After plastering flyers around the neighborhood, posting on all the state’s lost pet forums and Craigslist, setting out a humane cat trap, updating my contact information with Home Again microchip, and going on daily walks with my dog through the area, I decided to hire a cat detection canine to look for Lomé.
Because 10 days had passed since Lomé was lost, his scent wasn’t strong enough for a sniffing dog to track. Instead, we used a dog trained to point at any cat or cat-related scents in the area. For $250 and three hours of service, Mu-the-Cat-Detection-Dog combed the vast ravine into which Lomé bolted two weeks ago. There are no trails through this ravine, which made slogging through it unpleasant. Western Washington is a beautiful place to hike on groomed trails, but its dense underbrush consists of thorny blackberry bushes, rotting tree limbs, ferns galore, dense ivy and ankle-turning holes made by mountain beavers. I love hiking and camping, but wading through this mossy jungle for hours was not a blast.
After more than an hour of searching, Mu led us to an open area with flattened vegetation that had lots of white fur on it. Mu’s human handler said it looked like Lomé may have taken a recent nap at this spot. He also said it was possible that a coyote had consumed Lomé as a meal here, but we couldn’t be sure until the area is sprayed with Luminol, which detects trace amounts of blood as it reacts with iron found in hemoglobin. The tricky part of luminol is that it must be sprayed in pitch black darkness. This ravine was difficult enough to navigate in broad daylight – I’m not looking forward to clambering through the thicket in darkness to test for the presence of blood on this patch of Lomé’s fur.
On the northeast side of the ravine is a new neighborhood with nice homes. Mu indicated that there was cat activity in this neighborhood, so we emerged filthy from the forest to inspect people’s yards. I awkwardly knocked on a door and asked an elderly man holding a white poodle if we could comb his yard for a lost cat. He seemed skeptical of me, which made sense given my disheveled, ravine-ravaged appearance. Mu inspected this home’s fire wood pile and under the deck, but no sign of Lomé.
Down a small street, behind two large, luxurious homes was what appeared to be a hoarder’s house. It backed into a stream at the bottom of the ravine, and had a yard overflowing with toilets, firewood, sandblasted 80’s-era cars on cinder blocks, aluminum ladders in abundance, copious cans of paint, and myriad other dilapidated items I can’t imagine anyone being able to use up in a lifetime.
Mu indicated that this pseudo trash heap was a treasure trove of cat smells, so I nervously knocked on the door. No answer. I wandered around looking for the homeowner to request permission for Mu to inspect. I finally found him and he said we could look around, although he warned me that the ravine’s ravenous coyote population probably ate Lomé. I told him that Mu was trained to find both living and dead cats – I was just seeking closure, even if that meant finding Lomé’s remains.
We did not find Lomé’s remains, but Mu did find an open area full of bones. Most were very old as evidenced by their white porousness, but a few femur bones seemed somewhat “fresh”. Based on their length – approximately 8 inches – we determined that they couldn’t be Lomé’s. Nonetheless, it seemed obvious that a predator had been using this area as a dining room.
After more than three hours of trolling the ravine and the neighborhood, Mu seemed tired – I certainly was – so we called it quits. The next step will be spraying Luminol on the patch of white fur Mu found – it should arrive later this week.
Despite the fact that Mu didn’t locate Lomé on this outing, it was helpful to know that a cat-detection dog didn’t see him stuck in a tree or find his remains. I need to feel like I’m doing everything possible to make sure Lome isn’t hiding or hurt somewhere nearby. The flyers we put up haven’t resulted in any calls to report sightings of Lomé, which is odd considering how obvious he is as a white cat.
If you live in on Seattle’s Eastside (Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah) and have seen a solid-white cat, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. He was last seen at 16200 SE Eastgate Way.