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Jace, a cross-breed Maine Coon is the focus of this story. Rescued and adopted off the street by a first-time cat owner, who then allowed a vet to persuade her to not only neuter Jace but also do a front paw declaw at the same time.
Jace’s story might have ended where he went home to recover after the surgeries and lived happily ever after. But, that was not to be. One day his safe little world changed, and he found himself suddenly uprooted, living at the home of his owner’s boyfriend along with two cats and three boisterous dogs. Jace was not happy with these living arrangements. It didn’t take long for him to realize this is not how he wished to live.
One day, Jace found his escape out of a window. One of the dogs had pried up a screen in the window leaving a huge hole. Jace was able to wiggle out of the hole. He was free! His owner, realizing what had happened, rushed outside and found him. Scooping him up, she began to take him back inside, when the dogs inside the house began to bark. Jace struggled against her grip and suddenly he was able to break free. Scooting across the street, he slid under a parked van. By the time his owner made it across the street, Jace had vanished!
Feeling that Jace would surely return by dinnertime, his owner returned to her home where she repaired the window screen. (Any time a cat escapes his home, you should always try leaving that escape hatch open, so the cat can return the same way). It is one way of getting your cat back. But now, Jace’s home was cut off from him; and so his story begins…
The Search for Jace
As dusk rapidly approached with no sight of the Maine Coon mix, the boyfriend decided to call out a search party. Family members were contacted and came over to the home. Strange cars and people that Jace didn’t really know were now filling up his yard beating the bushes and calling for him. This activity only added to the confusion of the cat and is it likely that he went farther away to a calmer place.
At no sign of the cat in the following days, fliers soon went up, distributed throughout the neighborhood.
The website www.lostapet.org was found and through surfing the website Shannon (the mom to Jace’s owner) stumbled on a link to a website run by a pet detective by the name of Carl Washington. Shannon decided to call Mr. Washington to see if he could help.
When Mr. Washington is contacted about a missing pet, the first thing he does is obtain information from the person about the pet. Then he drafts out a profile. Looking at various maps of the area, both aerial and geographical he sends out this profile along with the following tips:
1. Sprinkle dry dog food up and down the block close to the curb line
This will bring the cat out of hiding and into the street lights where he can easily be seen by other people. The odor of dry dog food carries farther than dry cat food does and cats will generally come out and investigate.
Don’t throw down a lot of food, just a little, and spread it out, so the cat has to work to get enough to eat.
Put fliers up near the trial of the food so people know what your cat looks like and will be on the lookout. *Always keep current photos of your cats in the event that they do get outside. If you can, show full-body shots and not just headshots.*
2. Take canned cat food (commonly called wet food) and open a few cans
While walking the dog food trail, take the canned food and fling it down near the fences and lawns, so it spreads out on the ground. Make sure it is widely spread out. The cat needs to be out long enough to hunt for it and be “spotted” by someone. Don’t fling the food in the street or near the street, otherwise, the cat is in danger of getting hit by a car. Spread about three cans every block this way, work only at night, when the cats typically come out to hunt and eat.
3. Make up extra-large posters with photos of your cat
Put them on the sides of your car. Use the plastic strapping tape to attach the photos/posters to your car (any residual adhesive leftover can be taken off by using rubbing alcohol). Park your car at a busy corner during rush hour. Bring a container of coffee to keep you alert. Have a pen, pencil and paper handy, and put your emergency flashers on. Sit there about an hour-and-a-half during the morning, noon and evening rush hour. Early morning commuters will now be on the alert for your cat.
Failed Search Attempts
Mr. Washington’s initial profile cost $60.00 His statistics show that these profiles where he has marked the most likely spots your cat is hiding are quite accurate. If your cat is not found quickly after following all his detailed instructions to the letter, Mr. Washington will be available by appointment only for hire.
Shannon followed Carl Washington’s advice on the profile, but Jace stayed well-hidden. So Shannon placed a phone call and hired Carl to come and aid in the search.
This would not be Carl’s last trip in this quest to find Jace, but when he arrived initially, he immediately began to take charge of the process. He placed two large posters of Jace on the sides of his truck, and using special floodlights, he lit the panels of the truck up to call more attention to the cat. Along with his dogs, he and Shannon began to knock on neighbor’s doors, showing the photos and asking if they had seen Jace. In the first twenty-four hours with only three hours of sleep, Carl and his team began a relentless hunt for this cat.
