It was a Saturday and I was a freshmen in college living in the town of Macomb, Illinois. That early afternoon I drove to town and pulled up in front of the store called “Macomb Petland” I had been in there before with college friends playing with the kittens and puppies. On this particular day I headed to the cages where the kittens were kept. My eyes immediately were drawn to two orange kittens. One was fairly smaller then the other. Normally I would pick up the smaller one however the small one was fast asleep and the bigger kitten was giving me those eyes and crying to me to be picked up. As soon as I picked up the orange kitten he was purring and snuggling in my arms. The kitten kept nudging his head under my chin. Eventually he rested his head on my shoulder and I looked over and he purred himself to sleep. My black winter coat was covered in hair but I didn’t care. I was adoring this kitten and for the next three hours sat in the pet store unable to put him back in his cage and walk away. This kitten had pulled at my heart the minute I picked him up and saw how affectionate he was. He was almost like a puppet he moved anyway you wanted him to. So I began thinking maybe I can sneak him in my dorm and not get caught. There were rules in the dorms and animals were not allowed. I never broke the rules growing up but now at nearly 20 years old I was ready to. Soon I was at the register with a sleeping kitten on my shoulder and was told he would be $10.95. They told me he was 6 weeks old and the other kitten was his sister. Soon they were putting him in a box and taping it up. As they handed me the box I walked out into the parking out and could hear the kitten crying his little heart out. I soon opened the box once inside my car. I then made a trip to Walmart and picked up liter box, food, etc. The next challenge came when I got back to my dorm building. How, I wondered am I going to get this kitten who knew how to cry loud, up to my 9th story dorm room without getting caught. I grabbed the duffle bag in my car and stuck the kitten in it. I put it over my shoulder and kept my hand inside it so that he felt something petting him to keep him quiet. It worked and soon I went up the elevator and made it to my dorm room. My roommate had gone home for the weekend so I called her to let her know and she was all excited. I told her if we got caught I will take full responsibility.
The first week with the kitten was great. He slept right in my arms every night. Loved to snuggle with anyone, and also was very funny and energetic. After a week of having the kitten, one night there was a knock at our dorm door when I wasn’t there. It was two RA’s asking to speak with me. They had been informed there was a kitten living in our room. I would later find out a friend told someone who then told someone else and it eventually got back to the hall director. When word got back to me when I returned I knew they would be coming back. Well I was leaving the next day to go home and had already vacuumed our room and packed up all the kittens belongings. My roommate insisted that I stay in the room and she take the kitten down the hallway into another dorm along with the liter box, kitten food, etc. Next thing you know my roommate is stuffed inside another dorm room closet with the kitten who by now I had named Bailey. I was laughing so hard seeing her hiding in there holding Bailey. Shortly there after I was sitting in my room pretending to watch television when there was a knock. It was two RA’s one female one male asking me if I was Erin and if I had a kitten. I of course lied fearing I would be kicked out of the dorms. They insisted that I let them come in and inspect the room because they said they have seen the cat and described him to me. I continued to play dumb. They came in the room and looked it over. I did a great job cleaning it up and even I who cannot smell knew to spray Febreze before they arrived. Now they were frustrated and insisted I tell them where the cat was. I said I don’t know what you are talking about I have no cat. They said you are going to make us have the hall director have to drive to work and speak with you and make this a lot more difficult. Just tell us where the kitten is and you will be in less trouble. I continued to not give in. They left and said they would be back in five minutes.
Five minutes later the two RA’s returned. They had just gotten off the phone with the hall director who said if I bring the kitten out from where ever I was hiding him I could keep the kitten in my dorm until tomorrow morning and that the kitten would have to be gone by 10am. Well since I was already bringing the kitten home with me the next day for a book signing event. I decide to give in and told them the kitten is down the hall hiding in another dorm room. They went and spoke on the phone with the hall director who repeated what he said earlier that the kitten must be gone by 10am the next morning and there will just be a note in my file that I broke a dorm rule but no further action will be taken. By now the kitten was back in our room and the female RA was petting him and going on and on about how cute and affectionate Bailey was.
Bailey under my dorm bed the night I got caught with him. He knew how to make himself look cute.
Bailey survived that night from being taken from me forever but it was not over yet. I still had to go home and convince my parents to let me keep him and I could no longer bring him back to the dorms with me and they were already taking care of my dog and another stray cat I brought home when I was 13. I knew I had a challenge ahead of me and my parents warned me on the phone I could not keep Bailey and had to find him a home. I returned home to do my local book signing at a Borders and while at home I was searching for a home for the kitten. I asked several people and eventually remembered an older woman near us that agreed to take the kitten. I brought Bailey over in a cage and he cried the whole way. I introduced Bailey to the grandmother in her 80’s. Her granddaughter loved Bailey and loved how the kitten snuggled right up in your lap. I was crushed having to say goodbye and as I kissed Bailey on his head and put him back in the cage because the grandmother wanted to slowly introduce her other cat to Bailey I could hear Bailey crying as I left the house. I left crying and 3 hours into my drive back to school my dad called and could tell I was still crying over giving up the kitten. I allowed myself to get attached from the start and there was no turning back for me and now I had to give up something that seemed to be so innocent and showed nothing but love.
I returned back to school for just a week then it was time to go home for a month of winter break. Halfway through the week I got a call from the woman I gave Bailey to saying things were not working out between her older cat and Bailey. I told her to give it a few more days and that if worse came to worse I could pick up the cat that Friday when I returned home and try searching during my winter break for a new home for Bailey. Sure enough she called me again and asked that I pick Bailey up. While she would love to keep him because he was so good and sweet, her cat was doing nothing but hissing and being nasty. I didn’t even go home after driving 4 hours back from school. I immediately went straight to pick up the kitten and then hid him in my bedroom before explaining to my parents that he will stay with us temporary until I find another home for him. I was so excited to see Bailey again and snuggled him in my arms the minute I saw him. Then when I got home I immediately went and closed him in my bedroom. Then went downstairs to explain to my mom and dad the situation with Bailey. My goal was to hopefully string my parents along thinking I was finding Bailey a new home when really I was doing everything in my power over the course of the month to make them fall in love with the kitten and see how sweet and affectionate he really was. My mother had an issue with Bailey being orange saying the kitten wouldn’t match her house. Well Bailey’s personality won my mother over. After some major convincing they said I could keep him as long as I got him declawed and neutered which I promised to do and did end up doing. I ended up going back to college and leaving Bailey behind with the family. Eventually when Bailey was 2 I brought him to college with me when I had my own apartment.
Bailey leaving my life was not over yet and there would come the greatest test yet this time when Bailey who loves the outdoors at age 3 in 2007 went missing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Everyone had given up hope on finding him alive especially after 6 days…… except for me. I was determined to find out what happened to my cat and I would not give up until I had answers.
To be continued…………..
My first week with Bailey as a kitten in my dorm room Dec. 2004
Bailey and a kitten named Princess playing in my apartment 2007.