In the spring of 2008, my bulging mid-section was the giveaway that I was five months pregnant with my first child. We had just moved in to our first single-family home the month prior, and had excitedly invited our parents over for a Mother's Day brunch to celebrate. Mine were up visiting from Florida, and were staying with us for the weekend. My mom had brought her lapdog with her, a toy poodle she had called her baby ever since she brought him home when my brother and I were in high school. That Saturday night as she took the dog out for a walk before calling it a night, she accidentally left the front door open when it didn't catch the latch, and our cat slipped out of the house, undetected. In the morning, the house buzzed with the excitement of Mother's Day and the brunch that my husband and I were cooking for our moms. I was slicing fresh strawberries for yogurt parfaits, when I heard my husband ask if I had seen the cat lately. I hadn't, and we both thought it was strange since he was usually roaming around the house, stopping to rub his head against any shin he could find in the morning especially.
We immediately began searching the house for him. Calling his name and peeking under beds turned up nothing, and so we put two and two together and realized he must have gotten out the night before. The search party was on, as we began walking and then running through our new neighborhood to try to find our precious bundle of fur, our first baby.
After half and hour of searching we still couldn't find him. I called my in-laws and asked them to come over earlier so that they could help us look for him. I was in tears as I raced up and down the streets in our little subdivision, while my husband shook a package of treats to try to lure him home. Another thirty minutes passed, and I started to really get scared. My husband said we should drive behind the neighborhood by the highway to see if he was out there. Dead probably, was my first thought. My poor baby!
He quickly drove us the five minutes to the busy freeway, but there was no sign of him, thank God. We rushed back home so that I could start calling the animal shelters in our area to see if anyone had turned him in. I was back outside, walking the sidewalk with my cell glued to my ear, trying to comprehend the questions the woman at the shelter was asking me. My eyes were scanning the perimeters around me for any sign of my white and orange tiger-like fur ball.
All of sudden I saw him. His white face and orange ears peeking out from beneath our backyard neighbor's deck.
"Riley!" I shouted, with no regard for the woman I was talking with at the shelter. "I found him! He's here!" A wave of relief swept over me, as I thanked her for her time and scooped him up in my arms at the same time.
His white fur was brown with dirt, damp from the humidity that was in the air. But he appeared to be in perfect shape, other than a little scared. Looked as if he had spent the night under the deck, so he hadn't wandered too far. Just wanted a taste of freedom, I guess.
That day is so vivid in my memory because I remember thinking, "so this is what it must feel like to lose a child in a crowded park or mall". My motherly instincts were so strong, even though I was not yet a mother myself. I wrapped my arms around my swollen belly that evening in bed and made a promise to protect my baby with all that I have, forever and ever.