I heard the crying before I even realized Tilly was missing from her slobbery green dog bed behind me. The whimpering from somewhere in the house caused me to turn around, discover her absence, and wake to the reality of what surely must be happening. Again.

Calling her name, I started walking around the house looking for her. “Tilly. Tilly? Come here, Girl.” I knew she wouldn’t come from my voice alone, but hearing her name, she started sobbing louder. I tracked her down in the basement at the foot of the stairs, paralyzed by fear.

This happens a lot to Tilly. She’ll wander off to another part of the house, and eventually I’ll hear her crying. The girl weighs 70 pounds with toenails like a garden rake. And her jumping—her jumping could bowl over a linebacker. But over and over she gets herself in these predicaments, and you know what’s holding her back?

The cat.

Our eight-pound Shadow, who goes by the name Ki-Ki, owns Tilly like a cop owns his snitches. Ki-Ki spends most of her days curled up on our oldest son’s bed or wrapped around my laptop as I work at my desk. She comes and goes when she wants, though she mewls like a kitten for someone to lift her up on the dryer when she’s hungry. Tilly would eat every last kibble if we fed her on the floor.

But Tilly and Ki-Ki have a tortuous relationship. Tilly wants to play. Ki-Ki wants to be left alone. Tilly wants to eat Ki-Ki. Ki-Ki wants to scratch Tilly’s eyes out. There’s barking and hissing, chasing and retreating.

And then there’s the trapping. When Tilly goes off to a place in the house removed from people, Ki-Ki often follows her and sits innocently near the only way back. Dopey Tilly eventually decides she wants a treat or a scratch on the ears, something only the people in the house can give her, and that’s when she discovers there’s no way out except past the eight-pound barrier, all soft and sleek—and sinister.

Cue the whimpering.

The solution to Tilly’s problem proves easy, though. I don’t have to airlift her to safety, or call in for back-ups. I don’t even need to extract Ki-Ki from her post. I simply have to get within eye-shot of Tilly. When she sees me, she is free.

I walked to the basement door, noticing the cat perched pristinely on the top step. The relieved Tilly took one look at me and came running, jumping and licking and rubbing and bouncing on her way. I laughed and scratched her belly. “Silly dog.” But then I got down and hugged her close. “I know,” I told her as she licked my face.

Because I do know what it’s like to be scared and trapped. I know what it’s like to feel alone, a nemesis standing in my way. But I, too, know the exhilaration of Hagar, of being seen, and the freedom of Bartimaeus, to see again when all was darkness.

We walked back to the office, and I gave her a treat. Then, she circled down into her spot on the smelly green pillow, and I plopped back in my swivel chair. And we both got back to the work at hand.

Photo above by m01299, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.