Swiss Animal Stories
Kitty Search
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    Even before our dog, Ramus, died of old age, I promised Micha, then twelve, and Mark, ten, we would get a kitten.  We lived in a rented duplex in Köniz, Switzerland and were building a new house a few miles away in the small village of Uettligen in the Swiss countryside.  We moved in October, 1995, but would go to America the following summer, so we waited to get our cat.  The children asked from time to time,  "When will we get a cat, Mom?"  or complained,  "We'll never get a cat!"

     "Yes we will.  I promise."




Kitty Search

                                          © Linda Eisele 2003


       As soon as we returned from America in August, I announced,  "Now we're going to find our cat."

     I wanted a Swiss farm cat.  Wednesday afternoon when Swiss children have no school, I suggested to Mark and Micha that they go on a 'Kitty Search.'  They ran for their bikes.  "Which way shall we go?"

     "Go to the farmhouse behind the wooded hill where Stephan lives.  I have a feeling you will find kittens there."  Two hours later, they returned.  "Did you find any?"

     "Yes,"  Micha answered.  "We rode all the way to Oberdettigen and asked at all the farmhouses along the way, but the only kittens we found were right where you said."

      "But they're all black and Micha doesn't want a black one,"  Mark added.

      "Only one is not promised and they told us someone is already interested in that one,"  Micha explained.

     Thursday afternoon I had the family car.  "Let's go on Kitty Search."  Mark had been misbehaving and didn't want to go.  Fed up with his shenanigans, I left with Micha.  We stopped at the first farmhouse in the countryside on the way to Meikirch.  A young woman directed us to a farm on the outskirts of Uettligen, beautifully-kept with an enormous new tile roof.  An 'Open' sign hung in the window of a small, stucco building attached to the main house.  I pushed open the wooden door and entered to the jingle from bells hung over the doorway.  In the medium-sized room, crates on wooden countertops held garden-fresh vegetables.  There were eggs and a few bottles of homemade schnapps or syrup.  A little old lady appeared from a side room.  Plump with rosy cheeks and a bright smile, gray hair pulled into a bun, she wore an apron with pockets over a print-cotton dress, thick stockings elderly Swiss women wear, and comfortable shoes.  If you tried to imagine who could possibly run this little shop, it would be she: a Mrs. Santa Claus.

     "Do you know where we can find a kitten?"  I asked.

     "We have kittens!"

     "You do!?" 

     "My husband is not here so I cannot show them to you, now.  They are in the barn."

     "We will come back."

     "Please do."

     "You sell vegetables?  Just a minute, I have to get my purse."  I hurried to the car, came back, and looked around for anything I might be able to use.  I had already shopped for groceries and our garden was filled with ripe vegetables waiting to be harvested.  I took a cauliflower, a cucumber, a leak, some onions (which my family doesn't eat).

     "I bake, too,"  she smiled.  "Saturday morning after 9 a.m., we have bread from a wood-burning oven.  And we're open on Sundays!"

     "Very good."  I eyed the eggs, put the vegetables onto the table, studied the bottles.  "What's this?"

     "That's peppermint syrup."

     "And you... add water?"

     "Yes,"  she smiled.  "Or you can put it on ice cream.  This one is made from lemon melissa."

     "Five francs?  I think I'll try that.  I can try the other one next time."  (We never drink syrup).  Happily, Frau Stahli -- her name was printed on a nametag on her apron -- took my money and gave me change. 

     Walking to the car, Micha said,  "Mom you were so obvious in there.  Anyone could tell you didn't need anything.  You just wanted to buy something from her."

     "Well, that doesn't matter, does it?  You could see she was happy to make a sale.  Imagine, at her age running that shop and still baking bread!"

     When we returned home, we called to Mark, but noone answered.  We searched but couldn't find him.  Was he hiding?  "Mark, we've found our kitten.  Come and see,"  I lied.  He did not appear.  "Look and see if his bike is here, Micha." 

     A moment later she returned.  "It's gone."   

     I was about to climb into the car to go out looking when Mark rode around the corner, smiling.  "Where were you?"

     "I thought you had gone to see the black kitties by Stephan's.  I went lookng for you."

     On Wednesday evening, I phoned my friend, Shelly.  She had told me she knew a farmer who had thirteen cats who always had kittens.  Her husband answered.  I left a message.   The next morning, she returned the call.  "I should have called right away.  Do you know what happened?  The farmer had three kittens.  When you called, they were alive.  This morning, he put two of them to sleep.  They still have one his wife wanted to keep, but he says if someone else wants it, she has to give it away."

     "I wouldn't want to take it away from her."

     "It's alright.  They always have kittens."

     "Well, we can look.  She can always say 'no'." 

    Friday, we returned to Frau Stahli's shop.  It was a sunny day, the sky a beautiful blue.  A young woman approached along a walkway.  "We've come to see the kittens,"  I explained.

     "Oh, I'm afraid there was a misunderstanding.  You couldn't have one of these kittens.  They're much too wild.  I know of a farmyard in Meikirch.  They have kittens and theirs are much tamer.  I will call and see if anyone is home."  While we waited, a young man arrived.  "We came to see the kittens,"  I explained again.

     "They're in the barn.  It's difficult to see them.  They hide.  But maybe if we are lucky."  We followed up a carriage-wide  ramp through great wooden doors into the barn -- a wonderful opportunity to see inside.  Bales of hay were stacked neatly nearly to the ceiling.  Sun streamed through high windows, columns of light filled with floating particles of dust slanting onto the clean-swept wooden floor.  He climbed onto the bales, calling,  "Buez buez buez, pss pss pss pss."  No sound broke the stillness.  "The mother just left.  You may have seen her cross the road as you drove in.  Then they hide themselves.  Im sorry."

     "That's alright,"  I answered, cheerily.  After all, our search had just begun.   

     The woman arrived.  "There was no answer but I got the phone number."

     "Thank you."

