Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death


Word Count: 2188

Well, a new year has begun, and I hope it has been a happy and fortuitous start for all of you out there.

I apologize for my extended absence, as unfortunately a number of less than happy things have happened. First, someone I care about very much had a mental breakdown. That is a very sensitive and personal subject, and so I will say no more about that, except that I am very grateful that everyone here is still breathing, which sometimes is the biggest victory of all.

2014 was one of the toughest years of my life, having undergone a number of personal trials, including being deported from Romania, which I wrote about at length here on the blog. I had high hopes that 2015 would be much better, but alas this first week has brought new challenges.

It’s cold here in Moldova, with many gray, short days and so it is quite understandable that personal thoughts can move down a dark path. If you, or anyone you know in Moldova are struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is help out there. I urge you to please encourage them to visit this website or call their free telephone number – 060806623. They also have an online chat every day where you can talk to people anonymously.

Likewise, if you are in Romania, there is help available from this website and they too have a free telephone number to call – 0800-801-200. In America, I recommend this website or calling their free telephone number – 1-800-273-8255 (they offer help in the Spanish language as well).

For links to other helpful websites and telephone numbers to call around the world, please click here.

Sometimes the worst part of a person’s struggle is the feeling that they are the only person in the world suffering from a particular problem or situation. For many years now I have been a supporter of PostSecret, where people anonymously share their secrets (that include everything from suicidal thoughts to other topics more “mundane”). Whenever you feel alone in this big, sometimes terrible world, PostSecret is a great place to go to remember that there are other human beings out there just like you.

Note: I have absolutely no affiliation or connection with any of these websites or organizations.

Mr. Zig in happier days
Mr. Zig in happier days

On another sad note, it appears that my beloved cat Mr. Zig has run away and is now presumed missing or dead.

As I wrote about in The Creanga Stealers, the cats have been going outside here in Chisinau for several weeks without incident. Once the tree branch was stolen, we had to use the less effective method of allowing the cats out from the front door of the apartment but there were never any problems.

The cats have been going outside for years and are well aware of the dangers of urban life in this part of the world – cars, stray dogs (Ro: maidanezi), malicious people and other hazards. Of course it is always difficult to let your babies outside in this dangerous world but my cats are adults in good health with sharp, savage senses, and have never suffered anything more than the occasional scratch or bite from another cat.

I really have no idea what happened to Mr. Zig. He went out last Sunday morning on a rather cold day and then simply never came back home. Usually on cold days he would only go out for an hour or two at most and then scurry back to the safety and comfort of home. But hours passed, and then an entire night, and then several days, and there has been no sign of him whatsoever.

This area of Chisinau is residential with small streets, and so most car traffic is at low speed and anyway I know Mr. Zig has years of experience of avoiding cars from his sojourns in Cluj-Napoca. There are dozens of stray cats in the neighborhood, so I can imagine him getting into a dust-up with one of them, but I find it hard to believe that another cat could permanently incapacitate him.

It is also true that there are several wild dogs in the area, some of which are quite large, but again Mr. Zig dealt with some wild dogs during his years in Cluj and always found a way to escape or evade them. This area is full of trees and they offer an easy escape for any able-bodied cat who is in danger from dogs. The long and short of it is that I don’t have any idea what happened to him.

As the hours passed and he did not return, I began to search through the neighborhood for him, or possible traces of him. I am quite familiar with the local outdoor cats and all of them were still hanging around their usual haunts, so I don’t think anyone (intentionally or unintentionally) left some poisonous substances around for them to ingest. Even the birds in the trees were all in their normal “positions” and didn’t seem to be disturbed.

I cannot even begin to explain my heartbreak as I scoured the ground for traces of fur or blood that might possibly indicate that my beautiful boy met a violent end in an attack by another animal. My heart leapt in my throat as I methodically went through all of the garbage dumpsters in case someone had found his body and then thrown him in there. But there was nothing, not one sign, not one clue or scrap of evidence to explain what has happened to him.

I love Mr. Zig with all of my heart and believe him to be a beautiful and special cat, but he is not a pedigreed or purebred animal (Ro: de rasa) so I simply cannot imagine that someone captured him. Anyone desiring a pet cat around here has about 20-30 other cats to choose from as they are easy to find, usually clustered around garbage dumps and in front of food stores. Nor is Mr. Zig some kind of cute, adorable kitten – he is a full-grown adult.

On Sunday night, snow began to fall and the temperature rapidly dropped even further. There is no possibility at all that he is just romping around on a solo adventure. He has dark fur and every day I have gone out in the bitter cold and snow to search for him, hoping to find him alive and possibly injured, or maybe dead, but at least know where he is.

The sad truth is that I just do not know what happened to him. My last remaining hope is that somehow an old lady offered him some food and enticed him to enter her apartment and then has been keeping him prisoner there. At least he would be warm and safe then and have food to eat.

Born Homeless

Six years ago, on a very cold day much like today, I got a phone call from my ex-girlfriend in Timisoara, asking me if I could possibly adopt Mr. Zig. I was hesitant at first, because I had just adopted my cat Noodles, and I wasn’t sure that I could take care of another cat.

Mr. Zig was himself born “homeless”, found by my ex-girlfriend wandering around motherless near a garbage dump in Timisoara. She initially took him in herself, nursing him with a recipe that the local veterinarian gave her, until he was old enough to be weaned.

