The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I’m usually at the supermarket buying bags of food, and then in the kitchen, preparing for the holiday. But this Wednesday, I sat in my lounge chair sipping amaretto-flavored coffee. The short, hectic workweek was over, and the shopping—some nuts, fruit, cheese, wine and pecan pies—was done. Yes, Thanksgiving would be very different this year.

Instead of hosting the meal, we were going to be guests at the home of our married daughter Barbara, her husband Russell, and our six-month-old granddaughter, Jessica. Russell’s parents would be there too.

Harry, my husband, and Diane, our ten-year-old daughter, now an excited young aunt, and I were planning to leave Thursday morning to arrive in Beverly , where they lived, by one o’clock . Since we were sleeping at our daughter’s we didn’t have to over-pack. Our only ordeal was to get Timmie, our cat, to the vet for boarding until our return on Friday.

I’m a cat lover. We’d had many cats through the years, and I had indulged them all. But Timmie was the most demanding. He was also high strung. Because we had recently moved to Westfield from Norwalk , Connecticut , this would be Timmie’s first encounter with the animal hospital and we were concerned about him.

After dinner Wednesday, Harry, Diane and I managed to get our reluctant and angry pet into his traveling case. He hated to leave home because he knew we were going away. Hoping to appease him, I put his favorite rubber, half chewed up mouse and the food he liked, in a bag.

For three miles, he snarled, talked, cried, growled, and meowed. I kept assuring him that we loved him and we would come back soon. But inside the animal hospital Timmie grew frightened and became very silent. Check-in only took a few minutes—we had to leave our names and phone number, and the number of a neighbor in case of an emergency—but Timmie was so quiet that I feared he had passed out. We apologized once more for leaving him and said our good-byes.

Thanksgiving Day was like a dream—good company, fabulous food, interesting conversation, and adorable Jessica, who behaved like a perfect lady and didn’t overeat. (I wish I could say the same for the rest of us.) We all marveled at how much she’d grown. Even the friendly rivalry between Russell’s mother and me over who would hold the baby most amused us. (She won.) Friday, the day we had to leave to drive home, arrived all too soon.

Back in Westfield , we headed immediately to rescue Timmie. The woman at the desk looked through a large appointment book for what seemed like a very long time. Finally I asked, “What is taking so long?”

“I have no cat named Timmie,” she said.

“That’s impossible,” I told her. “We checked him in on Wednesday evening.”

“Are you sure Timmie is a cat and not a dog?” she asked. We were flabbergasted.

“How could you ask such a crazy question?” Diane blurted out.

Agitated, the woman said, “Well, we do have a dog named Timmie who was brought in Wednesday evening …”

“Look,” I said. “I’m going to check every cage until we find our cat. He has to be here.”

But we saw no sign of him. I had just started to panic when I heard a familiar howling, and the sound of a body being thrown against a cage door.

Sure enough, there was Timmie, furious and frightened—and imprisoned for way too long. “He must have heard us and recognized our smell,” my husband said.

“Here’s the problem,” said Diane, pointing to the sign above Timmie’s cage—which read HARRY, my husband’s name, in big black letters. Mystery solved.

We explained the mix-up to the woman at the desk. She looked as relieved as Timmie did as he leaped into his carrying case. We paid the fee and chuckled the whole way home.

When we got to our driveway, we let Harry—I mean Timmie—out. He ran to the bushes to hide—our punishment for having treated him so badly. Later we heard crying and scratching at the front door. When I opened it, he rushed in and went right to his bowl. I’d left him a peace offering: a cut-up chunk of white meat turkey—his favorite.

He settled down to enjoy his repast. I could hear him purring. Then he paused, came over to me, and rubbed himself against my leg. I understood him perfectly. “Thank you,” he said. “And don’t worry. I forgive you. After all, you are only human.”

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein


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