     We drove toward Wohlen.  Behind a forest, a dirt lane led to the farmyard Shelly knew.  At an old-fashioned farmhouse, Mark pulled the pull-string of an old metal bell.  A little boy opened the door.   "Is your mommy home?"  I asked.

     He stared, then turned and ran through the rooms crying,  "Mommy!  Mommy!"  The kitchen was brand new and nicely appointed.  An attractive, modern young woman with stylish, short-cropped hair appeared.

     "We've come to see the kitten,"  I explained.

     "Oh, yes,"  she smiled. 

     "But Mommy,"  the little boy tugged on her shorts,  "wasn't that the one you wanted to keep?"

     "Shhh,"  she hushed him softly.

     "If you want to keep the kitten, we wouldn't think..."

     "Oh, no,"  she smiled, sadly.  "Don't worry about that.  If we have someone to give her to..."  She led us into the garden and searched the woodpile in a small shed.  Behind the shed, she lifted a tiny gray-and-white, long-haired bundle from a clump of tall grass and handed it to Mark.

     "Is this the only one?" Micha asked. 

     "We gave the others away,"  she lied.  

     Four weeks old, the kitten's eyes were still blue and 'not quite all there' the way very young kittens eyes can be.  Mark handed her to Micha.  They took turns petting and cooing over her, then put her down.  The kitten pranced up to a large black labrador and swatted at his nose.  The dog sniffed her. 

     "He won't hurt her?"  I asked.

     "No, not at all."  The woman smiled.

     "He's a very good dog."

     "She's not afraid of dogs then is she Mom?"  Micha asked.

     "We have a few other kittens to look at,"  I told the woman.  "We'll let you know by the end of the week."

     "If we take this kitten, we'll have to wait six weeks.  Six weeks!  Thats so long!"  Mark moaned.

     On my next trip to Berne, I bought an 'Animal World' magazine at a kiosk.  Saturday morning, I answered all the ads for free kittens.  Most had already been given away, but a woman from Kirchdorf said the family who was supposed to pick up their kitten hadn't shown.  If they didn't come, she would call back Monday.

     Saturday afternoon, I phoned the woman at the farmhouse in Meikirch and told her we wanted to stop by.  We drove through the forest to the village.  A woman wearing a dress and an apron stood in the front yard waving.  Cats and kittens were everywhere.  There must have been twenty!  Eight were kittens; four maybe three months old and four just right, about eight weeks and cute as could be!     

     "You may have any one you want,"  she said.

     "We'd like a female.  Do you know which are female?"

     "No, but my husband can tell if he can catch one."  The next hour-and-a-half, we tried to do just that.  We tried everything.  The woman scattered dry cat food across the concrete barn floor.  Cats and kittens came running from all directions.  I noticed bits of crust dried on the back of one adult female.  The kittens gobbled the food, but when we approached, they skittered away.  Next, the woman gave Micha a large piece of bacon.

     "Don't give it to them,"  I warned.  Too late.  Micha placed the meat on the ground.  The orange kitten darted up, snatched the meat and ran between the planks of a picket fence into a garden where it sat under a bush, knawing greedily.  When Micha reached between the pickets, the kitten growled, retreated to the far side of the garden, and hid.  When Micha approached again, the kitten growled and hissed.  Tears in her eyes, she said,  "I don't want these kittens.  I dont want any kittens anymore."  She returned to the car and huddled in the back seat where no one could see her crying.  We should have left, then, but I wasn't willing to give up.

     The farmer's wife gave Mark a piece of bacon.  He tied it to a string and dangled it in front of a cat.  The wiry, cautious, frightened orange male rushed forward, but Mark pulled up on the string and the cat spooked.  We tried and tried, but it was no use.  Kittens huddled by twos beneath the bushes out of reach behind the fence.  We looked at them; they looked back.  The moment we reached out to touch, they retreated.  At last, I gave up.

     Driving through a small village, we spotted a fat white-and-tiger watching his master rake the lawn.  "That's the kind of cat we want: a nice, tame, fat, friendly cat."  I pulled into the driveway.  "Excuse me, do you have kittens?"

     "He's been neutered, but my mother's cat sometimes has kittens.  I'll call her,"  he offered kindly.

     We waited, watching the fat, comfortable cat walk up the driveway, sit down and gaze at us.  "Sorry,"  he said when he returned.  "She doesn't have any right now.  You could try the farmhouse just up the road."  But we drove past it.  

     Sunday, we took Hubert to see the wild Meikirch kittens; no cats nor humans in sight when we arrived.  "I know where they are,"  I said.  We peered through the picket fence.  The black-orange-and-white nestled under a bush.  The orange and the black slept under another.  I opened the gate and walked into the garden, reached for the orange.  He looked up, lay his ears back, opened his mouth, hissed, jumped up and ran away.  "Let's go home,"  I said. 

     After school on Monday, I told Micha and Mark,  "Let's go look at the little gray-and-white."

     "Yeah!"  they clamored.

     "Let's tell the lady we'll take it."  

     "Mom, don't say anything like,  'If you haven't changed your mind,' o.k?  She said we can have it.  Lets just take it,"  Micha instructed.  I parked by the barn.  Mark tugged happily on the chain, ringing the old bell.  A moment later, the young woman opened the door.  She wasn't smiling.

     "We've come to say we'd like the kitten,"  I said.

     She grimaced.  "I was hoping I wouldn't hear from you again.  I don't know what to say.  My little boy's kitten disappeared yesterday."

     "Is it still gone?"

     "Well, no, we found him in the forest."  She waited.  I waited.  If I were somebody else, I might have said,  'But you promised.  What about my kids?  They have their hearts set on this kitten and you said we could have her.'

     "Shall I call you?"  I asked.

     "Give me your phone number.  Ill call you."  With obvious relief, she took the slip of paper, said 'goodbye,' and closed the door. 

