Never in my life have I been more excited to see an animal than I was at that moment. It had been two months since I laid eyes on Louie, my little buddy – two months of worrying, searching, and calling his name. We posted signs with his picture, we asked the neighbors to watch for him. Not a trace.
Wondering what happened, my mind would invent terrible scenarios. Was he hit by a car? Was he hurt and alone? Did the coyotes get him? Painful thoughts, but I knew they couldn’t be true. Louie was too smart, too tough, too wily.
During his first year of life he became increasingly interested in being outside. He chased bugs, teased dogs, and visited the neighbors. At night he would return home to snuggle the kids to sleep. That last night though, he did not come home. He ran out the door like he HAD to get outside! And he was gone.
Two months later, as the sun was setting, I was outside watering the plants. The pain of not knowing was stinging me. I thought to myself, “If I could just know that he’s okay, if I could just see him one time. He can be a wild cat if he wants, I just want to know that he’s alive.” Within 5 seconds of completing that thought, I saw something move in the bushes. Startled, I took a deeper gaze – and there he was. He walked right out in plain view and stared at me. “Louie?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Louie!” He ran across the driveway. I called his name again and he gave me a long look that said, “I know you want me to stay here, but I can’t. I’m wild. If I let you pet me, you’ll try to take me inside – and that’s not something I can do.” So he jogged across the grass to the edge of the sidewalk and turned his head to look back at me one more time. Then he ran toward the park, and disappeared into the night.
I felt like a parent whose kid had just left for college. I thought of people that I’ve worked with in the past – the ones that departed to take a new job. I thought of friends that got married and went to live in their wife’s hometown. Gone. Off on an adventure. Just like Louie. This was no meek kitty. He was destined to be wild! As I reflect on the time he spent with us, I realize that he had been preparing for this the whole time. He practiced and trained just as any risk-taker should. Whether you are on a quest for a new job, starting a company, going to college, joining the Navy, or moving to a strange town in search of opportunity – here is what you can learn from Louie:
- Climb trees. Louie would climb as high as the branches would hold him, not for the thrill of it, but to get a new viewpoint and a change of perspective. If you are going to try new things, you have to be open to unfamiliar concepts and outside influences. Seek and accept a perspective other than your own.
- Form a gang. I noticed that Louie would linger in the streets in the evening when the other neighborhood cats were out. You might think they would fight, but they never did. They ran away from cars together, and played their own version of hide-and-seek. They bonded for strength, just as anyone out on an adventure should find partners to help their quest.
- Practice confrontation. As much as he was a cuddler, he was equally a bad-ass. His “play-fighting” was a lot more fighting than play. I feared for the neighborhood squirrels. In a comfortable environment, he learned to handle confrontation. If you are going on an adventure, expect adversity – learn how and when to stand your ground.
- Eat lizards. Sure we fed him delicious, nutritional cat food that he could eat whenever he wanted. So why did I always find him hunkered down in the yard chewing on a lizard? And now, as he roams the wooded areas around our house, I am sure he finds plenty of (gross) things to eat. On your journey, understand that nothing comes easy or quick. You better learn how to sustain yourself until you achieve your ultimate goal.
I miss Louie – he was a great cat. I don’t begrudge him for seeking a life of thrill and independence. As with so many people that give up comfort in search of adventure, I can only respect that desire to unleash the tiger within.