I had hatched this cock-eyed plan to first capture Dinah and drag her to my vet and then board her for the week I would be away.
This scheme was doomed to failure from the first. Tim, my long-suffering vet, would be fine ... nothing fazes him. However, it was unlikely that my boarding place would want to deal with an semi-feral cat ... even if they had room for her. My fall-back plan was to ask Tim to keep her at his clinic for a week. I knew he'd do it if I asked--even though he doesn't offer boarding services. He'd boarded animals for me twice before when I was in desperate straits.
Of course, I hadn't figured on Dinah herself. I don't know if she sussed out my plan or just picked up on my anxiety. Either way, for the five days before I left for Florida, she didn't show her little pink nose--despite the fact that she had never gone more than three or four days without stopping by before. By Day Three, I was reduced to leaving food outside and hoping to catch her when she came by to feed. Nothing. The possum didn't even show up.
I finally packed Bob up and delivered him to the boarding place on my way out of town. I left my car with a friend who drove me to Love Field.
The weather in Florida was spectacular. I spent part of every day with my mother, visited with both my brothers and their families and went out to dinner with my college roommate. I also spent part of every day cutting back the four oleander bushes at the back of my mother's property. The damn things were 19-feet tall. It took me an entire week to cut them down to three feet using a hand saw ... and without having one crash down on Mom's house, the neighbor's house or the power lines. Some of those oleander trunks had a diameter of four inches!
I stayed at Mom's house where my darling youngest brother had reconnected the cable. Since I don't have cable at home in Dallas, I was looking forward to watching "True Blood" and "Dexter." My brother had other ideas. He came down one evening under the pretext of dinner on the beach but with the ulterior motive of making certain I watched at least the first hour of "Game of Thrones." He was right. After one hour, I was hooked. Over the course of the week, I watched the entire first season. Great show!
The day after Thanksgiving, I returned to Dallas. My friend picked me up at the airport, and we went to dinner. She said, while it had gotten cold, there had not been a major freeze while I was away. I breathed a sigh of relief.
For the next few days, I was hyper-vigilant, looking for some sign of Dinah. The first thing every morning, I ran to the French door to see if the box on the patio had been slept in. Nothing. Every evening, I rushed home from work to see if she had showed up. Nothing.
In the middle of the next week, the overnight temperatures took a nose dive. We had a hard freeze of 26 degrees for about 48 hours. While this temperature was nothing to someone living in the north, it was a dramatic change for north Texas. I had trouble sleeping both nights, waking at every sound and checking the patio for some sign of Dinah.
Gradually, I began to write a mental script with which I could live. Dinah had found a forever home that was feeding her and providing a warm corner in a garage. I stopped expecting to see her.
On my 8th night home--December 3--we had another tremendous rainstorm. The thunder and lightning drove Bob under my bed (he obviously doesn't trust me to protect him).
I woke at 2:00 AM with the sense that something was wrong. I had a similar feeling the night my water heater died and flooded the house and again the night thieves went through the alley behind my home burglarizing sheds and garages. The storm was still going strong, but I KNEW something was wrong. I grabbed the flashlight from my nightstand and started walking through the house.
I checked every room without finding anything. Then I began to look outside. I went from the front door to the kitchen to the den, switching on each outside light to peer out. When I got to the French door, I saw what I'd been looking for: hunched in a little ball on the same bathroom windowsill where she'd been months before was Dinah.
I didn't stop to think of what had happened the last time I plucked her off that sill. I opened the door, reached out and grabbed her.
She didn't fight me. She just slumped into my arms, a soaked bundle of wet fur. I carried her to the hall bathroom where Bob had a litterbox and bowl of water. Turning on the overhead light, I laid her on the white tiled counter. She didn't move.
Dinah was scaring me. She was too passive. I needed to get some rags to dry her off, but I was afraid to leave her. I ran my hands along her drenched and matted fur ... and screamed.
More later ...