     Walking to the car, Micha and Mark complained loudly,  "You let her keep the kitten!  Why didn't you do something?"  On one hand, I didn't want the woman to overhear; on the other, perhaps she should.  "I did not do this,"  I retorted. 

     "Yes you did.  You suggested exchanging phone numbers."

     "I refuse to take responsibilty for what happened here.  She changed her mind.  She wasn't going to give us that kitten.  There was nothing I could do about it."

     "Yes you could!"

     "No I couldn't.  Look, that was not our cat.  Our cat is still looking for us.  That family killed the brothers and sisters of that kitten,"  I blurted out, regretting it instantly.

     "Why don't they just have their cat neutered instead of letting it have babies and then killing them,"  Mark asked.

     When we returned home, I called Kirchdorf.  "Do you still have that kitten?"

     The woman's tone went flat.  "The family picked her up."

     At lunch on Tuesday, Micha said,  "A girl in my class, Anja, told me a woman in her neighborhood has a kitten to give away."

     "What color?"


     "My favorite cat, Charlie Brown, was orange."

     "We know, Mom."

     "When can we see it?" 

     Micha called Anja, but the woman with the cat was not at home.  On Wednesday, at the eye doctor's, I noticed a sign for a veterinarian in the same building.  An ad for kittens hung on his bulletin board.  I wrote down the phone number.  A woman waiting with her cat gave me the number of a friend who had kittens but lived an hour away.  The receptionist said she didn't know of any.  I told the kids to spread the word at school.  I called all the pet stores.  "Pet stores in Switzerland don't sell kittens, Mom,"  Micha said.  I asked at the pet store in Berne.  The salesgirl told me newspapers carry ads for free kittens and dogs on Tuesdays and Fridays so I asked Hubert to bring the papers home.  I told Micha to call Anja again and ask if we could come and see the orange kitten.  Anja returned her call.  The orange cat had been given away.  Thursday afternoon, the doorbell rang.  

     "Hello.  I'm Anja,"  the pretty girl said.  "You're looking for a kitten.  There's one in Meikirch.  Here's the phone number." 

     "Thank you so much!"  I felt like a ten year old.  She smiled, amused by my a-typcial enthusiasm, and said 'goodbye.'  I hurried to the phone. 

     "Steiner,"  a voice answered.

     "Hello, Frau Steiner?  I'm the mother of Michaela.  She's a school colleague of Anja's."

     "Yes?"  She didn't have a clue.

     "About the kitten?"

     "Oh, yes!" 

     "We'd love to come and see it.  Is it a boy or a girl?"

     "A girl."

     "What color?"

     "Well, white and then sort of dark."

     "White and tiger?"


     "Long hair or short?"

     "I would say, rather short."

     "Do you have children?"

     "I have two.  They play with her all the time.  She's very tame." 

     "How old is she?"

     "Ten weeks."

     "And when could we have her?"

     "Well, I'd like a little time."

     "I understand.  To say 'goodbye.'  Maybe next Wednesday?"

     "Yes, that should be o.k."

     "When could we come and see her?"    

     "I've got someone coming at six.  Can you come before that?"

     "My daughter has a piano lesson until 5:30.  How long does it take to drive from Uettligen to Meikirch?"

     "Not more than ten minutes."

     "We'll be there at twenty to."  Oh God!  Every detail perfect.  A female!  She could have kittens!  Short hair.  Good.  Micha's first choice was white with tiger.  Ten weeks old.  We'd only have to wait until Wednesday.

     Mark returned from school at 5:25.  "Leave your shoes on!  We're going on Kitty Search.  Let's pick up Micha."  Already 5:30, we drove up our street to the schoolhouse.  "Run through the schoolyard to catch Micha in case she's on her way home."

     "Where do I wait?"

     "Where I can park the car."

     I drove the side streets to the main road and back to the schoolyard from the other side.  Mark was not there.  Micha walked toward me carrying her music.  When she saw me, she ran and peered in the window.  "What's up?"

     "We've found a cat.  Get Mark."

     "Where is he?"

     "He was supposed to be here.  I left him on the other side of the schoolyard."

     "I'll find him."  She ran.  Moments later, she and Mark came running, side by side, over the top of the hill -- my children silhouetted by sky.  They hopped in and off we drove.  In the countryside, we passed the first farmhouse we had visited.  At a fork in the road, we didn't turn right toward the wild Meikirch kittens, but stayed left.  As we crossed the fields headed toward the forest under a bright blue sky, I said,  "I told you our kitten would come to us and she did.  She came right up and rang the doorbell, in the form of Anja.  I told you not to give up.  This kitten has been waiting for us all this time; waiting to be old enough for us to take her home and for us to know that she is the one we need.  I had my mind set on a farm cat.  Before we would say 'yes' to a house cat, I had to give up that idea.  I had to learn what farm cats are!  We want a tame kitty we can cuddle."

     We drove across a field, up a hill, and into the village.  "Rennovated farm house.  Red car.  There's the car."  I parked.  "A broken gate.  This is it."  I lifted the gate and pushed it to the side.

     "Close the gate,"  Micha said.  Mark did. 

     "Into a sort of courtyard."  We wandered past the end of a three-story farmhouse into a back yard with lawn, flowers around the edges.  "There will be children to show you where to go."  No children.  I turned and looked up at a glass wall three stories high which replaced the original wooden end of the farmhouse.  "Wow!"  A woman appeared on the balcony on the second floor, and smiled down at us.

     "Frau Steiner?"

     "Frau Eisele?"


      "Come on up.  The entrance is the door at the middle of the house."  Inside, we passed through a large inner court with three-story-high glass walls on either side.  We climbed the wooden stairs.  The old farmhouse had been converted into three modern apartments.  On the second floor, we peeked through a glass panel into a wide entrance hall and livingroom.  Micha pressed the doorbell.  Frau Steiner opened the door, smiling.  "Come this way." 

     "Shall we remove our shoes?"