Note: baby cats cannot live on cow’s milk alone – please consult a vet if you are ever in this situation.

But my ex-girlfriend could not keep her in her home – there was already a (jealous) adult dog living there and it was her parents’ home, and her mother vehemently objected to having a cat. My ex-girlfriend then contacted one of her friends and she agreed to take in the (still a baby) Mr. Zig. I had been updated on the situation and I knew everyone involved and I was very happy that he had (apparently) found a good home.

Unfortunately, the friend knew nothing whatsoever about how to take care of a cat. In the several months that she had him, she failed to provide him with some basic necessities, such as a litter pan in order to go to the bathroom. I also began to hear stories about how “wild” and “savage” Mr. Zig was, that he was attacking people and destroying everything in the apartment. Finally, the friend called it quits, and declared she couldn’t keep him anymore.

This is when my ex-girlfriend called me, and asked me to help. Noodles was still a little baby girl herself, and I thought she would enjoy having a cat companion to play with. And so, on a cold January night, I packed my bag and an empty pet cage and rode the train for six long hours to Timisoara.

Together, my ex-girlfriend and I went to the bloc where Mr. Zig was living. The friend came outside and explained to me the situation. She told me stories of how wild and “crazy” he was, and showed me a deep gash in her neck, which she told me Mr. Zig had caused, supposedly unprovoked. I have lived with and worked with cats for my entire life so I knew I could handle him, but at that point I was expecting a real monster.

Instead, Mr. Zig turned out to be the sweetest, most gentle cat I have ever met in my entire life. He was terrified on the long train trip home but once he settled down and got comfortable (and used a proper litter box!) he was a happy, gentle, sweet little boy. Never once – not once! – even when he was scared, even when were playing around, did he ever scratch me or bite me. He never once destroyed or damaged any furniture in my house and he always, always used the litter box properly and never caused the slightest problem whatsoever.

Mr. Zig was so gentle and loving that he even befriended other cats. When Noodles would fight off “intruders” into the garden of my apartment in Cluj, Mr. Zig was always making friends with scruffy little homeless cats, and “inviting” them over to share food. When Luce the Cat came to live with us, Noodles resented her presence but Mr. Zig rapidly befriended her and often slept with Luce and would groom her.

Whenever human visitors would come to visit, Mr. Zig was always the first cat to come out of hiding and come say hello. He was always a big hit at my house parties in the summertime because he would cheerfully beg for scraps of meat from the grill, and allow even the most clumsy child to pet him. Mr. Zig was sweet and kind, and always full of boundless enthusiasm and energy, even up to the last week of his life here, despite the fact that biologically he is well into middle age and no longer a kitten.

And while I have absolutely no intention to slight or disparage the suffering of people missing their human children, I now understand a fraction of just why it is so painful when a child is missing. Finding Mr. Zig dead would be devastating but at least I would have closure. Not knowing what happened to him is awful, simply awful, as I constantly expect to hear him scratching at the door, wanting to be let in.

I’ve slept extremely poorly every night since his disappearance on Sunday, and when the wind causes the apartment door to emit the slightest creak, I bolt awake, thinking that it is he. Whenever I see a dark-fur cat dart across the snow at midnight, or at 2:00, 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, or hear a cat yowl or scream in the night, my heart begins to race. But alas, it is always some other cat, and there is no trace of Mr. Zig.

If, by some chance, he returns home, I will definitely let you know. But between Mr. Zig’s disappearance and the situation that a loved (human) one has been undergoing during the first week of this new year, it’s been a difficult challenge to get to the keyboard and write out another article, so my apologies for that.

Nonetheless, I will continue to soldier on. Over the years I have lost many good people to various causes, a few of them noble but most of them not, and it is always a challenge to get out of the bed the next day and keep my chin up and keep moving and keep doing the right thing, but so I shall.

As Bob Marley once sang (quoting the Bible), the best thing you can do is let the dead bury the dead, and while it is right and just to mourn their passing, there are loved ones out there who still number amongst the living, and they need you (now perhaps more than ever).

Wherever you are, and however your new year has begun, I sincerely thank all of you for your support and kindness.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Simona says:

    You know what would be really amazing? If he is on the way to Cluj and you find him there when you return.

    Like

  2. eu says:

    he s coming back! u still have noodles!

    Like

  3. Grigore Pecovici says:

    My heart goes out to you Sam. Mr. Zig sounds like a really great cat. I’ve lost a few cats over the years, and even a dog once. Thing about cats though … I’ve found just about any domestic cat seems to disappear from their home for one reason or another, at some time or another. From there anything could happen, because cats are fundamentally free agents. Sometimes they might go a bit stir crazy if indoors too much like you say was maybe the case after someone stole the creanga. OR they get trapped somewhere by accident, like in a garage. Of course there could be worse scenarios and it’s sensible to consider them, but it’s really tough shit whatever the case, I know from experience. Be strong for your friend at least, for yourself, and for your readers here. Keep well and all the best to you and yours in the new year.

    Like

  4. arr says:

    Well, I am sure Mr. Zig is allright. Don’t worry, cats do these sort af things all the time. I bet he is sleeping on a sobă right now. You might see him again in the summer, if he wants to.. of course!

    Like

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