We were just finishing the visit and I thought I’d take Tuxedo out to the car. But instead of carrying him out, I let him walk out on the leash.
Big mistake - -
As soon as we were outside the clinics door a car pulled up. This frightened Tuxedo. He tried to run, but I held the leash tightly. Almost at the same time, a BIG dog came of the clinic. Then a second car pulled in the lot scaring Tuxedo even more. I could see how terrified he was so I bent down to pick him up, but in doing so my grip on the leash loosened and he bolted away from me!
I chased him through the tall grass surrounding a small pond in the back of the clinic, but once he reached the woods on the other side I couldn’t see him anymore.
By this time I was in a pure state of panic. I wanted to go back inside and get my husband Greg to help, but I didn’t want to leave Tuxedo, so I just waited, calling for him until Greg came out. My husband went to the far side of the woods where a road leads into a neighborhood, and sure enough, Tuxedo found his way out, but as soon as he saw Greg he headed back into the woods. We spent two or three hours in the swamp and woods behind the clinic calling for Tuxedo, but never saw him again. Not knowing what else to do, we reluctantly headed home and went to work making up lost fliers.
There’s almost a half mile of woods to the east of the clinic, a large park with soccer fields and a big pond behind it, and a wooded lot bordering the west side. Behind the soccer fields and the woods on to the west are two small neighborhoods, so we focused on posting our fliers there. We placed an ad in the paper, went to the pound to file a report, and checked out a live trap, which we set at the clinic.
We’d look at all the surrounding woods and just felt helpless, like we were going to be looking for a needle in a haystack. Tuxedo likes being outside, but as he’s gotten older he sticks pretty much to our yard, and now he was 6 miles from home, not knowing where he is! On top of it all, Tuxedo is 17 years old, and although he’s generally very healthy, his age contributed to him getting sick from his vaccines the year before. We did the vaccine differently this year to avoid that happening again, but we couldn’t help but worry about him having another reaction.
While searching for Tuxedo we hadn’t found the leash that had been attached. Greg was so very worried that it was still attached to Tuxedo and that he might hang himself on something. Greg’s being so worried about the leash still being attached to Tuxedo . . . that started to get me to worrying about that too, even though I knew Tux slipped out of it.
The next morning, Greg went to check the trap. Inside was a cat that looked just like Tuxedo, but he couldn’t tell for sure, partly because the cat was pretty scraped up, including being scalped. The cat looked so much like Tuxedo that they weighed him to see if it was the same. But this cat was 2 pounds heavier, and he didn’t have tuxedo’s moustache.
Trapping the wrong cat was very emotionally hard . . . When Greg first arrived, he was so happy, only to have it really hit him that Tuxedo was “Still” lost.
That first weekend was terrible. All we could think of was our lost Tuxedo, and what a hole there was in our household. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and Sproutie, who is Tuxedo’s litter mate, just kept crying and even howled at night.
Every morning we’d go out to check the trap, walk through the woods on both sides, tapping on a can (which normally at home would have him coming to see what I had for him to eat) and calling for him, with no luck.
We went to the pound two or three times a day and I kept going back to sit behind the clinic, just hoping Tux would appear there so I could take him home. I didn’t know what else to do, but felt like I had to do something.
And so began our long search . . . .
A few days into our search we received a call from someone who spotted a cat in her neighborhood, northeast of the clinic, in the direction of our house! For the first time in days, we felt a little hope, and thought he was trying to find his way home. I posted fliers in that neighborhood and got another call telling me exactly where he was hanging out. I drove over to move the trap and just as I was leaving, , , I saw him. He came right into my arms. But . . . once again, we had a Tuxedo look-alike. I later learned how rare it is for a cat to find its way home once it’s been lost in unfamiliar area.
We spent two weeks trapping all around the clinic, with only one call from the neighborhood. The caller, Rhonda, said a cat matching Tuxedo’s description used to come around her yard regularly, and although she hadn’t seen him for a couple months, he resurfaced a few days after we lost Tuxedo. At first we thought it was probably a neighborhood cat, especially since he had been around before we lost Tux. But then we got a call from someone else in the neighborhood with a spotting, so we moved the trap to this area. A week later, we received another call from Rhonda. She told us the cat she had seen was back in her area. She and her family had seen him in her yard, coming from their wood pile with a mouse in his mouth. We were out of town when the call from Rhonda came in and since we hadn’t yet returned her call, she left out some tuna for him that night and he came back for it. As soon as we arrived home and heard her message, we went right over to show her a picture of Tux, and she thought for sure Tux was the kitty they were seeing. Rhonda, her husband Bruce, and their kids were so helpful, and gave us much hope. They let us set the trap in their yard and one day when I was sitting out hoping Tuxedo would come out, Rhonda brought me a magazine article about a Pet Detective, Melody Pugh. Rhonda offered to let me spray urine around her house as described on in Melody’s article. I went to Melody’s website, but while there I only ‘skimmed’ through it. We had convinced ourselves that this most recent sighting was our Tuxedo, and that he was eating and it would only be a matter of time.