     "No, no, no.  Not for this."  We followed her onto the balcony.  An all-black cat reposed on a chair.  On a second chair, looking up at us was a kitten. 

     "A calico!"  I exclaimed. 

     "Then it's a girl,"  Mark said, wisely.

     The kitten's fur had patches of pale grey and pale orange, the orange striped with white like a tiger's!  She had a funny face with a muzzle of white that peaked in the middle of her forehead, gray over both eyes with spots of orange.  Half her chin was orange, the other half, white.  One leg and shoulder were orange tiger, the second, gray, a third, white, and the fourth gray-and-white.  Her tail was nearly black.  A small child knelt beside the chair and buried her face in the kitten's fur.  "You see.  It's like this all the time,"  Frau Steiner explained

     "May we?"

     "Of course."

     I motioned Mark to go ahead.  He picked up the kitten and cuddled her close to his chest.  She was very calm.  What a difference from the wild kittens!  Yes, this was right.  Obviously Mark thought so, too.  Micha appeared less certain.  Frau Steiner left us.  I took the kitten and held her to my chest, feeling the soft, warm bundle of living love.  "Well?"  I looked questioningly at Micha.

     "I don't know,"  she hesitated.

     "Hold her.  Then you'll know."  I handed her the kitten.  She stroked its little head.  Minutes passed. 

     "Let me hold her!"  Mark pleaded.  Reluctantly, Micha gave her up. 

     "Well, what do you say?"

     "I say yes,"  Micha smiled.

     "Me, too!"  Mark beamed. 

     Frau Steiner returned.  "We say yes!"  I grinned.

     "Oh thank goodness.  I was almost desperate.  I wondered if I would ever find a home for her."

     'No problem,'  I thought,  'she was waiting for us.'  "Does she have a name?"   

     "We've been calling her Chräbbeli."

     Chräbbeli turned her little head and licked her shoulder with a miniature pink tongue.  "She cleans herself.  Oh, she's wonderful!  A cat should clean itself and bury its poops."  Swiss cats who visited our garden sometimes poohed and walked away.  Mark set her down.  She walked onto a wooden plank that spanned the space between the balcony and a garden wall.  "Does she walk across that?"  I asked.

     "Yes, thats how they come and go."  

     "Then she is already an outdoor cat.  That's good.  When can we have her?"

     "As soon as youd like."

     "But on the phone you said...  How about Saturday?"

     "I work Saturday."


      "I have to pick up the kids, but Saturday I get home at 4:30.  I can call you when I'm back."


     We said 'goodbye' to Chräbbeli.  Frau Steiner accompanied us down the stairs.  Two woman sat in the sunshine watching their children play.  "These are the new kitten-parents,"  Frau Steiner told them.  They looked at us with curiousity, and smiled.  "We couldn't stop smiling!" 

     As we approached the gate, Micha whispered,  "Mom, the kitten is already toilet trained.  I asked."

     "This is perfect in every way!"

     "It really is, Mom." 

     "Who will Chräbbeli belong to?"  Mark asked. 

     "Let me put it this way: the one who doesn't own this kitten gets to..."

     "I know, I know, pick the baby we get to keep,"  Micha said.  

     "I don't know.  It's such a difficult decision,"  Mark said.

     "What does it matter?  We're all going to share her.  One night she sleeps with Mark, the next with Micha, and when Daddy goes away on business, she sleeps with me!"

     "Oh sure,"  Micha answered.  "I just bet."

     "No Micha, that's how its going to be.  I promise.  Is that clear, Mark?"

     "O.k.,"  he said.  "I guess Ill take her.  But two days!  It's so long to wait!"  How true!  I never knew two days could take so long, but it was good we had them; we had to get ready.

     Back home, I murmured,  "Chräbbeli.  That's a Christmas cookie."

     "I want an English name,"  Micha said.  "We could call her Cookie."

     "Cookie.  I like that."

     "How about Jasmine,"  Mark suggested.

     "That's pretty.  Cookie or Jasmine.  Write these down, Micha."  Micha got a note pad and jotted down names.  "Melonie?  Melli.  Muffin?  No, there was a Muffin in the family." 

     Mark leaned back in his chair.  "How about Diamond?"

     "Diamond?  Thats good.  Thats really good, Mark."

     "Diamond.  Yes, I like that."  Micha winked at me as if to say,  'Let's do this for him.'

     "Diamond it is.  Diamond..."

     Saturday morning while the children were at school, Hubert brought home a huge bag of kitty litter, two large cans of cat food, and a cat toilet with a roof and a door which cost 24 Swiss franks. 

     "I wouldn't have bought that,"  I complained.  "It's so expensive.  And who knows if she'll use it." 

     "That's alright.  They said if she won't go in, we can bring it back."

     At four oclock, the serious waiting began.  By five, the call hadn't come.  "What if shes changed her mind?"  Micha asked.

     "That can't happen to us twice."  But I was scared.  Why didn't Frau Steiner call?  At six, Micha called her. 

     "I'm sorry I didn't call sooner, but the kitten was gone all day.  I thought there was no point in calling until she came home.  She's here, now,"  Frau Steiner explained.

     "Well be there in fifteen minutes,"  Micha told her.

     Driving through the forest and over the fields to Meikirch, I sang, happily,  "We're going to get our kitty.  We're going to get Diamond!"  We parked in the familiar space.  Micha carried the kitty-litter house through the gate.  We entered the entrance hall, climbed the stairs, and rang the bell.  Frau Steiner opened the door.  She smiled in welcome and looked curiously at the kitty-litter house.

     "Well just use that if we need it."

     Mark handed her the bottle of red wine we brought to say 'thank you.' 

     In the livingroom, Diamond slept curled up on a chair.  "Here she is,"  Frau Steiner said.  Mark lifted Diamond.  Micha reached out for her, but he held her close, burying his chin in her fur. 

     "Thank you, Frau Steiner,"  I said.

     "Thank you,"  she smiled.

