So today I was standing in Liz's office, talking with her and Lynn about some things we plan to implement during our upcoming cat clinic workshop next week, when something out the window caught my eye. It was a brown mackerel tabby domestic longhair cat, creeping through the dead leaves and vines that cover the strip of land just behind our school building. I stopped mid sentence and said, "Look! There's a brown tabby out wandering around behind our building!" Both Liz and Lynn turned to see.
"I wonder where it came from," I said. "I've never seen that cat out wandering around before. We should go get it and give it a bath." We all chuckled. The cat did look like it needed some attention.
"Ya, we could start a 'trap-groom-release' program," Liz said. We all laughed again. Lynn added some creative ideas to start yet another NCGIA program of catching and grooming the neighborhood feral cats. While we were joking around about this, a thought flashed through my mind......I bet that cat belongs to someone. It doesn't look like a stray.....
Just then Olivia burst into the room, coming from the check-in area out front. "Hey!" she exclaimed, "A client is out in the parking lot. His carrier broke and the cat got away!" We all turned to the window behind Liz's desk. I pointed. The words finally made it to my mouth, "That's gotta be the cat I just saw through the window," I said.
- Where Lynn first found Zach before he discovered the hole in the fence at the back.
In an instant, Lynn, Liz and I all ran for the back door and down the handicap-accessible ramp, heading out in the general direction of where I had seen the cat go. We checked under the ramp - a great place to hide if you were a scared cat that suddenly found itself loose in a strange place. No cat there. We headed for the overgrown foliage toward the back of the lot that adjoins our property to the lot next door. If the cat was back there, it'd be like finding a needle in a haystack!
I've shown cats for many years, which means I've also heard the words, "CAT LOOSE!" too many times. You see, in a show hall, whenever a cat gets away from its handler, someone calls out "cat loose" loud enough to be heard in the farthest regions of the building. When that happens, everyone goes into immediate lock down. Every door gets shut, every person drops to their knees to look for the wayward feline. Finding a cat that doesn't want to be found is a lot like finding that needle in a haystack. Except that the "needle" in this scenario has more than 1 sharp end.
So it was that I found myself saying, "Cat loose!" under my breath as the three of us stood around the perimeter of a hedge of overgrown bamboo, kudzu and all manner of weeds and vines. Somewhere in that mess of foliage was Zach, the brown mac tabby. And we were going to get him! If we didn't, some poor guy was going to have to tell his wife that he'd just lost her beloved fur ball. And Zach....well, he probably wouldn't survive for very long out there in the "wild."
Lynn spotted Zach first - hidden in the foliage. The neighbor's dogs spotted the missing cat just after Lynn did. I know that because, at that very moment, the dogs ran to the fence and started a barking frenzy. Poor Zach.
What unfolded next was something akin to a maneuver straight from an NFL playbook. Liz, Lynn, and I, all wearing our grooming attire, quickly posted our positions and moved in as a collective team. I reached for Zach first, but he was elusive. As he ran from my reach and headed toward the farthest corner of the fence, we all moved in, pushing our way through dense foliage. I distinctly remember saying, "I hope there isn't any poison ivy in here!"
Zach found the corner of the fence just before we did. He also found the hole. Liz was quick though. She was on it, quick and light like a rabbit. We zigged and zigged. We dodged through the thick underbrush, pushing our way through stickers and berry vines and over property lines of people we did not know. Cat groomers on the hunt.
And just like that, somewhere down Pendleton Street, nearly a block from the National Cat Groomers School, Liz got ahold of Zach the cat. He was buried in sticker bushes and a rotting piece of wood. Liz held on til I could get my hand securely on Zach. She lifted the wood to free Zach's large body just as I scooped him up into my arms. We carried him back to our building where we found a much-relieved and deeply grateful man who was able to call his wife and tell her the good news of Zach's rescue.
Later, at pick up, Zach's owner could not thank us enough. He was amazed that we had gone through the trouble to chase after his kitty in the first place. But he was even more amazed that we had been able to bring him back safe and sound. "That's what we do," I told him, "we save cats."