|The infamous "Lost Cat" flyer that papered the community of Greeley Hill.|
It brought back all of the memories that simultaneously tragic, comical and endless summer looking for him and so I thought I would share the story...
In the summer of 2009 my family opened a bed & breakfast outside of Yosemite National Park. I moved up there (six hours from where I live the rest of the year) and brought my cat with me. On the first day we were there my 9-year-old Los Angeles living indoor only kitty, confused by the car ride and the commotion of the people of the bed and breakfast got out. We are not sure how it happened but we believe that the screen door did not get tightly shut and out Buddy went in the night. So my 3 lb pampered city kitty disappeared into the big bad unknown of Yosemite.
I was frantic. I combed the woods, calling his name. Actually he is a she...its complicated. Nine years earlier my dad and I found him in an intersection seconds after he had been run over by a car. He was about a month old, fit in the palm of my hand and had a tire mark and fur missing where the car had run over him. But, after an immediate trip to the vet he was pronounced to be a boy and his injuries were classified as merely flesh wounds. I took him home and nursed him back to health, he immediately took to my mom and grandma and snuggled up with them while I was away at school and settled into his cushy little life. A few months later he went into heat and began rubbing himself up against my dogs who were very confused. Thus, we knew it was actually a girl. But by then the name Buddy Lee had stuck and we figured it really didn't matter if we called her "he" and the legend was born.
|My Mom wrote on all of the flyers that Buddy was the victim of a gender identity crisis...|
So anyway, Buddy is precious and he sleeps wrapped around your neck like a stole. He is just the best and we all love him and the idea of him being lost in the woods was too much to bare. I immediately drove to the ranch and feed supply store in town and bought humane traps for catching raccoons, foxes and coyotes. Then I began baiting the traps with sardines and salmon and every night before dusk going out into the woods and setting the traps. In a week I caught seven foxes, one squirrel and pissed off one bear who was too big to get in and snatch the salmon. Luckily our nearest neighbor up here, Tom Jenkins, the man, the legend, a seventh generation cattle rancher and descendent of the founder of our town of 115 people, father of the first soldier killed in the Iraq War, and owner of the most valuable Angus bull in the United States (apparently it has the largest testicles and most virile sperm in the Western United States), likes the foxes to keep the gopher population down so I was able to do him a solid and take the foxes over to his ranch and release them. So I very quickly became a valued member of local ranching community and was asked to be the queen of the La Grange rodeo the following April. (I declined the offer but was flattered all the same).
Anyway, after my trapping failed to produce Buddy Lee and two weeks had passed, I got desperate....so desperate I hired a pet detective. Yes, they exist and yes I know, you are laughing and cringing at the same time. I first contacted Carl Washington, Pet Detective, who is basically a backwoods tracker in rural Georgia who when not searching out corpses in the bayous for the police uses his hounds to track the scent of your lost pet. He is a giant African American man, in a booney hat who I am convinced was the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr. when he was creating his character Sgt. Lincoln Osiris in "Tropic Thunder." Unfortunately Mr. Washington could not get out from Georgia to our place to track Buddy Lee so he suggested that I try another pet detective in California. I was next put in touch with Annalisa Berns, owner, operator and founder of Pet Search and Rescue based out of LA. She told me that she could find my Buddy Lee and would be up the next day with her highly skilled search and rescue dogs for $2,500. "Two and a half grand?!?" I blurted out. "Yes, but typically when we search out an animal after three weeks, the animal is deceased, so time is of the essence," she replied. I got sick at the thought of that and seeing how devastated my mom was by Buddy's disappearance I said "Okay...get up here as soon as you can."
