Lost: Deaf Black Cat / Found: Best Neighbors Ever
I call it a miracle, but in truth, it’s just the way life should be. Last Sunday our 14-year-old deaf, asthmatic, one-toothed cat got out after dark, and completely disappeared in a matter of minutes. We panicked, and began to search for her in the neighborhood with a flashlight. But being hearing impaired, it wasn’t as if we could call, “Here, kitty kitty.” Our mission was oddly quiet. We searched up trees, down drains, and under cars.
Nothing. I began to cry, and Josh tried to keep me positive. But we had seen hungry coyotes lurking on our street before, and couldn’t help envisioning her quick demise.
Awakening the network
Desperate to get the word out as fast as we could, I remembered a friend had recommended a community website called, “Next Door.” It has a section for Lost and Found Pets, and apparently, people really read it. I uploaded a photo of “Piglet” and described our quest. “Lost: Deaf Black Cat — Very friendly, very loud.”
(Now when I say “loud” — I mean ear-piercing. This old cat meows so loud, that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard her, wherever you live. Even if it’s on the East coast. And it’s not a traditional cry, it’s more of a high-pitched Ethel Merman yowl.)
The next day, three people I’ve never met stopped by to offer their searching services, and one nearby animal-loving woman named “Bambi” offered to help tape posters up on telephone poles. I welcomed the reinforcements.
Two nights and two days go by. I had checked two animal shelters and a local vet. The cat was microchipped, so we had that going for us. But the the silence in our house was painful. Josh and I both heard phantom howls in our sleep, and I’d run outside in the middle of the night to check.
Bambi then called and suggested one last effort. She said delivering the flyers to neighbor mailboxes would catch the eye of people who don’t see the telephone poles. I thought it might be worth a try. Made 10 more copies, and slammed them hopelessly into nearby boxes. But that night I pretty much decided the game was over…. and I began looking on shelter websites to adopt another cat. I found quite a few candidates.
Then, 48 hours after her disappearance…as I drove home from the gym and began to turn into my driveway, I saw an animated crowd of people in front of our house. I saw that the sprinklers were blasting, and thought the neighbors were there to help with the what I believed to be a water emergency. Then I heard the magic words as I rolled down my car window: “We found your cat!”
I sat there in disbelief. Odds are, they found someone’s cat, but unlikely mine. But my new neighbor Tim (across a major street and two houses up the hill) emerged from the shadows holding the most beautiful little black face I’d ever seen. It was Piglet. I reached out to hold her head, and she started purring. I melted, parked the car and took her from Tim’s arms. The picture below is how we slept together that night: arm in arm.
It turns out, Tim and his wife had seen our flyer in their mailbox. They read that she had a loud meow, and heard her wail outside their window. It could not be ignored. When Tim spotted her, she wouldn’t come at first, but then he offered her a piece of ham. She had obviously gone some time without eating or drinking, and came out of the bushes to safety. The flyer photo was a perfect match. We suspect Piglet was chased by a larger critter, but we’ll never know for sure. She was skinny, had collected a wreath of leaves around her tail, but overall, was none the worse for wear.
So the lesson for me is this: Creative collaboration continues to convince me it is the best way to solve a problem. If you’re stuck, share the task. If you can share it with loving neighbors, all the better. Being open to others’ ideas can help break through the paralyzing fear, guilt, or sense of chaos we feel when faced with a heart-crushing loss.
Thank you, Bambi. Thank you, universe. Welcome home, Piglet.