Max in bed

Everyone told me that you could train a cat to ‘camp’, so we purchased a leash and harness on a Friday morning, and headed to the Riverside State Park in Spokane , Washington where my husband Andy was participating in a

24-hour mountain bike race. Max had been doing great in our living room-sized tent, equipped with his litter box, scratching post and toys, and I had lots of fun playing with him. He was the star side-attraction of the camp. But around 2:00am on Sunday morning things started to deteriorate, especially me.

For the first time, Max was acting restless in the tent. I was concerned that he might be cold, so I unzipped the top of the door and bent down to add a tent heater to his environment. That was when disaster struck. Max leapt out over my back and slipped out of reach. I yelled for help, and with two other men had him cornered under a truck; but Max was able to escape out the other side of the van. I chased him until he disappeared into the night under a dark ocean of tall trees. I called and called.

No Max.

We searched and searched through the sea of tents and RVs and into the dark woods nearby. Andy believed he spotted Max once, but he darted away. After much fruitless searching we went back to the tent and slept a short time.

My world, for the moment, had caved in – my baby was out where I couldn’t help or protect him, and I felt responsible.

On Monday evening we made a long, sad trip back to Seattle . We had some very deep talks about priorities – our suffering was forcing on us a kind of spiritual growth.

I was just numb, but for the next few days I swung into action – on the computer. I contacted every lost pet web site, every pet prayer site (yes, they exist!) and resource I could find to help Max. That’s how I found a real Pet Detective, Melody Pugh. She immediately took on our problem with the concern and commitment of a family member, and she gave us great advice about how to proceed. Armed with her information and the phone # of a Pet Communicator, Annette Betcher, I returned to Spokane on Thursday.

For the duration of my stay in Spokane I made frequent calls to both Melody and Annette. They held my hand, gave me hope, and helped me think of strategies.

The trap left in the neighbor’s yard got a skunk in it, and it took me hours to locate a small company that could release it. When they didn’t show up, Mr. Smith went and did it himself. That incident ended the trap strategy. I then focused on designing posters and flyers according to specs provided on Melody’s web site. For telephone poles I had about 50 posters laminated which contained minimal information – large and easy to read by a passing car or pedestrian. For the flyers to be left on people’s doorstep I included more detailed information about how to look for Max around a home – signs that indicate a cat has taken up residence, and places cats like to hide. Both included one or more pictures of Max. Both contained visual heart-felt appeals. The next weekend Andy and I returned together and put the posters on poles and fences all around the park, and the flyers on neighbors’ doorsteps. . We each went to different areas and looked and called for Max. No luck. My feelings fluctuated between helpless despair and aggressive, righteous determination. At the end of the weekend, we could only say goodbye to the neighbors and return to Seattle .

Five very long months passed. . .

and then. . .

on August 18 th a series of miracles happened. Andy and I had gone once again back to Spokane to search for Max. I rested for a few minutes in the truck, and decided to make a phone call. There was a voice mail message on my phone from Max's breeder. She said there was a woman named Kit who had just called to say that she had Max! Kit had just returned from vacation that very day and on her way home saw for the first time one of my laminated posters, now faded, but readable. Kits house sitter, Dianna, had adopted a friendly stray cat while they were gone. From the poster she had just seen, Kit was certain it was Max. I called Kit and left the park to go to their little farm

- about 3-4 miles west of where we lost him.

Dianna had spotted Max in an open hay barn. He started to bolt, then turned around, looked at her, and just "melted" (her words). He wouldn't come up to her right away, but walked all around and on beams over her, talking with loud 'meows'. She brought him some food, which he devoured, then he was all over her. Diana took him inside the house. She placed Max in the art studio of Kit’s husband.

I was anxious to see if the kitty was actually our Max, that I left my husband behind and drove out to Kits home. When I arrived I walked in the room, and there was my Max!!

I picked him up, and started to cry. He was purring, and hugging me and kneading my shoulders - all his beautiful little mannerisms intact.

I drove back to the park to get Andy. He was so surprised and thrilled to see I had Max!!

Many people and creatures have been inspired and helped by Max’s story. Due to the love, prayers and constant efforts of so many, it had a happy ending. I hope and pray that yours will too!

I can never express the gratitude I feel for Melody Pugh and Annette Betcher. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it past the first couple of weeks with my heart intact;

and without Melody’s excellent practical advice, I would never have found our beautiful Max.

Thank you,

Andy – Janet - & Max

Max safely home