We lost our best friend this week.
It has been said that no amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat.
Miles came into our home 7 years ago as a kitten, barely 3 months old. It was love at first sight for both of Dave and I. Miles had an instant connection with Dave, it was like they had been friends forever and it was a grand reunion. For me, I was scared, I knew nothing about cats and now I had to take care of this cute little fur ball and he was totally dependent on me. Miles became an instant family member; we were hopelessly in love. I soon became the butt of my families jokes as being the “Crazy Cat Lady”, even though I only had one cat. I stayed home with Miles the first month so that I could socialize with him and he could feel comfortable and safe with us. We had wanted a lap cat, but we got so much more.
Miles was always by my side when I was sick, he often would stay with me all day if I were sick in bed and he always made sure that I knew he was there by keeping his paw on my arm or face. Miles was there for me when I found out that my Dad had passed away and came over to me and licked away my tears.
In early 2016, we decided to retire and move away from CA. We researched Florida, Texas, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, St. Croix and Puerto Rico. We narrowed it down to St. Croix or Puerto Rico. Miles is a big cat and we learned that he could not fly in the plane with us under any circumstances. I even tried to buy him a first class seat on a plane.
Miles HATED to be in a car, he would howl, cry and get so stressed. Miles also HATED being in a carrier. We stopped putting him in one transporting him to the vet because it would take the two of to put him in one and it did not seem humane. Miles just did not have the temperament to travel and after any length of time in the car be it a trip to the vet or a fun visit to Grandma’s he would be out of sorts for a few days afterwards.
There is no direct flight from LAX to the Caribbean. If we moved to the Caribbean, Miles would have to fly in the cargo hold of a plane and would take 2 days to get him there with an overnight stop at a boarding facility. The other option would be to drive him to Florida and put him on a direct flight to the Caribbean, but then Miles would have to travel in the car for at least 4 days, stay in a crate, stay in non-familiar hotel rooms and then have to fly in a cargo hold of a plane. We read countless articles stressing that it is strongly discouraged to have your pet travel in a cargo hold as it is dangerous and extremely stressful for cats. Dogs are more resilient; cats are known to be so stressed that they develop permanent behavior problems. We couldn’t take the risk and do this to our baby Miles.
We needed a Plan B, to find a new destination that did not require air travel and was not too long of a drive in a car. Obviously our Plan B was to move to Baja California, Mexico. We thought this would be the most perfect place for Miles to live. Miles always dreamed of being an outside cat, us moving to Baja would give him an opportunity to go outside, explore, see birds and to just be a cat. Most of our neighbors had pets, we were told before moving that several neighbors had cats and that the dogs in the Campo coexisted with the cats in harmony. We had grand visions of Miles being the happiest kitty in the world. Unfortunately, our visions and dreams were shattered.
Upon arrival during our first week in Baja, the cat next door scratched Miles’ eye pretty bad and 2 dogs decided that they were going to chase Miles like he was a rabbit. Poor Miles ran for his life, although he ultimately got away, his poor back claws were ripped from the paw pads and his paws were bloody from the rocks that line the road. Although Miles did prefer to be outside versus being in the motorhome he was always on high alert and sometimes paranoid for fear of the dogs chasing him or running through our lot. In the 7 months we have been in Baja, these particular dogs put Miles on a high speed chase at least 5 times that I know about. Yes, we talked to their owner and we were told that their dogs loved cats because they owned a few (yeah, right).
In the past month, 2 feral cats moved in and Miles had gotten into a few fights, nothing major, but he still had quite a few head and body scratches. Since they were feral cats, who knew what parasites or diseases they might have, which concerned us. We knew of coyotes; we could hear them in the distance on most nights and would make Miles come inside when we went to bed. Earlier this week, Dave and I found a dead jackrabbit a few lots away from ours, which meant a coyote or the Campo dogs had killed it. Have you seen jackrabbits run? They are super-fast! The Campo dogs kill for sport and nothing more, we have seen them catch a jackrabbit in the past and also kill some birds in the estuary in our backyard. These were the same dogs that chased Miles so many times before.
Another problem we found was that if we were to ever have to run to the States for a quick trip, we did not have anyone to watch Miles. There is no way that we could leave him confined in the motorhome and I was too scared to have him be on his own for a few days outside while we were away. We had originally thought any one of our neighbors that were cat lovers would watch Miles. The problem is that the owners that had cats also had dogs. There also is no boarding facility for cats in our town. Our visions of going on a quick trip or even traveling to Costa Rica quickly came to halt.
We prayed constantly for an answer of what the best thing for Miles would be. We kept coming up short, but we believed that we would find a solution. We just wanted Miles to be happy.
Enter “W” and “J”, our neighbors here in the Campo, but they only come down 2-3 times a year and have a permanent home in Orange County. We heard that they had a beloved cat for 16 years that had just recently passed away. J was really missing her cat so when she was visiting Baja this last time she came over to meet Miles. Miles instantly took a liking to her and plopped down at her feet and exposed his belly to her for a rub. I was shocked as Miles usually doesn’t warm up to people until they have visited a few times. So over the course of two weeks J came to visit with Miles often and each time he would run out of hiding when he heard her voice. I also took Miles over to her house when I went for a social visit. Normally Miles will run and hide when in unfamiliar surroundings, but he just walked around her house like he owned the joint and even took a snooze on top (not underneath) one of her beds. During our conversation that day, she made a comment saying, “it is so nice to have a cat in the house, it feels so good. I miss that.” Her comment struck me like lightning, but I ignored the feeling that I got for a few days. Could J and W be the answer to the prayers we have been giving? A few days later Dave and I were having a serious discussion about our future plans and I brought up what J had said. We both painfully discussed what was best for Miles given the feral cat, coyote and dog chasing situation that had been going on since we moved here. We discussed how much Miles hated to travel and how much of a social animal he was. We came to the conclusion that given the current circumstances, Miles might be better off with W and J in a home, away from the stresses of outdoor life in Mexico. Tearfully we spoke with J and she of course said that she would love for Miles to join their home. Miles would be an indoor cat and be safe from dogs, feral cats and coyotes. He would have a huge house to explore and he would be their only pet. She told me excitedly that she had a cat hammock, electric drinking fountains and a special cat bench that overlooks all the birds in their backyard for Miles. They are also retired so Miles would have complete attention and love all the time. They promised to send pictures and let us know how Miles was doing. We would be able to visit with Miles when he comes to the Campo three times a year and also we could come and visit with Miles when we come to the States for a visit.
I know there are probably people that are judging us for what we are doing. We honestly had to think of what was best for Miles, not what was best for us. Because clearly if we were only thinking about what is best for us, we would have kept Miles despite his quality of life not being great here in Mexico. We are devastated. I constantly imagine I see him in a random shadow or lump in the bed. Random little memories that pop in my head can put me in tears instantly. It makes us sad that Miles is no longer waiting for us on a chair on our patio when we get home from running errands, he is not riffling through our grocery sacks when we get back from the grocery store, he is not there when I grate cheese (he loves grated cheese), he is not sleeping with us or crawling under the covers when he is cold, he is not there to take a nap with, he is not there to greet Dave with excited morning chatter, he is not there to be our constant companion.
In the days leading to Miles leaving I needed to keep my mind busy as I was an emotional wreck. I was heartbroken. I decided to compile all the pictures I had of Miles and make a video/slideshow with music. Making the video was my way of processing the whole situation.
The video is roughly 10 minutes long; it was hard to condense 7 years of life into only 10 minutes. The last few minutes of the video are pictures/video we took our last week with him here with us.
We will forever have a hole in our hearts.
https://vimeo.com/230859737 (Click link for video)