     We carried Diamond down the stairs, through the courtyard, and to the car.  "Shall we put her in the house?"  I asked.

     "Let's try just holding her,"  Micha suggested.

     "I can always stop the car."  Mark and Micha sat in the back, Diamond curled on Mark's lap.  I started the engine.  She barely noticed.  I backed up, pulled out onto the road, and drove down the hill toward the forest.  She sat up and looked out the window, meowed once, and curled up again.

      "She's perfect!"  Micha exclaimed.

     "She really is perfect!  Think of that: a car cat!"

     At home, Mark carried Diamond downstairs to the family room where Hubert watched television.  He set her down.  She sniffed cautiously.  Watching her, Hubert smiled.  "She's a real interesting cat."  Micha and Mark set up the kitty-litter house, filled it, and placed Diamond inside.  She tried to leave but weighed too little to push open the door.  Micha removed it.  A little later, Diamond walked from the family room to the bathroom.  Everyone followed.  She walked into her litter house, started scratching, then squatted over the indentation in the gravel.

     "Good kitty!  Oh such a good kitty!"  Micha cooed.

     "She really is so perfect.  Imagine, using her litter box the very first time,"  I sighed.  When she finished, Diamond scratched the litter toward 'her duty.'  She sniffed to check that it was completely covered.  It wasn't, so she scratched more litter and sniffed again. 

     "Shes just too perfect!"  I cried.

     As soon as she emerged from her house, we all reached to grab her and stroke her and pet her.  "Good Diamond.  Good good Diamond."  

     She was very cautious about new things.  Whenever we took her into a room she hadn't been in, she stepped as though walking across eggshells, first sniffing, lifting a delicate foot, placing it down.  Once she got used to a room, she raced around it, hopping in the air, forelegs stretched, claws bared, or skidded across the slippery, polished wood.  We followed her everywhere, picking her up, cuddling her, stroking her.  Our world was no longer the same.  It was filled with Diamond.  After only a few hours, I could not imagine how we had been able to live without her.  It was like having a new baby.  She was everywhere, and we were filled with a new love I had not anticipated.  With a person, love usually takes time while you get to know them.  With Diamond, love was instantaneous and all-compelling.  In the kitchen, I snuggled close to Hubert.  "I never thanked you for letting us have a kitten."

     "I like it, too,"  he said.

     I opened one of the large cans of cat food.  Mark, Micha and I got down on our hands and knees and watched Diamond eat.  I poured a little milk into a plastic lid.  As she lapped it, she became all stiff and shivery.  Micha put her hand on her back.  "She's trembling."    

     "Maybe it reminds her of her mother.  I'll bet it's the first time she has drunk milk."

     Two days later, Micha said,  "Mom, I think there is blood in Diamonds milk."

     "Show me!"  Floating on the surface were dark specks which left tiny trails of red as they dissolved.  I imagined tuberculosis.  Practical as always, Micha examined Diamond.  "She has fleas, Mom.  I saw one.  And she has little brown specks in her fur.  I think thats where the blood comes from."  That would be good; better than if it came from inside her.  As we watched, a big flea scurried through white and disappeared into dark fur.

     Monday evening, Mark and I drove into Bern to pick Hubert up from work.  When we returned, Micha stood outside on the walk.  As we climbed out of the car, she moved toward us, trembling visibly, her eyes red with tears.  "I've lost her.  She got out.  Shes gone!"  she wailed, dissolving into tears.

     "What!  What have you done?!  How dare you!"

     She sobbed,  "I don't know.  I don't know.  Oh I want her back!  How could I have done this?"

     "Tell me exactly what happened.  Where were you?  Where was she?"

     "We were downstairs watching TV.  The doorbell rang.  She followed me upstairs.  It was Adrian and his mom.  When I closed the door, she was gone.  She got out and she's gone!" 

     "We're wasting time.  Show me!"  Micha retraced her steps.  On the stairs, she stopped and started shaking, a wild look in her eyes.  I slapped the side of her face, not hard, but like they do in the movies to hysterical women.  She calmed down slightly, but kept crying and mumbling. 

     "How long?  How long has she been gone?"  I demanded.

     "I don't know,"  she whimpered.  "Not long."

     "We've got to hurry.  The longer she has, the farther she can go, the less chance we have of finding her."  The territory was completely unknown to her.  If we couldn't find her, I felt convinced she would never find her way back to us; we would never see her again.  I raced through the house calling and searching every room.  "Did you check under all the beds?"  

     "Yes, everywhere.  She's not here."  Micha dissolved again into tears.

     I hurried outside.  She might be in the house.  If she were, she wouldn't go away.  As I descended the patio steps, a curious thought-feeling enveloped me:  She was only ours for two days; not long enough to really care.  It felt like she had never really been, like I didn't have to care.  There was nothing we could do, so why worry?  It felt like amnesia.  

     Mark opened the family room doors and stepped out onto the walk, looked up and down the garden walk, then went inside leaving the doors wide open.  "MARK!"  I screamed so the whole neighborhood could hear.  If she is still inside...  "CLOSE THE DOORS!"  I circumnavigated our house, searched behind the neighbor's and into the endless meadow beyond.  Which way would she go?  Across the field behind our house, I approached a group of teenagers by the schoolhouse.  "Have you seen a kitten?"  At first they ignored me.  I made eye contact with one boy and repeated my question directly to him.  He shook his head.  Some of the girls looked at each other as though I were nuts, shook their heads and murmered 'no.'

     "If you see a small kitten, she belongs to us.  We live in that house just down the hill."  I pointed.  "With the tin roof."

     Mark roamed the field, calling softly.  Let's go to Adrian's  I called.  As we walked down their drive, I imagined never seeing Diamond again.  Tears welled up.  I couldn't cry in front of our new neighbors.  Mark rang the doorbell.  His classmate, Adrian, opened the door.  "Did you see our kitten?  Did she get out when you came to our door?" 

