[This fragment is available in an audio version.]
Herewith a lost-pet story with (spoiler) a happy ending, starring a real bloodhound. Soon to be a major motion picture, I bet.
Here’s the hound, who’s called Hunter.
What happened was, we’ve been introducing our 9-month old cat þ (pronounced “Thorn”, because reasons) to the great outdoors. This is hard to avoid because we have a back porch we eat most meals on when it’s nice, and it’s a pain in the butt to not have the door to it open.
It’s been going great because þ is a cautious kind of cat. He skedaddles back inside or up a tree if a car goes down the road outside or someone drops a spoon on the floor or even sneezes. We kept him on a leash/harness but then after a while stopped, because he seemed to have no interest in going outside our yard. He’d flit briefly under the fence to the neighbor’s yard to investigate a chittering squirrel, but stays away from the street in front and the alley in back. And he never wanted to stay outside long.
Then, last Saturday, we needed to make an overnight trip to our cabin in connection with the renovations; our 22-year old son who lives in our basement was happy to mind the fort. When we left, þ was on a chair on the back porch, fascinated with all the to-ing and fro-ing with totes and duffel bags.
When we came home Sunday, we discovered our son hadn’t seen him since we left. Suddenly we were The People With The Lost Pet. We put up posters. We walked the neighborhood, whistling and calling. We advertised on the SPCA lost-animals page and one on Facebook. Since þ is microchipped, we updated that registry too. Lauren, who is more assiduous than I, talked to more neighbors in 48 hours than we had in the last year or two. Everyone was sympathetic.
Now, we live in a dense urban neighborhood with lots of cars and the occasional coyote, not to mention, from time to time, damaged and possibly predatory humans. So, there are risks for cats. But still, it didn’t make sense, we just couldn’t figure out the scenario in which he’d managed to get far enough away to be really lost. We’d had other cats that roamed far and wide and casually walked into neighbors’ houses, about whom we worried terribly, but they all had long peaceful lives.
Eventually we ran across Pet Searchers Canada, whose service is comprehensive and bloodhound-assisted. Also it’s not cheap, but we were feeling pretty emotionally beat-up. After we’d signed the contract and paid, Savannah the handler showed up with Hunter the bloodhound.
We provided þ’s harness as a scent sample, then Savannah and Hunter vanished for the best part of two hours. Savannah explained that she’d picked up his scent on the next street south and the intervening alley, and the western continuation of our alley. She told us she’d send a marked-up map showing where Hunter got the strongest signal, and advised us to go out after dark to check those areas out. Also to take along well-worn clothes, heavy with our scent, and drag them along behind to lay a scent trail us as we came home from our expedition, on the theory that the poor little unadventurous guy had got a little too far away and just didn’t know the way home.
She emailed us the marked-up map and Wednesday evening that’s what we did. And as we walked along, I occasionally offered the special “come here for a treat” whistle, and Lauren made “come for dinner” sounds. After dark is definitely the time to do this, because it’s quieter and also people aren’t going to be giving you the side-eye for walking along trailing a pair of jeans in the grass behind you.
While we were walking along the alley between our street and the next one south, territory we’d tried before albeit not in the quiet and the dark, suddenly there were plaintive cat cries answering our whistles and calls. þ has a high-pitched and penetrating voice when he has something he thinks it’s important that we hear.
We converged on someone’s tall back fence that faced the alley with an apparently-locked gate, but there was a gap under it and almost immediately, a pointy furry little black face looking through it. The gap was pretty low and þ had to put in some real squirming, but he made it out.
Now he’s at home. He won’t be going out for a while. He had a minor injury on one front leg, but already healing, no call for a vet visit.
What’s shocking is that he was in the back yard of a house across the street and maybe two houses east of us. I guess if you stay in your own yard you’re not going to learn how to find your way home. There’s a lesson in that.
Now, our neighborhood has plenty of cats and they do not co-exist very peaceably, so I suspect that poor þ was cornered and chased by one of the local feline bullies and that’s how he misplaced himself. Our daughter has vowed to walk him around the ’hood on his harness whether he wants to or not, so that he’ll at least know the nearby territory.
Judging by the number of posters on utility poles I see, pets often go missing. But you can do more than put up posters. I recommend bloodhounds.