The Rescue of Cyrano (Little Boy Lost)
On New Years Eve 2002, my ex-husband called to tell me that Cyrano, the young cat I had rescued as a tiny kitten, had wandered out of his apartment when the door had accidentally been left open, and had been lost in the complex for five days. This might not have been a crisis situation for most cats, but Cyrano had a giant disadvantage because he was completely blind and had never been outside before!
Bob adored Cyrano and was obviously upset by what had happened, but he also sounded as if he were close to giving up trying to find him. I knew he would only continue searching if I offered my help, so I began searching in the Portland rain, early in the morning on New Years Day. I searched for hours, on opposite shifts with Bob, and continued searching in the miserable weather for two days. I was convinced that he would be found, but driven by the realization that if we didn’t find him soon, our window of opportunity might be lost. Although I wasn’t terribly concerned about it at the time, Cyrano also suffered from seizure disorder, which manifested in fairly violent grand mal seizures. He had only ever had a seizure during his sleep, and I doubted he was sleeping much, wherever he was.
The complex was huge and there were several buildings that took up most of a city block. I wandered around day and night in the dark with a flashlight, checking the hedges, under cars, in the garbage alcoves and anywhere else I thought Cyrano might be able to squeeze himself. I knocked on doors and spoke to tenants whenever I saw someone. We hung flyers all around the complex, called local veterinary offices and checked with area shelters in case someone had picked him up. I also alerted the management of the complex, and spoke with maintenance workers, asking if they knew of any places where cats could get under the buildings. I wasn’t really sure if Cyrano would be able to find his way under a building, but I felt I needed to explore every possibility. Since he had never been outside before, I wasn’t really sure what he would do in the rain and cold.
After having no luck the second day, I was beginning to feel desperate. I knew Cyrano would not last long outside without food or shelter. Finally I called a friend of mine and asked for the phone number of an animal communicator she’d mentioned knowing about whose name was Linda Thomas. Although I had always been skeptical of animal communicators, I had recently started to be convinced that some people really have a gift and can actually somehow communicate with lost animals. Besides, what did I have to lose? I decided to call Illinois and see if this woman could help.
When Linda and I spoke I was on my cell phone. It was near dusk, and I was still wandering around the complex. I explained that I was looking for a lost blind cat named Cyrano. I gave her his physical description; a gray and white short haired cat. She asked what city I was calling from, and I told her I was in Portland, Oregon. She told me she would ask for Cyrano to respond to her and was silent for about a minute. I was tense with anticipation, and then she was speaking again and she told me that she was hearing only silence. Linda explained that silence worried her because it usually meant the animal she was looking for had passed away. As she spoke, the tears quietly rolled down my face, and I was silent as I grieved for what poor Cyrano must have gone through before he met his end. Suddenly a thought came to me. In a tearful, shaky voice, I asked Linda to try again. I explained that Cyrano sometimes had seizures, and because of that, he often seemed confused. I was not convinced that silence meant that Cyrano was necessarily dead.
Linda sounded saddened by my grief, but agreed to try again. She was silent for another minute, then suddenly she said, “Wait a minute, I’m getting someone but I want to make sure I have the right cat.” She said, “The Cyrano I’ve found has an aching on the right side of his head.” I quietly wondered if I had given her too much information about his seizures. The skeptic in me worried that she might have sensed my desperation and created a scenario where Cyrano was still alive, in order to relieve my obvious pain. Still, I caught my breath and kept listening. After another moment she asked, “Does Cyrano always turn around in circles to the right?” Oh my GOD! I was stunned, and the hairs on my arms stood straight up. Because of his seizures, or possibly his blindness, Cyrano had a habit of repeatedly turning around in circles, and in fact, it was only to the right. He did it all the time. I couldn’t control my excitement, and I practically shouted into the phone “That’s him!” My entire body had changed. Not only was I energized by the idea that he was still alive, but I was now very interested in everything this woman had to say. Linda was silent for another minute, then told me Cyrano was still somewhere in the complex. Ordinarily, she would ask an animal what they could see around them when they were lost, but with Cyrano, I asked her to ask him if he could smell anything. She told me that where he was, it smelled damp and musty. She said that he was cold and wet, and very hungry. I had not told her, but it was still raining. I asked her to ask if he could hear us calling for him. She told me “He says he could hear dad before, but he can’t hear him anymore.”
