Sunday, December 17, 2000


When Alex leaves, hole appears

        Alex is missing. To console myself, I have been trying to remember his faults.

        He was obsessed with breakfast cereal. Watching me eat, his excitement would build until he couldn't help but ram his head into my spoon. Cereal would fly everywhere.

        I really miss that.

        It's no use trying to remember the bad stuff. The list is too short, and soon enough I'm back in that dark place — the terrible limbo reserved for caretakers of the missing. Is he hurt? Starving? Trapped in someone's locked garage?

        Guilt is omnipresent. Every minute that I am not looking for Alex is a minute I am letting him down.

Devoted companion
        I had Alex for eight, wonderful years. He was such a comfort — sleeping on my lap for the drive from Florida to Kentucky, sleeping on my feet when they were cold. He knew when I was sick and needed his purr. He knew, somehow, that he shouldn't scratch the couch.

        Alex was a social creature. When strangers were visiting, he would gaze at them expectantly until they made room in their laps. He converted non-cat people.

        He loved water faucets. Every morning, he would stand between the shower curtain and the liner, basking in the heat and watching rivulets form on the plastic. When I was done, he would drink from the faucet.

        More than anything, Alex was a homebody.

        On Nov. 26, he went outside for a romp in the yard, as was his habit. This time, he didn't return.

        In the three weeks since, I have walked Lakeside Park calling his name. I have placed ads and hung posters. Like so many others who have lost pets, I have prayed that people read these things.

Kindness to strays
        That's one of the lessons I have learned. To my surprise and gratitude, people do respond. The random kindness given to stray animals warms my heart.

        Alex is a short-haired black cat with a white chest and belly, upon which an ID number was tattooed by the Florida Humane Society.

        Nobody has found him, but they have found, fed and comforted many others.

        One woman called about a black-and-white cat along I-275 near the AA Highway. He was thirsty and friendly, she said. She took him home even though she already has several strays.

        Another woman called about the cat she found at the Fort Wright Thriftway. He's so friendly and well-groomed — he must be someone's pet, she says. She will keep searching, but meanwhile, she's falling in love.

        These days I am pausing more reverently before all those “missing” posters. Each one represents a heartbreak. And to lose a child — my God. How utterly unbearable that must be.

        I have learned that I prefer bad news to uncertainty. I would rather know my cat has died than wonder whether he's hurting.

        I have learned that cats should wear collars no matter how much they protest.

        And I have learned that love shouldn't be hoarded. By sharing it, we honor what we had with the missing.

        Looking for Alex at the Kenton County Animal Shelter, I saw many other cats like him — handsome, friendly cats that nobody wants because they are grown-ups.

        One of these sweet-natured fellows now lives with me.

        His name is Everett, and he is discovering the joy of faucets.

       Karen Samples is Kentucky columnist for the Enquirer. She can be reached at 859-578-5584 or


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