Our garage door doesn’t always work correctly. I could ask the husband to explain exactly what is wrong with the door, but then I would get a lengthy diatribe on the history of garage doors, theoretical mechanics, how we should be using invisible force fields instead of doors and blah, blah, blah. Let’s just say that the door is slightly broken. So, when one child announced that the door was open Friday night, we immediately went into pet inventory mode. The dogs never leave our cove, but the cats aren’t allowed outside.
Westley couldn’t be found. The house and yard were searched repeatedly. The houses beside and behind ours were searched. No Westley. Darkness came and I sat in the yard past midnight, still hoping to spot the cat’s eyes shining in the darkness. Bad dreams and sadness made the rest of the night last forever.
Saturday morning, everyone searched the house. Then, everyone searched the yard. Then, we did it all again. And again. Signs were made and put on every street sign. We emailed the neighborhood watch. We went door to door, asking neighbors to look under sheds and cars. We scoured the animal shelter rooms full of tragic animals. Everyone felt hopeless. We all knew the worst case scenario, but nobody could bring themselves to speak it.
We tweeted and facebooked Westley’s picture. People reposted our messages while also offering support and encouragement. Over and over, they said that indoor cats don’t travel far and he had to be nearby. Fantastic children from the neighborhood joined in the search. One man called and offered to give us a kitten.
The children searched and searched. Not once did they complain about being tired or hungry. Well, Evan did flop in a neighbor’s yard while the husband chatted with the neighbor, but that was an unspoken complaint about waiting to resume searching. Everyone in the family fell down and got bruises, got scratched by branches and walked more than they have in weeks, but the children never stopped searching. Their eyes were filled with tears, but they were incredibly brave little people.
As dusk fell, the cat had been missing more than 24 hours and the mood in the house was morose. I sat and mentally tortured myself over what we had and hadn’t done. Westley had vanished without a trace. Except, there might have been a single solitary sighting. One neighbor mentioned that he thought he saw a tan cat in the creek on Friday. The children had searched up and down the dry creek that runs one border of our property, so that neighbor’s comment didn’t really register. When everyone said he’s hiding nearby, they weren’t specific. Maybe I was concentrating my hyper intense searching too much in the houses directly around ours. Desperate and frantic, I needed to keep searching. With darkness falling fast, I had to walk the creek. I brought the dogs in case their smell attracted Westley out of his hiding place and as soon as Amy heard that I was going out searching again, she eagerly joined along.
The dry creek is filled with fallen tree limbs, live tree roots, rocks, old concrete and trash. Navigating it means trying not to slip or trip while climbing over and under trees and branches. We worked our way to the culvert that goes under a street in the neighborhood. At that point, it was getting too difficult for the half blind dog with bad hips. I walked the dogs home and told Amy I would meet her on the street atop the culvert. You can go to http://blackgermanshepherd.co/ to learn more about taking care of dogs. to As I got close to the spot in the street where she was to meet me, I heard her screaming for me. I ran.
I spotted her in the ditch on the other side of the street, peeking in the culvert. In a voice that is still repeating in my head, she yelled, “I found him.” She crawled into a nasty batch of scrub brush and pulled out a crying Westley. As I took him from her and searched for obvious injuries, Amy and I joined his crying. The three of us stood in the street, hugging and crying. As we started walking home, I realized a car had been stopped in the road a few feet from us, watching. The neighborhood resident behind the wheel rolled his window down and smiled brightly. “You found him. I’m so happy for you. I have to go tell my wife.”
Westley ate 3 dinners and went to sleep for the night on Evan’s backpack. Amy stared at Westley with a big smile and tear stained cheeks. “Mom, I feel like today became a core memory.”
Yes it did, Amy. Yes it did.