This is Tiger, a gorgeous boy who just moved from Arizona to North Carolina to become part of my little menagerie. I’m told the story of our trip today is hilarious. I’m not quite ready to find it funny but here’s what happened.
Tiger belonged to my cousin Bev for all 7 years of his life. He was spoiled and doted on as he so deserves. He’s a sweet boy with a short fuse who, for about the last month, has had a pretty rough time. He’s stressed out by Bev’s absence and by all the folks coming and going in his house.
For the last couple of weeks he has lived with Beth, one of the group of amazing friends who cared for Bev through her illness. Beth did everything possible to help put Tiger at ease but he never really settled in. So now he’s a North Carolinian and is already developing a cute Southern drawl.
But getting from point A to point B was a challenge.
I’m told every good story involves some kind of substance use (not really – I made that up). Tiger’s drug of choice is gabapentin so Beth added some to his food this morning so he’d be sufficiently stoned to be hauled through a few airports.
But Tiger had other plans: a poorly timed hunger strike. So when Arnette (another of the amazing friends) arrived at Bev’s house this morning with The Giant Red Cat, he was pissed. Like hissing, growling, desperate-to-escape kind of pissed, and nothing was going to soothe him.
Someone suggested an emergency vet so I ran him over there. They drugged him up and we rushed to the airport.
If you’re bored, I suggest hauling a pissed off cat through an airport.
First, there’s the ticket counter. You can’t take a pet on a plane without going to the ticket counter, the part of flying we all avoid with online check-ins. At the ticket counter, they weigh the cat and carrier because there’s a weight limit.
It’s 20 lbs.
Tiger tipped the scales at 19.5 lbs.
I had no backup plan so I was trying to figure out what I was going to do if he was over. I figured a cat can probably survive without a tail.
Next was security. There I was instructed to remove the slightly-stoned-and-very-irritated chonky cat from the carrier. I went white. This is exactly the conversation:
Security guard: Just pull him out of the carrier so we can put the carrier through the machine.
Me: Can’t you put it through with him in it? [PETA people, calm down. I was desperate.]
Guard: No, you have to take him out.
Me: If I take him out, he going to end up living forever in this airport.
Guard: PRIVATE SCREENING!
Suddenly a bunch of bored uniforms started running around. Tiger and I were shuffled off to a tiny room, the door was locked, and a guard said, “OK, take him out of the carrier and hold him.” This cat is known for shredding people for far less but, maybe thanks to the drugs, we got through it.
So here’s the thing I learned about Tiger. When his carrier is on the ground, he’s fine. But when he’s being swung around while I’m dragging him through airports jammed with holiday travelers, he meows. Loudly. And often.
That means I left a bunch of bewildered people in my wake, all saying, “Is that a cat?” followed by, “That cat is huge!” No kidding. I was losing feeling in my fingers as I carried him. [Side note: Bev, you could have sprung for the damn shoulder strap. Just saying.]
Since this story couldn’t possibly end with me sitting in first class and sipping a bourbon, you’ll be happy to know that on both flights I was in the very back and in the middle seat. Perfect, right?
As I did the walk of shame to steerage, banging every seat with Tiger’s head, I know I looked like a frenzied, crazy cat woman. And with each step Tiger let out another loud meow, punctuating my deteriorating status. I wanted to yell, “I have a dog! In fact, I have a pit bull! Stop judging me!”
But no. I dragged this poor, stoned, grieving cat to my cheap seat near the bathroom, watching all of the more fortunate passengers look in the carrier and then give me that, “Bless her heart” half smile.
Tiger was super chill on the flight to Dallas so I got bold. Too bold. I found a bar and ordered an old fashioned. At the bar were 3 other customers and we quickly learned we were all on the flight to Charlotte. In that way that only alcohol can make happen, we became convinced that American Airlines would never leave Dallas with 4 empty seats so we ordered another round and toasted the Queen City. We barely made the flight but hey, Tiger got his first bar experience.
We made it home. After 8 hours of travel and a few exhausted tears, we walked in the house. I put Tiger, still in the carrier, in the guest room so I could get him some food, some water, and a litter box. When I went back into the guest room 5 minutes later, Tiger was on the bed. He had managed to unzip the carrier and crawl out, a skill that, if exercised on the plane, would probably have ended up with me on the news, wearing handcuffs and yelling, “I swear I have a dog, too!”
Right now Tiger is sleeping on one of Bev’s blankets that her friends so wisely sent with me. Tomorrow he meets Stella and Roz. Stella will hiss and sulk and Roz will think I’ve brought her a cool new friend so Tiger will hate them both. But in time, we’ll get this figured out and maybe Bev would be pleased.