Carl’s team consists of his two top tracking dogs: CoCo a brown miniature Poodle (highly trained in scent detection) and Rocky, a Jack Russell Terrier (trained to listen to even the slightest of sounds).
With Shannon to accompany the team, the group set out, knocking on people’s doors, trying to gain permission for the team to get into the properties and look for Jace. One property that was gated off (Carl told me later in a phone interview) held his interest. The woman who owned the property also had dogs and she would not allow the group to enter.
The home was close enough within the circle that Carl is sure that Jace was holed up there, scared by the woman’s dogs and unable to move. Most of the other people within the area were helpful and accommodating. Some even brought out coffee and treats for the weary team!
There were several people who “thought” they had seen him, but Jace remained elusive and the first trip out was unsuccessful. After three full days and two nights, Carl called it quits and headed with his team back home.
Shannon did not give up. Certain that Jace was out there and needed her help, she began pounding the pavement with posters talking to anyone she could, asking them if they had seen him. She made up new fliers and had them laminated and gave one poster to every house on the block.
As she went door-to-door she found three people within a certain radius, who informed her that they had seen Jace! Already leery of false leads, Shannon questioned each person carefully. They were able to identify the cat’s unique markings on his back and on his sides. He had been seen pursued by another cat of the same coloring just south of the railroad tracks. Shannon rushed home and put in another call to Carl Washington. For the second time, Carl and his team headed out.
Again the routine, baiting the streets with cat and dog food, knocking on doors, setting up posters and the second search began. At the end of the third day, Jace was spotted — once again being pursued by a cat that looked remarkably similar. At Carl’s command, the dogs gave chase, but it had rained twenty-four hours earlier, and the cats and the scent vanished.
The team combed the area, but once again Jace had managed to elude them. Carl packed up the next day and headed home. Shannon was heartbroken but still determined to do all she could to help Jace.
Now, she stepped out of the box, this time she contacted a local animal communicator who agreed to tap into Jace.
The communicator told Shannon that Jace had escaped from the home because the home was too chaotic and he couldn’t handle it anymore. He had hidden and would stay in hiding. He did not want to go back to the home he had escaped from. Through a series of sessions, the communicator informed Jace that if he went back to the garage and into one of the three traps in there and waited for Shannon, she would then take Jace home to live with her and her six cats.
Shannon had the communicator make a promise to the cat that she would never let him live in that house again. Three days later, Jace appeared in one of the traps!
He was immediately rushed to the vet. Underweight and dehydrated he sported a few marks on him from battles fought while out in the world. Matted fur and dull coat, he was tested for all the known diseases, given subcutaneous fluids, food and his mats were removed. He had gone from a robust 17.6 pounds to 11.6 pounds. After the visit, Jace went home to live with Shannon and her family.
For three months she cared for him, and loved him, trying to make up for all he had suffered. She took him back to the vets at the three-month mark to get a re-check. During that visit, he tested positive for FeLV. The test had shown a strong positive 4 minutes into a 10-minute test. He was re-tested one more time to be sure, with the results boldly showing up quickly.
Shannon knew then with a heavy heart that he had reached the end of his journey. On the vet’s gentle recommendation, Jace was euthanized on June 10, 2004, ninety days after being found. He fell to sleep, peacefully resting in the arms of Shannon, the one person who truly loved him.
Author’s note: Since the time this story was relayed to me, I have struggled to write it. I could not understand how the actual owner of this cat could not have taken more of an active role in the recovery process. I wanted to write the story as accurately as I could, without passing any judgment or having readers do the same. I have since been told that this sad episode which occurred left an indelible mark on Jace’s original owner. She now dedicates her spare time working at the local humane society. She has since adopted five cats and is caring for them responsibly in her home.
Shannon informs me she misses Jace every day. She says she doesn’t know why she cared so deeply for her daughter’s cat (after all she has six of her own to worry about) she just CARED! She felt she had a mission to accomplish, to bring the cat home. I am sure one day in the future Jace will be thanking her for that unconditional love.
Written by Mary Anne Miller
Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer and member of the Cat Writers’ Association. She is a web copywriter, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne on her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.
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