     "I didn't see anything.  I would have, too;  I was looking at the ground the whole time."  His mother appeared, a worried look on her face.

     "Hello, Marianne.  When you came to our house, did our kitten get out the front door?  She's disappeared."

     "No, thats not possible,"  she stated emphatically.  "I grew up with animals.  I would have noticed her.  We were only there a few seconds.  No."

     "Thank you!"

     We walked toward home peering beneath every bush.

     "A rainbow!"  Mark exlaimed.  A perfect double rainbow arched across the sky touching the fields on either side.

     "It's a sign.  She's home, Mark.  You don't get something beautiful like that happening right after something terrible.  Let's go!"  We hurried passed our garage and into the house.  Hubert was combing the hillside.  Once inside, I crossed the living room, walked over to the dining room table, lifted the tableclothe and peered beneath it.  There, on the first chair I looked at, slept Diamond. 

     "There you are, you little precious."  I picked her up and carried her to the front door, stepped outside.  Hubert stood at the edge of the meadow above the steep slope down to our road.

     "Here she is,"  I said quietly.

     "Where was she?"  

     "Sleeping inside."

     "Don't you think you could have checked that first?"

     I reentered the house.  "I found her!"  Micha rushed to the top of the stairs and hurried across the living room, a frightened look on her face.  When she saw Diamond, she crumpled to the floor in a heap, hid her face in her hands and broke into uncontrollable sobs. 

     All my anger had vanished as though it had never been.  I carried Diamond to her, put my hand on her shoulder.  "Once, Poppy was on his way home from Morocco.  He didn't arrive and he didn't arrive.  All night long, we never heard from him.  When he came in the door the next morning, I started crying just like you and I couldn't stop.  It's the relief.  I thought I would never see him again.  Take her."  I pushed Diamond against her.

     "No!"  Micha shrieked.  "I don't want her.  I don't ever want her again."  She straight-armed Diamond and me, averted her face and ran down the stairs.  Her bedroom door slammed.

     Mark came upstairs.  I handed Diamond to him.  He petted her, holding her to his chest, gazing down at her.  "Where was she?"

     "On the chair under the table, sleeping."  

     Later, I took Diamond to Micha's room.  Micha sat on her bed staring down at her hands on her knees.  I placed Diamond onto her lap.  "Here she is,"  I said, gently.  This time she petted her. 

     On Tuesday as Mark left for school, he asked,  "Why did Ramus have to die?"  Suddenly, I missed my dog.  This is how it was when we had him.  I was never alone; Ramus was with me  in the living room, in the kitchen, trying to follow into the bedroom.  Now it's the same, only she is so little!

     Walking to the grocery store, I asked my neighbor, Frau S., to recommend a veterinarian in our village.  "Dr. R.",  she said.  "When you get your cat immunized, have Dr. R. do a blood test to check if she has cat aids.  Don't let your kitten out until she has been vaccinated.  If she sniffs where a cat with aids has sprayed, that's enough for her to catch it.  Take this flea powder to rub into her skin, and spray this where she sleeps." 

     When I returned home, I called Dr. R. for an appointment.  "I have flea powder.  Shall I use that?"  

     "I would rather prepare a shampoo for you.  Come by this afternoon to pick it up.  I'll also give you medicine against worms.  Come after two."  At 2:30, I walked to Dr. R.'s house.  The office was in her home.  A young man opened the door.

     "I'm Frau Eisele."

     "Mom,"  he called.           

     "I'll be right there, Frau Eisele.  Just five minutes." 

     After a few minutes, a woman exited carrying a cat in a cat carrier.  Dr. R. handed me a small box and a plastic bottle.  "This is for worms."  She removed a syringe and a bottle from the box.  Inside the bottle was yellow goop.    

     "I give her a shot?"  I asked, dismayed.

     "No, no."  There was no needle, only a plastic tip on the end of the plunger.  "Put the medicine into her mouth or mix it with her food.  This is the shampoo.  Dampen her fur with a wet clothe, rub the shampoo into her skin, then rinse it off with a damp clothe."

     "And if she licks herself afterwards?"

     "That doesn't matter.  You can return what you don't use."

     When Micha came home from school, we took Diamond into the adult bathroom for her flea bath.  "We won't do this in the children's bathroom where her litter box is.  After this, she may never want to come into this room again."  We knelt beside the bidet running lukewarm water.  I held Diamond.  Micha wet a clothe and rubbed it over her back and belly.  Diamond squirmed, meowed, tried to wriggle away.  I held her tighter.  "Now put the shampoo on her."  Micha squeezed some on.  "More."

     "How much?"

     "I don't know.  We should have read the instructions."  Diamond squirmed, fighting and meowing, pitifully.  "Read it now."

     "It says five to fifteen squirts."

     "That can't be right.  We've got to make her wetter."  We filled the bidet with an inch of water.  "Scoop it onto her."  Poor Diamond, wet to the skin, clinging fur revealing her tiny frame.  "More shampoo,"  I commanded.

     "This is terrible,"  Micha moaned.

     "Rinse her."  Micha did.  We wrapped Diamond in a towel.  She trembled.  "A flea!"  We peered at the black speck lying motionless on the white marble floor.  "It works!"  As we watched, the flea wiggled, becoming more active until it hopped away.  "It didn't work.  We need more."

     "No more,"  Micha pleaded.

     "Don't loose your nerve, now.  Weve come this far.  Get her wet again."  I held Diamond while Micha drenched her from neck to paw.   Diamond squirmed and struggled, twisting, trying to scratch and bite.  Micha squirted shampoo onto her belly, an enormous amount, at first yellowish, then clear.  "Stop!  We should have shaken the bottle!  Dont do anymore."

     "But it says five to fifteen squirts."

