I realized earlier this week that Hampton had been gone for 8 months now. It also struck me that I finally felt in my gut that he most likely would never return. I had held out hope for quite awhile, but is now time to say good bye.
It seemed I knew very little about Hampton. He appeared one night in February 2014. He was thin and hungry. For the first few months, I only caught quick glimpses of him. I had first thought that he was Patches. Yet, one day he appeared during the day light on my deck and it was there I knew it was not Patches. Yet, he needed food and shelter and I would not turn him away.
I worked and worked with Hampton. He preferred to stay under the deck even to eat. I tried in earnest to get him to come further out from under the deck and even onto the first step of the deck. The best he would do was to place his front two paws on the deck. At first when I would feed him, he would not come out to eat until he was certain I was inside. After months of working with him, I was finally able to sit on the deck and talk to him while he quickly ate. Usually after eating, he would choose to leave, running through the back yard to the safety of the space under another neighbors deck. He would often reappear a few hours later when it was dark and choose to lounge on a mat I had placed under the deck. I had sprinkled a bit of catnip on the mat and one night he began to roll and really enjoy the catnip. It was the first time I ever saw him without his guard up. He looked so calm, peaceful and happy. He would often appear at night and walk all over the deck. Night time was the time he felt the safest.
After working with him for almost 6 months, I felt the progress was so minimal. We had made progress, but I doubted he would ever let me touch him. Yet, he did trust me to care for him and returned each and every day. He also had a made a friend in Shadow and also was doing very well with Stellar. He would make a fine addition to my clan. I could tell he was beginning to mature as he was developing jowls so I knew it was time to do TNR. I felt a bit reluctant as Hampton was so fearful. I was worried he would have a hard time with the trapping process. Yet, I needed him neutered to stop the kitten population. I also wanted him to have a better quality of life without his life being driven by hormones. Lastly, I didn’t want him to feel territorial about my property and cause problems with Shadow and Stellar. Neutering him would solve all of these issues.
Unfortunately, my fears did come true. Although the initial trapping process was easy, he had a very hard time recovering in the trap. He was very agitated. He had tried to get out of the trap during the night and even succeeded in moving the trap a bit. The next morning, I found some blood and broken claws. I never had been face to face with Hampton since he lived under the deck and I did succeed in getting one quick look at him. He was petrified and hissed and growled at me. I had lost every ounce of trust. I felt deep in my gut that it would be a long time before he came back.
When I looked at the calendar this week, I realized that on April 16, 2015, he had been gone for 8 months. He had never returned, not even once. I felt in my heart, it was time to say good bye. I felt that some how I did not do enough for Hampton. His life was so full of fear. I know I did the right thing in neutering him, I just wish there could have been something I did that would have made the process easier on him. Maybe that was not possible and his fear would have dominated any way. On Wednesday, April 16, 2015 I took a memorial stone down to the garden area and placed the plaque next to the one I have for Patches. Shadow tagged along too. After saying our good byes I came inside to look at a few pictures I had taken of Hampton with the surveillance cameras. My heart felt so sad.
That evening I was watching TV and happened to have the surveillance cameras turned on. I noticed a pair of glowing eye balls under the deck. I thought that maybe Cisco had come back since he had been MIA for almost 5 weeks now. I kept watching thinking that if it was Cisco, he certainly would come up on the deck. Nothing happened. I took some wet food out and placed it just under a corner of the deck and waited to see who came out. At first no one did. I had to go back inside and then I saw the figure move, but could not tell who it was. As soon as I went outside, it ran for cover. I finally decided to grab one of the cameras and put it under the deck so that I could see. I then placed the food in a spot where Cisco used to eat when he ate under the deck. I went inside to watch. The cat immediately came out and to my utter surprise, it was Hampton, not Cisco!!! I was stunned. How could this happen. He had been gone for 8 months and I had just said my good byes to him a few hours before. I recognized him right away and for the first time, I saw his ear tip in all its glory!!! He didn’t look too bad, but he was very very hungry. He ate and ate and then just like in the past, he left. He came again the next night and ate and ate again.
I am still in shock wondering where he has been and how he survived our brutal winter. Someone must have been caring for him. He must have had shelter too. I never once thought that after 8 long months, he would return to me. Shadow and Stellar seemed to recognize him. Yet there have been no formal greetings. Who knows if he will stick around or did he just drop by to let me me know he is still alive and kicking! What a happy day it was!!!
Welcome Home Hampton!