Almost a week went by without another sighting, but then we got a late night call from Bruce, saying he just saw the cat run across from his yard into the neighbor’s yard. We decided not to go out, figuring that by the time we drove across town, the cat would already be gone. We also hadn’t talked to the neighbors and didn’t know how they’d feel about us lurking around their yard in the middle of the night. We went out the next day and learned that the neighbor had shooed the kitty off of her porch that morning. And while we were kicking ourselves for not talking to them sooner, we felt like we were closing in on Tux. It motivated us to talk to the other neighbors along that street, and to put out a second trap. Nearly all of them said they had seen the cat walking the fences, and one man said he found the cat in his shed one morning, but hadn’t seen him for a few days. He said if we didn’t have any luck within the next couple days, we could bring the trap over to his place. We moved the trap to his place, and the very next morning he called saying he got him. We were so excited driving over, but nervous too. Going after this cat had given us so much hope that we didn’t even allow ourselves to think about it not being him, but now we were reaching the moment of truth. And once again, we got a look-alike; this kitty was closer in appearance than any of the others. The man who called us wouldn’t believe it wasn’t Tuxedo, but the first thing I looked for was the little white moustache, and this cat didn’t have one.
With no more leads and no idea where to even look, we were devastated.
That night we picked up the other trap, said our thanks, and goodbyes to Rhonda and her family. Even though we got the wrong cat, the time we spent going after him had been filled with hope. But we still hadn’t found our Tux.
For the first time since that first weekend he was lost, I went home and cried.
Renewed Hope . . .
In my desperation, I went back to Melody’s website and sent her an email asking for help, or at least some suggestions on where to even look. She wrote back the same day and told me to call her.
Melody talked to me for almost an hour, giving me advice and direction, and repeating a lot of the information on her website that I had just “skimmed” through without giving it the attention I should have.
Melody was so encouraging, and sounded so certain that Tuxedo would still be within a quarter mile of the clinic that I started feeling hopeful again.
I printed up a new round of fliers, according to Melody’s directions this time around, and started going door to door with them as she had explained to me to do.
While on my rounds I ran into Rhonda and told her I had spoken with the Pet Detective from the article she gave me, and we were back to looking in their neighborhood. Rhonda said “You know, “everything happens for a reason”. If you hadn’t been looking for your kitty, I probably wouldn’t have even read that article. I don’t even get that magazine. I picked it up from the recycling center when I took a load down there.” After she told me that, I just knew we were going to find him.
The next night I got a call from someone saying she was taking a cab home and a cat started to head out from the woods behind the clinic, but darted back in when he saw the cab. I met her there and she pointed to the same spot we had last seen Tuxedo. I set the trap there, but struck out again.
The following evening I decided I was going on a Tuxedo stake out. I parked my car across from the woods; staring at the spot he was last seen.
I was just about to leave for the night when Tux went darting from my side of the street into the woods!
Even though I only saw him from the side and back and at a bit of a distance, I recognized his run and had no doubt it was him. I walked the perimeter of the woods, tapping on a food can, calling him and talking to him, but he still wouldn’t come out. I place fresh food in the trap, and left some food outside of the trap, hoping it would help lure him in.
I wrote Melody the next morning to tell her I had seen him, and once again, she called me to me tell what I would need to do to get him to come out. She told me I had been giving up too quickly each time and to stay put the next time.
Because of all the activity in the area, I knew I wouldn’t have enough undisturbed time to bring him out until the weekend, so I planned to focus on the trap until then. When I went back that night, I noticed the food outside my trap hadn’t been touched, so I moved the trap about 20 feet, to where I thought he went in, and where it looked like the tall grass was bending into a path. The next morning the towel over the trap looked like it had been pulled to one side.
At first I thought it was probably one of the soccer kids messing with it, but as I got closer it looked like the trap was sprung! We had so many false starts that I tried to prepare myself to find an empty trap or a squirrel, but when I reached the trap I got hissed at, so I knew there was a cat inside.
With my heart pounding, I slowly lifted the towel and called to him.
The hissing was immediately replaced with crying.
It was our Tuxedo!
After 48 days and three look-alikes we finally had our Tuxedo back!
I can’t even begin to express what it felt like at that moment.
Even though we never gave up, we can hardly believe we really got him back. We are overwhelmed not just with the joy of having Tuxedo back, but by the caring and concern of the many people who helped us reach this point. The calls we got kept us looking and led us here. And of course, we can’t thank Melody enough. Without her help, we never would have found Tuxedo. “I only wish I had called her right away”.
To anyone reading this who is looking for their own missing pet, there are three things I can’t stress enough: First, read the information on this site thoroughly or call Melody, and don’t make the mistake of thinking your pet won’t behave differently from it’s usual once it becomes lost. It may be comforting to you to think it won’t, but this thinking will not help you find your pet. Secondly, you must go door to door with the fliers, and follow Melody’s advice as to what to include on them. I learned first hand the difference this made. So many people told me they had seen a cat like that, but they either ignored or hadn’t seen the fliers I posted. One man even told me he looked at the cat, went over and looked at the flier on the pole and said “yup, that’s him,” but he never called me! The content on your flier can mean the difference between getting a call about your pet or not getting one. Finally, don’t ever give up, no matter what anyone tells you.
The day after we found Tuxedo I went back to the neighborhood and wrote “FOUND” on all the posters. So many people had called and I wanted to let them know we had been successful in our search for Tux.
As I was doing this, a man called to me from his yard, saying “I hate to tell you this, but if you haven’t found him by now, you’re not going to.”
You can’t imagine how big my smile was when I told him . . .
“We just did”.
Michelle, Greg, & Tuxedo.