     "It's enough.  Rub it in.  Dont get it in her eyes!  Now rinse her."  Diamond stood still but trembling, sopping wet, and miserable in the inch-deep, lukewarm water.  She turned her head and licked her shoulder, reproachfully.  "A towel!"  Micha grabbed the small one we use to dry the floor.  It was wet in no time.  "Another!  A bigger one."  She grabbed Hubert's bath towel.  We wrapped Diamond in the great towel so that only her face was visible.  I held her so tightly she couldn't struggle away.   She shook violently.  "She hates us.  Shes never going to forgive us for this."

     "Oh no!"  Tears welled in Micha's eyes.

     "Another towel."  We changed towels each time the new towel became wet.  Diamond shook for forty minutes.  At last, her fur was fluffing out.  Finally, she stopped shivering.  We let her go on the bed.  Rather than run away, she sat down on the bedspread, turned her head to lick her shoulder with her little pink tongue.

     "I don't ever want to do that again,"  Micha said.

     "Me neither."  In no time, Diamond was frolicking in the living room.  She purred when we picked her up, playfully biting our fingers.  "I think she has forgiven us."

     "She'll forget,"  Mark said.  "She won't forgive."

     As Diamond gained confidence in our house, her play became wilder and wilder.  She skidded across the wooden floor, jumping into the air, legs spread wide.  "Have you seen how fast she is?"  Hubert asked with admiration.  Diamond hopped and skidded backwards on the landing at the top of the stairs.  'That cat is going to fall,'  I thought.  'I should remove the clay lion statue.  If she lands on those pointy ears...'  But I didnt.

     That very afternoon, Micha was leaving the computer room, I was crossing the livingroom, Diamond was on the landing in play-mode.  "Don't play with her,"  I warned.  Micha stopped in her tracks.  She called softly,  "Diamond."  Diamond hopped and skidded backwards.  I closed my eyes, opened them, rushed to the railing.  Three meters below, managing, shakily, to stand, Diamond looked up at me.  She took a few wobbly steps.  "I told you not to play with her!"  I snapped.  "Never play with her when shes on the stairs!"  Hurrying down, I saw the blood on her foreleg.  Was it from her mouth or nose or from the leg?  I picked her up carefully, examining her for the wound, but I couldn't find it.  All afternoon, we watched her.  She recovered and played a little, but without her usual vigor.  Then she fell asleep, and she slept and slept.  Micha's best friend was visiting.  The girls kept Diamond in Micha's room asleep on the bed.  Every so often, I checked.  "Has she been sleeping this whole time?"

     "Yes, but she's not unconsious.  I woke her up just recently,"  Micha said.

      The fall left no visible trace.  I moved the statue and placed thick blankets on the floor.  We had had Diamond for a week, but it seemed like she had been with us forever.  After a week and two days, I told Hubert I needed the car to take Diamond to the vet.  "No problem.  You'll need to take a box to carry her in."

     "I thought I would try letting her ride on the seat."

     "That could be dangerous."

     "I'll take a box just in case."  Hubert left to catch the bus for work; the kids left for school.  I checked that the car windows were rolled all the way up.  Carrying Diamond to the car was no problem.  She cuddled in my arms, purring.  I climbed in shutting the car door behind me and set her onto the passanger's seat where she lay down, chin on paws.  I turned the key.  The engine sprang on with a growl.  Diamond stood and looked toward the sound which must have seemed like a large dog.  She meowed, pitifully.  I touched the gas.  She crept onto the floor in back and crouched.  Every few yards, she meowed.  I stopped the car, reached back, picked her up, and placed her back onto the passanger seat.  This time she stayed.  I drove slowly and cautiously, steering with one hand, petting Diamond with the other the short distance to Dr. R.'s.  So far so good. 

     How would she react?  Ramus hated going to the vet.  He always started shaking.  'They smell the fear of the other animals,'  I thought.  Diamond seemed fearful, so I became fearful.  Carrying her up the drive, I held her too tightly for fear she would escape and be lost forever.  I rang the bell.   

     "It'll be a minute,"  Dr. R. called from behind the door.  I waited.  I must control my fear or Diamond would sense it.  I rang again.  "I'll be right with you, Frau Eisele."  I put Diamond under my sweater the way Henry did in the children's book,  'Henry and Ribsy.'  I placed my arms under her to support her and to keep the bottom of the sweater closed.  The neck fit snuggly.  She climbed up my chest and poked her nose against the opening.  I placed a hand so she couldn't wriggle out.  She became calm.  'I think she likes it in there,'  I thought, happily.  Dr. R. opened the door.  She smiled when she saw the bulge in my sweater.  "You don't have a cat carrier?"

     "I brought a banana box just in case."  I followed her into a small office with a large examining table and two chairs.  She closed the door.  I took Diamond out and held her, paws resting on the edge of the table.  Dr. R. wiped the surface with a damp clothe.  I set Diamond onto the table.  To my surprise and pleasure, she didn't seem frightened, just curious.  "My dog was always so nervous coming to the vet.  Shes not scared at all!"

     "They know."  Dr. R. petted Diamond and peered into her little face.  "Our animals find us."

     "Do you think that, too?!  That's what I told my children."

     "Oh, yes.  Much of what happens has already run its course long before.  My dog?  I got him to sell.  The first woman took him home.  When I went to visit, she picked him up and broke out all over in a red rash.  She asked,  'Why doesn't he want to stay with me?  Everything in me says, 'yes'.'  But the dog didn't want it.  The second people came to see him and he wouldn't wake up.  They came again.  He opened one eye and looked at them.  He didn't pick them.  The third time I tried to sell him, he brought me my favorite book -- a big thick book about life and death.  He found it upstairs on a pile of books, lugged it all the way down the stairs and put it onto my lap.  Everytime I thought of selling him after that, I thought of him bringing me that book, and I couldnt do it."

     "I have a story like that!"  I told her about the rainbow.  The phone rang.  By the time she hung up, she had forgotten my story.  " I told my son, something beautiful like that can't happen when something bad has happened."

