The Australia Day Long Weekend (Australia day is the 26th of January) is the weekend Joel & I go away to Canberra to attend Australia's oldest and biggest gaming convention, CanCon. It hosts board games, war-games, collectable card games, and role-playing games. We go for the role-playing games (yes, I am a geek) and have attended CanCon for 3 years in a row. I won't bore you with all the details, but it gives me an opportunity to really let the nerd side of me out, allows me to wear SCA-type clothes in public for 5 days running, and basically gives the amateur thespian in me an outlet (usually for embarrassment). From my home town, I could just about drive to Canberra and back each day, but its usually best to stay in Canberra for the Con's duration.
For the previous 2 years of attending the Con, I've only gone away for 3 days, and each and every time, there has been someone living permanently at my residence to look after Shmoggleberry.
This year, since The Australian government decided that public holidays would be celebrated on the date they were on, and not on the closest Monday, it meant that the Convention went from Friday night (registration) until Tuesday night. I found some extremely cheap accommodation (student residences are a bargain, folks) and decided that Joel and I would finally have a proper holiday together. We would attend the Con on Con days, but would also do the tourist things on the "off" days. We haven't yet been on a real holiday together.
We arranged for a cat-sitter, a neighbour's daughter, Therese, who was working voluntarily at a shelter. She had been recommended by two locals. When she met Shmoggleberry, he didn't cower in terror, or try to kill her, which was a good sign. In the end, she did a really marvellous job, even taking in my mail and watering the plant. She came into feed Shmoggleberry canned food twice a day, and to ensure that the crunchies and water bowl were kept full. I insisted that she played with him for a while too, and she had no problem with this "fussy mummy". Shmoggleberry looked no worse for wear at all.
I, however, spent the whole holiday worrying about him. I felt so guilty abandoning him, I wondered if I could drive back and sneak him into the Student Residence (which, of course, didn't allow pets). I woke up at 7am each day, wondering why I wasn't being meowed at for food. I missed tripping over him. Joel kept telling me to quit stroking his leg like a cat, which I was doing absent-mindedly. Going to the bathroom wasn't right because I wasn't being stared at by a fuzzball. I could hear phantom cats meowing at night. I went to sleep by trying to send him telepathic messages that we would be coming home, no we hadn't abandoned him, that I still loved him to bits. I kept saying "poor cat", which drove poor Joel to distraction at times. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed being at the con and being a geek, but I felt so bad about leaving him by himself.
Joel eventually got sick of my pining for Shmoggleberry and decided (quite wisely) we should go home a day early. I had also sprained my ankle at the pub after the Con had finished, so I wasn't going to be much of a tourist anyway.
I opened the door and put down the bags I was carrying. I turned around to give dear Shmoggleberry a big hug, and Joel was already doing it. "Daddy's missed you sooooo much. <smooch> Did you miss your Daddy <skritch skritch>. Daddy missed his little baby <tickle>....". This from a guy that less than a year ago swore he would never love a pet? <sigh> I joined in the group hug and re-acquainted my sinuses and my clothes with their standard compliment of cat fur. I didn't realise you could miss a cat so much.
For the next two days, Shmoggleberry trailed me (or Joel) absolutely everywhere, and was a proper little lap-fungus. If we had to go out he gave me that horrible "Mummy, please don't go!" look before we left. He slept on the bed for two nights, which he doesn't usually do unless one of us is sick, and insisted, one way or another, that he be near us, all the time.
I felt so bad. I was expecting the huffy back-towards-me punishment for abandoning him. I thought he'd ignore us for a few days, and be stand-offish in only the "you have offended me" style that only a cat can get away with. No, he was so affectionate, so loving. I felt so guilty, I realised I wasn't going to go away ever again.
Well, I thought that until last night, when I detected that definite cat-poo smell coming from the bedroom of all places. Thank goodness it was on a sheet, and a solid variety at that. Now we're getting the haughtiness, the bites and scratches, the refusal to eat the food, the punishment-poo. I don't know how long we'll be punished (my guess is for 6 days, the duration of the "abandonment"), but now I don't feel so guilty any more. Oh, I'll still miss him terribly when we go to CanCon next year, but I know that the cat-karma will be evened out in due process and I won't need to feel as guilty as I did this year.
And Therese? She thought that Shmoggleberry was one of the best-behaved cats that she has ever met. Little does she really know....