I stayed on the phone with her for over an hour trying to follow the vague leads she was apparently getting from Cyrano. She told me he had wandered out of the apartment and turned right, following along a concrete wall. When I followed the path she said he had traveled, I ran into a set of concrete stairs that lead up to a path with a railing. Either way I turned lead to another staircase that went to the next floor up. The complex was three stories high. The staircases and paths were outside, with open air on the sides of the railing. The floor plan of the staircases reminded me of the famous optical illusion painting of staircases that all lead nowhere. I had never seen Cyrano attempt to climb stairs, and I would look down through the railings and cringe at the idea that he might have fallen through to the ground below. I continued searching without finding a single lead until it was dark and I was chilled to the bone and too tired to continue any longer.
On January 3rd, I e-mailed our Indigo Rescue group asking for help. I believed if we could organize a search party we would be able to cover more area and speak to more of the tenants who may have seen Cyrano over the past week. I asked Linda Thomas if she would try to reach Cyrano on the morning of the day we were scheduled to begin searching. I wanted her to confirm she could still reach him, and see if there were any additional pieces of information that might assist us in our search. She agreed to e-mail me if she got any additional information.
On January 4th, nine days after Cyrano had been lost, seven of us met at the apartment complex to begin searching for him. I had received an e-mail from Linda that morning, and she told me that Cyrano had moved to an area where he was now warm and dry. She said he had stopped moving around because he could hear a lot of activity around him and it made him nervous. She said that he no longer felt hungry, and he was starting not to care anymore. He was giving up. She said that this was the stage where they usually just slipped away. She said that he was not in any pain. I knew we would not have another opportunity, and I was insistent that we would find him that day.
It was a long day searching in rain and wind, but all of our “search team” were amazing troopers as we explored every corner of the huge apartment complex, that covered both sides of a city block. We knocked on doors and inquired of every person we saw along the way. We talked again to maintenance workers and tenants, and found some promising leads from as far back as New Years Eve, but still no Cyrano. A woman walking her dog said that two days prior, she had seen a woman petting a cat that appeared disoriented or confused. She didn’t know where the woman lived, but she showed me where she had seen them, on a second floor railing. Another woman who lived on the ground floor, had seen him sitting on her porch when she opened her door. She said she had reached down to pet him but he had flinched away and it frightened her, so she decided to leave him alone. She told me she had seen him again the next day, sleeping in a small concrete alcove near her apartment, that was now flooded from the rain. Each of these leads would start us searching an area again. We would pace back and forth over the area with a fine tooth comb.
During our search, we discovered a little black female cat who was very friendly. She greeted each of us and trilled and purred, rubbing against our legs. One of the maintenance men told us she had been around for months. We knocked on the door of the apartment where she seemed to run back to, and the family confirmed that she was not their cat. They said she had been abandoned by a prior tenant and was hanging around for food. We decided we couldn’t leave the cat to survive on her own there, so Sandy and Patty, two of our volunteers, made plans to take her directly to our vet. They called later and told us the kitty had a microchip, but all the phone numbers registered to the woman whose name was on the michrochip were disconnected making it impossible to find her owner.
Finally, as it approached dark, everyone started to pack it in. Claudia and I left to get some dinner and use a restroom, and while we were there we decided to continue searching with flashlights for a few more hours. We came back and continued wandering around, looking in bushes and speaking to passers by. However vague, we followed every lead we got. Sometimes people would say they had seen a cat who might match Cyrano’s description, but when we searched the area they pointed us in the direction of, we would either find nothing, or a cat that looked nothing like Cyrano. Ultimately, the leads were all dead ends and it was getting late. Finally, even Claudia, who had stuck it out all day in spite of being sick with a cold, decided to pack it in for the evening and we made plans to start again first thing in the morning.
