Thank you Melody, (Pet Detective), for being a source of inspiration when my baby boy, Dreyfuss, became lost a week before Thanksgiving. I had no idea what to do besides post flyers and check with the animal

control people. Your site gave me so much information and most importantly, I learned it could take days and weeks, even months, but I could find him again. After 72 hours, I was exhausted from worry, sobbing, guilt...I felt like I was grieving. I made my mantra: "Don't Give Up Hope." That crying kitty on your home page just killed me...I knew sweet, little Dreyfuss would want to be home with me.

If you had been a Tampa area pet detective, I would've called you to help me straight away. But, with your written advice, I somehow felt like I had support. Plus, my husband, neighbors, and friends were either helping or calling to see if I'd found him.

As an indoor-only cat, Dreyfuss, whom I had adopted in Spring 2001, never went outside. If he had gone out when he was with the family who dumped him, then I could only hope he had some scavenger skills that would get him (and me) through this ordeal. It never occurred to me that he hadn't run away, but that he was lost. And had no idea how to get home. So, I made it my job daily to do something to try to help him home even if was repetitive and seemingly fruitless.

I went door to door in the neighborhood using the strategy that he was likely 2-3 doors nearby. I handed out flyers with his photo and it was actually very therapeutic: mostly everyone I spoke to (some neighbors for the first time) was so sympathetic and wanted eagerly to help find Dreyfuss. I visited the humane society and animal control cages each week--the animal control compound was definitely not a mentally healthy visit for me--I cried and cried before I even left the place seeing all those poor missing, unwanted kitties heading for the death chamber. It was upsetting, but it made me focus harder on finding Dreyfuss before the executioner did. Don't Give Up Hope.

By the fourth day, I got a phone call from a neighbor 3 doors east of my house who thought she'd seen him at 5AM. She has three outdoor cats, so I figured he could be looking for love, food...me! Dreyfuss has always been my cuddle bug--his two sisters favor my husband and are less needy. He was always sitting on my lap and slept curled in my arm every night. Missing him was becoming an obsession let alone overwhelming me.

Searching the area near the neighbor's turned up nothing, but it gave me more hope. Don't Give Up Hope. Next day, another neighbor one door north, again a home with outdoor cats, saw him again in the dark. More advice I had gotten specified looking at dawn and at dusk, because the cat feels safer coming out to find food in the dark. We called and searched. I put out his litter box, toys, and my laundry (no, not all of it). My husband was starter to think I was overdoing it. I had to tell him: "We have to be vigilant! Don't Give Up Hope!" Two more Dreyfuss sightings by the sixth day of his disappearance and still no cat in my arms, so I was beginning to consider renting a humane trap from the "executioner".

On Thanksgiving, it was a week that he'd been gone and there was a special radio talk show about animals that morning on the #1 AM station in town. I called in for advice on finding Dreyfuss and was able to notify the listeners where he was lost. I also listed an ad in the paper starting two days after he disappeared. I walked the streets every night and called him. By this point, I think I was ripping off one five minute cry a day, feeling more sorry for me not having him than I was worried that he was safe, sound, fed, and happy.

By Nov. 30, my birthday, I told my husband, "No, I don't want to celebrate it and certainly not with champagne--keep it in the 'fridge for New Year's." I knew this would be a birthday I would never want to remember, plus turning 41. Ugh.

Well, days turned into weeks and the Dreyfuss sightings stopped. Cold. Nothing. I was dreading seeing the neighbors who would sing out, "Hey, ever find that cat?" And I'd just shake my head and fight back the tears. Don't Give Up Hope.

Two days before Christmas, my husband wanted to know if I'd like a new cat as a gift. "No," I said, "I want Dreyfuss or no cat at all." That night I got in the shower and allowed myself to cry and I told myself it was time to move on. It was 31 days, a MONTH, since he'd snuck out when I'd opened the back door. I was making myself crazy and I was not going to sulk during the holidays.

That night, Dec. 23, almost 'twas the night before Christmas...the phone rang and a neighbor two doors south had Dreyfuss. Or so she said. I sent my husband with the cat carrier as I was "moving on" and this was another sighting.

I had the merriest Christmas ever. Dreyfuss, skinny, bedraggled, bewildered, but loving, happy and unhurt had been hanging at the neighbor's house (who has an outdoor cat) looking for food. He jumped onto my lap and rubbed his head on my leg, my arm, my chest, then he jumped on my husband's lap and did the same thing, then back to me, then back and forth for an hour. I think it was his way of saying "I missed you two! Where have you been?"

The Champagne I'd gotten for my birthday that we had placed in the refrigerator for another time- - -my husband cracked it open 10 minutes after we brought Dreyfuss home. It tasted so sweet!

He's been home where he belongs for over 10 days now and I sleep better, but most importantly, so does sweet, baby Dreyfuss.

What did I learn? Don't Give Up Hope. Neighbors see a dog not on leash, they think he's lost. Neighbors see a cat, they think it's someone's outdoor cat. You have to let people know...alot. Not once. Keep bugging them and reminding them that the cat's still loose. Go door to door. Posting flyers is too passive. The other thing I learned is track the house nearby, especially the ones who have cats! It's unbelievable to me that I have him back. He was east, north, south (probably even west) of our house and he still couldn't find us...Don't Give Up Hope.

Carol & Dreyfuss, Tampa, Florida