West Virginia Author Seeks Help Finding Trilogy, Her Timid and Temperamental Cat
Three weeks ago I was preparing for vacation when my daughter Courtney dropped by. She had agreed to watch my baby while I was gone. “I’ll keep her in my office,” she said. “There’s no other animals in there, so she’ll be fine.”
Trilogy is almost two. I fell in love with the furry ball of tricolor fluff when I saw her Facebook photo, posted after she was dumped along the side of the road from a cooler. I got her from P.U.R.R. right after she’d been spayed and micro-chipped. She was nine-weeks-old. Trilogy was rarely exposed to people’s pets—so she doesn’t much like other animals. She’s been an indoor cat since then. The wildest creatures she’s ever seen are those pesky stink bugs that find their way into every home on the East Coast. Kept indoors to protect her from fleas, feline leukemia, and errant cars, she’s calico in color and temperamental in nature, and usually only allows two people to pet her. I love being one of them.
I learned about the fire Saturday when Courtney told me that she and her family came home from dinner Friday night to find flames dancing against the night sky—and inside their house; how she unsuccessfully hunted for Trilogy; how the fire department volunteers fought and finally extinguished the blaze; how she left her office door ajar, in case Trilogy came out of hiding and needed an escape; how the fire later rekindled, burning down what was left of their home; how the room where Trilogy had been was, by then, no more than ashes.
She apologized. I told her it was okay. I was simply glad she, her husband, my grandson, were all safe. Then I went to my book signing at The Market Common Barnes and Noble. The next morning my friend and I cut our trip short and headed home. That was Sunday and after several Facebook friends suggested doing so, Courtney said she would set a live trap in case Trilogy did escape. Without saying why, I asked for a photo when she did.
When I arrived back in Morgantown early Monday afternoon, a family member accused me of only wanting cat-trap pictures “for my audience.” Which was more than a tad unfair. First, I don’t feel like I have an audience. I have readers—readers who are my friends—and friends who are my readers. And although I grew up in rural Preston County, where I chopped wood and carried far more than my fair share of coal in those old rusty, five-gallon buckets, I wasn’t and never have been a farm girl. I am, though, a visual person who likes to see objects so I can fix them in my mind—especially ones I’ve never seen. (Until Tuesday, when I saw an online photo of a live trap, used to catch feral cats.)
With all the talk about setting live traps, all I could see, in my mind’s eye, was my six-year-old self, watching a cardboard box with a string tied to one end, propped up on its side under a tall pine tree after I begged my dad to catch a bird I saw hopping around. (I caught the bird, too, much to my delight and my dad’s surprise.)
As most cat owners know, the best “trap” for a cat is a brown paper bag. It was the sight of a bag that brought me to tears—an empty Cracker Barrel bag lying on my dining room floor that Trilogy often played with. Heartbroken, I cried for two hours Monday, as I thought about the cat who would jump all over a room, trying to catch sunbeams or houseflies, if they were about; who loved putting her paws up on the edge of the bathtub while I bathed, or vaulting herself from the toilet onto the sink to watch me in the water, as she seemed to contemplate jumping in herself; who never, ever missed the litter box unless she was sick; who would occasionally drape herself on my desk, her legendary long whiskers or bushy tail trailing onto my keyboard as I tried to type; who could jump halfway up a door to try and catch those little red laser beams I loved teasing her with, and who made me laugh with wonder when she turned over on the floor like a dog, paws in the air, waiting for my foot to rub her exposed belly.
I woke up ill Saturday morning and the two-day drive home from vacation was exhausting, so I practically slept from Monday night until Wednesday. Didn’t go outside until that afternoon, when a friend drove me south, down Bird’s Creek Road to Route 92, then left onto Route 50 east, where I hoped I could somehow entice Trilogy to come out of hiding. York Run Road, a narrow country lane at best, was passable, but still had mounds of snow piled up along its edges. And Courtney’s place was nothing but a sheet of ice, made so by the gallons and gallons of water from the firefighters. Courtney showed us where to place the items I brought along: some canned cat food, a shirt I slept in, and a container full of liquid.
We walked carefully to the handicap ramp that once led to the front porch. Built for my 14-year-old grandson, Grizzly, who defies that term in every way, the ramp remained intact in spite of the fire. I opened the lid of the Betty Crocker plastic can. Looked at the yellow liquid inside. For once I was glad my sinus infection had rendered me unable to smell. Unlike my cat, I hoped. Someone told me, you see, of lost dogs who made their way home after their owners left some of their own urine in a trail of sorts for the canines to find. Since Trilogy’s home was in Morgantown an hour away, and because she had never been to Courtney’s home before, she would need my scent to help her find her way. That’s what we surmised, anyway.
So before my friend picked me up, I peed into the frosting container and poured a little on the blue shirt, just in case, packing it all up in a sack. There was more than enough of my pee to cover a small patch of grass under the ramp, so if Trilogy was nearby, she had to recognize my scent. I hoped. Then I opened some canned cat food and left it on the blue shirt for her.
After I returned home Wednesday afternoon, I saw icicles creating a translucent crystal sculpture as they spiraled down into a black hole. It was the best shot ever and when I looked through my iPhone lens, Trilogy, my bashful calico cat, appeared in the hole, clawing her way up the ice. I dropped my phone and began chasing Trilogy on the ice-covered ground.
That’s when I opened my eyes—to the wide-awake reminder that finding Trilogy was no more than a leftover remnant of my nap. But that’s what made me return to York Run Road yesterday, where I drove along about 12 miles an hour, three miles up and three miles back, windows full down, heat set on high. “Here Trilogy, here Trilogy, kitty, kitty, kitty,” I called. All the way up. All the way back. Stopping every now and then and hoping that maybe, just maybe, I would see her come running in my rearview mirror.
I don’t give up easily. After all the amazing stories I’ve heard this week of lost and injured pets that make their way back to loved ones, I have to believe Trilogy will return home. Maybe, like that stray cat in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, a little singed and worse for the wear, but ready for her next life.
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NOTE: Trilogy went missing from York Run Road, between Newburg and Fellowsville, in Preston County, W.Va., but she lives in the Greenbag Road area of Morgantown, near Sabraton, so she may show up anywhere along the way. This includes Route 119, the Kingwood Pike (near her vet, Dr. James Minger), the Gladesville Road, or even Route 7. I am happily offering a reward for her return.
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I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.
For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.
Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!
Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”