She required payment up front and then drove up so I wired her the money and within eight hours she was at my door with her five dogs. I heard the knock and when I opened the door...I knew I had made a mistake. She was standing in front of me in a day-glow orange jumpsuit with reflective stripes and the words "Pet Search and Rescue" emblazoned on the back. If that wasn't ridiculous enough her high trained scent search dog was a pug with an eye patch. A pirate pug? They can't even breath let alone sniff out another animal. But I decided I had paid her and I was going to stay open minded. I put her and her "driver" and the five search dogs up in the downstairs suite of the B&B and fed them. The next morning she said she was going to go out and do her area search. Basically it looked just like a Cal-Trans worker taking their fat little dog for a walk. After 20 minutes she came back and got me and said she had found Buddy's remains. I followed her down this little trail about 75 feet from the house and there in the middle of the hiking trail were two organs...a kidney and a liver. There was no blood and there was no ant activity and the organs were moist in 107 degree weather. I stopped and said out loud, "A cat kidney and a liver? That's odd isn't it?" She assured me it was completely normal and that she finds organs all the time, that is how she identifies people's pets. I was suspicious but she was insistent that it was completely normal and was pretty certain it was my cat which meant that it must have just happened hours before . She suggested I take the organs to a vet to have them identified as feline. If I had not been so emotional I would have questioned her but I knew they were cat organs because they were just like the ones we dissected back in high school. She decided to take the rest of the day off to let me grieve and went into Yosemite. While she was gone and I was crying in my soup feeling guilt and anguish over Buddy it occurred to me...wait a second...those organs did look just like specimens and there is no way a wild animal would leave a perfectly intact pair of organs in the middle of the road. So then I started investigating. I found a place on the internet that sells cat organs for research and then I looked up the website of her "search and rescue partner" and her website had testimonial of person after person who were so thankful that Annalisa had brought them closure and identified their lost pet by internal organ remains. I ran back to the place where she had found the organs and collected them...as I suspected they smelled of formalin. Long story short...I was getting furious at this point and I was on to her con. I spent the rest of the day pacing waiting for her to get back so I could give her a piece of my mind.
When she walked in the door I confronted her and with righteous indignation she said, "You are insulting me with your questioning of my integrity as a pet detective!" At that moment it occurred to me that never before in the history of the English language has more ridiculous words been spoken. "Get Out!" I replied, and she was packed up and gone in under fifteen minutes. I thought my Dad was going to kill her and frankly I think she thought that too. :-)
Another month and a half passed and still there was no sign of my precious Buddy. I was losing hope every day. Luckily I had the constant influx of guests to distract me. One guest who was a 600 lb man with the Chinese mail order bride who ate 7 1/2 lbs of bacon at one breakfast service was the best distraction of all.
Then one day I got a call from Gretchen the mail lady who thought that she and her husband had found Buddy living under their barn. She said she would call me when her husband got back and we could come over and pick him up. I was ecstatic but then when 12 hours passed and we received no word from them I decided to drive over there and look under their barn. Their house is about two miles away and set way back into the woods. I took my flashlight, nobody seemed to be home, so I decided to start poking around under their barn. I did find a cat, that sort of looked like Buddy but it was a big tomcat with large testicles...apparently drinking the same water as Tom Jenkin's prize bull. Sweet Gretchen had erroneously assumed that the cat I named Buddy Lee and referred to as a male was indeed a male and not a neutered little girl cat.
For two months solid I trapped in the forest hoping to find Buddy and I basically trapped every single fox in the area save for this one big old one with a split ear and a broken tail shaped like a lightening rod. He really looked like a cartoon villain and no matter how many traps I set out or how many different fox delicacies I baited them with I couldn't catch him. He was so smart he even started walking up to the security cameras around the property and looking in the lens...as if to taunt me. He would also stroll around the driveway in broad daylight looking at me through the window as if to say, "Yeah, I'm bad...do something about!" I really grew to hate this fox...especially for the fact that in my isolated world up here I was being driven to the point of believing a fox was my arch nemesis. But the final straw came when I opened my curtains one morning to find a fox poop on the wall right outside my window. It was his calling card...and I was shaking my fist in the air at him.
I realized that I was losing my mind. I was living in a town of 115 people, talking animal tracking with the cattle ranchers at the saloon in town, paying money to a pet detective and getting riled up over a sly old fox. Oh and get this...I had stopped wearing nail polish and begun looking forward to trips to Wal-Mart to buy new shirts. I decided it was time to mourn the loss of my cat, and reclaim my old self...when there on the security cameras was a live feed of my cat Buddy chasing a butterfly down by the creek. He was alive after 63 days in the woods! I immediately pitched a tent in the little area where I had seen him hunting bugs and began hanging out down there a few minutes every day. Then, armed with new knowledge of animal trapping I baited a large trap with a whole rotisserie chicken. A week later I had him back. He was skin and bones and covered in blackberry thorns but no worse for the wear. Now he is back safe and sound and the local paper even came out and did a story on "Buddy Lee the Wonder Cat of Yosemite" The byline read, "City slicker cat survives two months in the wilds of the Stanislaus, becoming a living legend in Mariposa County." I personally felt they should have given Buddy Lee the keys to city.
Now, a year a half later, I have my little Buddy Lee back and the distinct pleasure of burning all of those awful "Lost Cat" posters. So today, I officially close the book on the saga of Buddy Lee the lost kitty...
|The flyers are committed to the fire...|
Buddy Lee sunning himself in the window this afternoon...