    "That was a nice experience, wasn't it?"  she replied absent-mindedly while she examined Diamond.  She picked up a scrap of paper and held it above the top of Diamond's head in one hand, feeling her own wrist with the other.  She moved the paper back and forth over Diamond's back a centimeter from the fur.  Diamond sat upright and perfectly still like an Eygyptian statue of a cat-god. 

     "What's that?"  

     "I'm checking the pulse to see if there is anything wrong with her."  

     "With your pulse?"

     Yes.  She put down the paper and repeated the procedure with a scrap of aluminum foil, then with a piece of wood.  Diamond held perfectly still.  'Maybe the hair on her back responds to static electricity and she holds still to feel it?'  I thought.  A look of mild concern played across Dr. R's features.  Had she discovered something?  Worms?  A tumor?!  

     "Now we will do the blood test.  Please hold her."  I held Diamond while Dr. R. carefully and gently cut hairs to expose a small patch of skin on the foreleg.  When she stuck in the large needle, Diamond struggled, trying to bite and scratch.  "That's the farm cat in her.  She's really a very sweet cat, but farm cats know how to protect themselves."  Blood flowed into the syringe.  Diamond squirmed and clawed, trying to wriggle away.  Dr. R. removed the needle and pressed a square of white gauze onto the leg.  "Hold that there to stop the bleeding."

     "Oh!  There is a lot of blood."  The white square was half covered and more blood was on the leg.

     "It's an important blood vessel.  It likes to bleed."

     "How long until we know the results?"  I was thinking, How many days.

     Dr. R. placed the blood into a plastic device.  "By the time I write the immunization information into the record, we should know."

     "You mean today?  Now!?" 

     "Yes."  She prepared the immunization.  I had not thought of these tortures when I brought Diamond here.  I had not pictured the large needle, nor blood.  Immunization had sounded harmless.  Now we must give my kitten another shot!

     "Hold her by the back of the neck.  When I stick her, don't let her move!"  Oh God!  Don't let her move?  How do I prevent that?  I felt completely incompetent, but I had no choice.  'Don't loose your nerve!'  I told myself.

     Dr. R. stuck the needle into the shoulder.  Diamond struggled violently.  My grasp was slipping.  The needle lodged in her moving shoulder -- how that must hurt! -- came out.  Half of the

liquid was still in the syringe.  I held the skin at the back of Diamond's neck with increased resolve, concentrating to kill all emotion, to become detached, impersonal.  Dr. R. stuck the needle in again.  Again Diamond fought, tried to bite, scratched and squirmed.  What an impossible business!  After some moments, it was over.  Diamond bit and licked at the wounded shoulder.  I felt horrible, like a child who wants to be someplace else. 

     "I'll have to clean her ears.  She has ear milbe.  She has been scratching her ears since she arrived."  Like 'blood test' and 'immunization,' 'clean her ears' sounded harmless enough.  I had the bad stuff behind me, or so I thought.  "This is the worst horror in a cats life.  Its the curse of the farm cat: fleas, ear milbe, worms.  But for all that, even as young as she is, she has probably already eaten a mouse."  Dr. R. smiled as though that was something yummy!  "You'll have to hold her again.  By the back of the neck and don't let her move!"  Doctors!  Demanding the impossible!  I took a firm grip.  Dr. R. wrapped the end of a metal stick with cotton and stuck it deep into Diamond's ear.  "This doesn't really hurt her."  Diamond scratched and squirmed in vain.  "It's just that she isn't used to it."  The instrument plunged down in the ear hole, Diamond's little head tugging violently in every direction around it.

     "Will that make her deaf?"  I meant the instrument.

     "No, no."  She meant the milbe. 

     The proceedure went on and on, first one ear, then the other.  Repeatedly, Dr. R. removed the tool.  Each time, the white tip was covered in icky brown goo.  She replaced the cotton and attacked again, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  It was disgusting how much brown stuff came out of those little ears.  "That is the fecal matter from the milbe."  She deposited drops of medicine into the ears, held them flat onto Diamond's head, rubbing gently.

     "You'll need to clean Diamond's ears regularly."

     "I'm afraid I will puncture the eardrum."

     "Good heavens, you must not use metal!  Use a q-tip."

     "Wet or dry?"

     "Dry is alright.  And after eight days -- I'll give you a little of this medicine -- put one or two drops in each ear, not more, rub the ears down and see what comes out.  Eight to ten days after you de-worm her, de-worm her again.  Two weeks after that, if she goes outside, do it again.  Give her another flea bath eight days after the last one to kill the fleas we couldn't kill last time because they were in the larva stage."

     "Before they can lay eggs?"  I asked, trying feebly to sound intelligent.  My mind was in a muddle.  I felt numb and shell-shocked.  I couldn't listen properly. 

     "I'll write it down for you."

     What am I doing here?  Why have I come?  Then the good news.  Dr. R. looked at the plastic apparatus.  "She doesn't have cat aids." 

     "Hurray!"  My mind cleared.

     "I'm really glad she doesn't.  She's a special cat.  We've had to do so much to her today, poor thing.  I don't want to give her another shot.  I'll give her the first cat aids injection when you bring her for her second immunization shot.  Then I'll clean her ears again." 

     We were done!  Dr. R. wrote the times of my next two appointments into her agenda and filled out a card with dates and times.  She wrote down the proceedures for me to do at home.  I picked up my poor kitten, wondering,  'Will she ever forgive me?'  "And letting her outside?"

     "When it's nice weather and you hold her, why not?"

     I carried Diamond to the car, put her in, closed the door, and returned to the house for my banana box.  When I returned, a woman carrying her cat in a cat carrier asked,  "Is that your cat?  I've never seen anything so cute."

     "Why?  Is she sitting on the passenger seat?"  I hurried to the car.  She was not just sitting, but sitting up straight and proud, looking me right in the eye as if to say, 'This is my place.'

     "You do forgive me!"  I set the banana box onto the back seat, climbed in beside Diamond, turned on the engine, and we drove home.


Our Diamond