Madd Maxx

How many days can you go without food and water? One? Two? Three? As for me, I imagine that after about 12 hours, I would be ready to give up state secrets in exchange for half a Twinkie, but Madd Maxx, the sweet six-month-old gray tabby, went much longer. Maxx got stuck in a tree and went nine days without food and only scant amounts of water that he licked off his fur during a light rain. Nine days! That's a long time, but it is certainly not a record as other cats have survived much longer than that. Imagine trying to do that, and then imagine that you must also stand on small limbs the entire time with no substantial room to lie down or stretch out. Now you have an idea what poor Maxx suffered during these past nine days.

Lynda first saw Maxx when, through her work with a non-profit organization, she met a homeless man who was holding a small, gray tabby kitten. When he offered to give the kitten to her, she immediately jumped at the chance. Lynda had been wanting to get a striped kitten, and this kitten looked like it would suit her perfectly. Lynda lives in Gulfport, Mississippi now, but many years earlier, Lynda lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, home of Louisiana State University, and her son was a dedicated fan of the LSU Tigers. He even got a tattoo of the often-used graphic "Eye of the Tiger" on his chest. He always wanted a baby tiger cub, but, since he could not get one, of course, Lynda gave him some large stuffed tigers, one of which he named Maxx. Five years ago, her son died in a tragic accident at the age of 30, and now the things he loved have taken on more significance to her. That is why she longed to have a cat like a tiger, and that is why she named him Maxx. And that is why this cat is more than just a pet to her.

When Maxx went missing, it took Lynda four or five days before she finally found him, and it was only because she heard him crying that she was able to locate him 35 feet high in a neighbor's Pine tree. Everyone who has ever found their cat stuck in a tree knows that helpless feeling you get when you are unable to coax him down and unable to go up there to get him. There is nothing left to do but try to find someone else to help, so Lynda began calling every person, organization and business she thought could be at least a little helpful and was met with all the usual responses ranging from laughter, indifference and regret, all combined with the usual faulty advice and platitudes. She was so accustomed to rejection and disappointment at every turn that, by the time she found and contacted me through Facebook Messenger, she misinterpreted my positive response as a rejection as well. That was on Maxx's seventh day, and while that misunderstanding was getting straightened out, Lynda made contact with a local tree service guy who promised he would be there the next day to get Maxx down. Unfortunately, the tree guy never came and never answered his phone, so we don't know what went wrong, but poor Maxx suffered needlessly through his eighth day in the tree. Now that Lynda understood that I was willing and ready, we made arrangements to rescue Maxx the following morning, Maxx's ninth day.

Lynda described Maxx as very friendly, sociable and affectionate, and we knew that after nine days in the tree he should be very happy to have some company, so I was expecting him to be cooperative to rescue. I was not disappointed. He greeted me right away, but he did seem to have some reservations about me after that first sniff of my hand. He showed a small sense of caution for a minute, but he quickly got over that and made friends with me pretty quickly. As I petted him, I could feel almost nothing but bones under his skin, because he had lost so much weight during his nine days in the tree. This little boy was super skinny.

I pulled up the carrier and held it in front of him thinking he would readily go inside, but he didn't. He was not afraid of it. He looked at it and sniffed it but saw nothing interesting there. I opened a can of food to lure him inside, but, again, he was not interested in that yet. He wanted more loving and reassurance from me, so I petted him some more and visited with him a bit. Even after that and with the food inside the carrier, he had no interest in going inside, so I put the carrier away.
Since he was even more comfortable with me now, I thought he might want to go down in my lap. While we were a little higher than I like for a lap rescue and we had one limb to go around, I thought it still might be feasible. He seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because he quickly stepped down onto my lap as if to say he was ready. I took great delight in holding him there where he explored all around my lap and glanced at the ground as it approached from below.

Unlike most cats, Maxx stayed in my lap all the way to the ground, and Lynda was there to meet him and lift him up into her arms. She held and hugged him close, pressed her face against his soft fur and, with tears forming in her eyes, reveled in having him safe and close again. Tears were forming in my eyes too as I watched her reconnect with her precious tiger and reinforce that deep bond that she had earlier feared would be lost. Now Maxx is safe, and their bond is restored. At times, I felt I was trespassing by watching this personal and private moment between Lynda and Maxx, so I would turn my eyes away, but my eyes kept returning, because I find this small drama so deeply moving. This is why I do this. It's meaningful, and it's important.