there was much I could do about it other than go out repeatedly and call for him, hoping that he would come back in. We got to the point where if he came inside and it was even remotely close to getting dark, we wouldn’t let him back out. Most of the time when he stayed out all night, he would come inside right away when I got up in the morning, and be extra affectionate. But sometimes he wouldn’t come right away in the morning either.
When you get down to it, I feel like I was completely unprepared emotionally to lose him. And it feels a little naive because it was so obvious that we were in a dangerous place to let your cat roam outside. But there were so many times when he didn’t come home, and I worried about him every single time, and every single time he eventually showed up. When that happens over and over, there is a little voice in your head that says, “he must be okay.”
This time he didn’t come home (just like the night before, and the night before that), and I went to bed relatively early for a Friday night because I had a bad headache. I woke up early because I had work to do, and I worried but I wasn’t especially alarmed when he didn’t come. I just went back outside every so often and called for him.
But after a while it began to get warmer outside as the day progressed and he still didn’t come and it started to seem much more unusual. After I finished my work, I took a walk around the neighborhood and looked up and down S. 1st (the busy street). I didn’t find any squished cats, and I came back home.
The thing was that whoever hit him (or someone shortly thereafter) had moved him from the road to the grass beside the road. I was so focused on checking the road for dead cats that I didn’t notice him in the grass. Eventually our neighbor came over and asked if that was our cat in his yard. We brought him home in a box and Josh dug a grave for him that night in our backyard.
The thing that breaks my heart about all of this is the he was SO close to home when it happened. He wasn’t out of earshot. If I had just been lucky enough to go outside at the right time and call him, maybe he would have come inside instead of trying to cross S. 1st.
I’m also sad that I didn’t take more pictures near the end of his life. I have so many pictures from when he was smaller but the last pictures that I took were with my iphone and were from June 18th. Partly this was because I just haven’t been using my camera as much lately and partly it was because the lighting in this house isn’t as good as it was in the condo, so more of the pictures didn’t come out as well.
I really can’t bring myself to feel like we should have kept him inside though. He really would have been miserable in that situation.
I miss you, Dexter.