I had decided to stay another hour or so, and just a few minutes after Claudia left, I ran into a woman and two small children who spoke only Spanish. In my broken, and somewhat pathetic Spanish, I was able to describe Cyrano and his disability. “Gris y blanco gato”, “ciego” I said, and the woman and her son suddenly got excited. They discussed something in Spanish and then told me they were sure they had seen him the night before! I asked them to show me where. They started to lead me back across the street to where they had seen him, and I quickly called Claudia on the cell phone and asked her to come back. It was the exact area we had rescued the little black female earlier in the day. My heart sunk. I asked them if they meant a black cat instead. The mother asked her son if he was sure whether it had been a black cat and he insisted it was not. He said there were two cats and he was sure the gray and white one had been there. Claudia came back, and we began searching the area again.
No luck. After another half an hour of futile searching, we finally decided again to stop searching for the night. I was devastated. We slowly worked our way out of the complex, and a few more people passed by. We asked each of them if they had seen our missing cat. The very last people we passed were a woman and two young children. We asked them the same question we had asked so many times that day, and the young girl lit up and told us her mom had seen a cat who sounded like Cyrano’s description a few nights before. We couldn’t help but get excited again, and immediately asked if we could speak to her mother.
The young girl led us up several flights of stairs, to the top floor of the complex, where we knocked on the door and asked her mom about the cat she had seen. The woman pointed and said she had seen him down one floor a few nights before, looking very confused. The young girl’s mom was apparently the woman who had been seen by the woman with the dog a few days prior, talking to a confused cat we thought might have been Cyrano. She told us she had seen him again later the same night, on her floor, but on the other side of the building, through a door. She led us to the door, where we noticed another flight of stairs that led to a dead-end maintenance hallway which accessed a ladder to the roof. In what later seemed like it must have been slow motion, we climbed that last flight of stairs that we never knew existed, and there, at the end of the hallway, laying with his back to us, was Cyrano.
I was flooded with a combination of joy and disbelief and I yelled his name. “Cyrano!” He turned his head toward us, looking very disoriented. Claudia was crying, and I rushed to him and quickly scooped him up. He didn’t struggle or make a sound as I ran down the hall, tightly clutching him to me, while cooing reassurance in his ear. We hurriedly made our way back. I wanted to get him into some light so that I could make sure whether he needed any veterinary care. When we got him home, we put food and water in front of him and he ate and drank ravenously, but surprisingly, he seemed otherwise in pretty good shape. We could tell from the look of him that his time had definitely been running out. He was definitely dehydrated and his coat looked greasy and dull.
When some of the excitement of finding him had eased, I thought back, and the place we had found Cyrano in was above all the floors of the building and all the heat had risen to that hallway making it the warmest place we had been the whole day. It was carpeted with dry commercial carpeting. The hallway was directly above the management office, where people walked in and out all day. I was struck by the realization that the place we had found Cyrano was exactly as Linda Thomas had described. He was warm and dry, and heard activity around him.
Cyrano had been missing for nine days without food or water. He had wandered all around that complex trying to find his way home, and been seen by several people along the way. After all was said and done, I would have to say the moral of this story is persistence! We shouldn’t give up on our four legged friends, no matter how hopeless it seems. I had been so frustrated after days of searching in vein, trying to gauge what a blind cat would do, how far he could travel, and whether he could navigate stairs. In the end, there he was, in a place we didn’t even know existed. I think Cyrano must have been finding water somewhere, and when those few people stopped and spoke to him, he must have been so hopeful that they would help him and so confused when they didn’t.
I know privately, very few people believed we would find Cyrano alive. If we had given up, I have no doubt in my mind that Cyrano would have died. We didn’t give up though. We kept searching even after we were exhausted and in the dark, and every minute was worth it for the joy and relief of knowing Cyrano was safe again.
I will be forever indebted to everyone who came out and braved the weather to help find this frightened little cat. Seven of us covered what seemed like miles of territory, and we found our little boy lost–against all the odds.