OK, there has been a least one bird and a few dogs; but it’s mostly cats on Sandy Hill telephone poles, mixed with concert notices, promises of spiritual awakening, and pitches for ESL gigs in Korea. And I totally get it. Except for Jasmine (great mouser!), all my cats have gone AWOL. So I will always cross the street to check out the photos and read the fine print; but rarely give them a second thought. That is until, strolling down Nelson Street to the Portuguese Bakery in June, I came face to face with Banjo and her amazing story. For the first time, I got to wondering about these posters. How many calls do these cat lovers get? Do they get any calls from lonely souls, or from air duct and carpet cleaners: “Sorry to hear about your loss but maybe . . .”? And finally do any of these people ever get their cats back? I started a cat poster collection, waited a month or so and started texting. Here’s what I found —
When it comes to an animal in distress Kimberly’s husband can’t say no. So when a black kitten began hanging around their house on Besserer thoughts of adoption soon followed. But the cat was feral — impossible to approach. Then, with the onset of winter, he vanished; only to reappear with the melting snow. On a very rainy day they were able to lure him onto their porch with some dog food. Very gradually, Dave ventured into the house — but he would not stay. Then in December they caught Dave and brought him to the vet, where they found that in one of his past lives he had been trapped, chipped, castrated, and released back into the street with Marly as his name of convenience.
Dave lived in the house on Besserer for the next 6 years. He spent the first two years under a bed, only coming out to eat. Slowly he became socialized and moved out from under the bed to sleep and play with the two resident dogs.
Problems began when another cat began to hang around. This cat chased Dave off the porch and he never came back. That’s when the posters went up. Kimberly says they got over 100 calls. They followed up on scores of leads, becoming acquainted with the undersides of countless porches, narrow passage ways, and not a few Sandy Hill characters in the process. There were no crank calls: Kimberly says she could not believe the kindness of people in the neighbourhood. Finally one person called and said they had been feeding Dave all winter. They promised to call back with more details but they never did.
Dave never showed up, well at least, not exactly. One day when Kimberly and her husband were walking their two dogs — Dave’s best friends — on a nearby street, one of the dogs suddenly and quite insistently pulled Kimberly up the walkway of a house they were passing. He pulled her right up to the front door. Back on the sidewalk they looked at the house and there he was, right in the window — a small black cat. Was it Dave? It looked just like him. Yes, they knocked on the door. They told Dave’s story. Let’s just say the interview was somewhat awkward and inconclusive. There are many black cats in Sandy Hill. This was the story of one, or perhaps two?
Zoë, a fluffy orange cat, was up for an adventure. She disappeared from Diane’s third story balcony in Lindenlea. But she had lived in other neighbourhoods — with her daughter at the corner of Daly and Friel, and before that in the Glebe. So the Zoë pictures went up in a variety of locations.
Diane too got an incredible response from the neighbourhood. Dog walkers, cyclists and joggers sent pictures. One person even called and volunteered to put up 50 additional posters. But there are many orange cats; most of the calls were dead ends. Finally one of the pictures was a 100% match — an orange cat chasing mice near the gazebo-like lookout overlooking the Ottawa River on Rockcliffe Drive. It was definitely Zoë, but she had moved on by the time Diane came to check.
The search ended when Zoë was spotted a block from home in front of a vacant house. Diane’s partner went over immediately. Zoë was indeed there, but not for long. She dashed away, moving faster that any cat he had ever seen. Eventually, after some patient cooing and a can of tuna, Zoë began to edge closer and finally consented to return home. She is busy catching up on her sleep and enjoying her new status as a Lindenlea celebrity. Diane, meanwhile, is making steady progress de-burring Zoë’s tail.
I got an email from Allie about Izzy’s adventure. Probably best to let her tell the story —
“I would love to share our story. After almost two weeks of posting everywhere I could think of and looking around the neighborhood (I moved on August 1 and leading up to that with a missing pet was so stressful) I received an email that someone had potentially seen Izzy in the neighbourhood, about 6 blocks away from where I lived. I went there several times that day calling her. I went one last time at 1:30 a.m. and 20 min after getting home Izzy ran after me through my window!! She kept meowing at me so I think she had a lot of stories to tell, she was dirty and hungry but otherwise completely fine. I am so happy she is home.”
Looks like Dave, Zoë and Izzy made out pretty well. I didn’t hear back from the owners of Joey or Ziggy. Maybe they thought my pitch was suspicious or maybe these cats are still lost. Are you wondering about Banjo?
We learn from the poster that Banjo escaped from the Days Inn on Rideau Street, where his owners were staying during a crosscountry car trip from Nova Scotia to the West Coast. They put up the posters, but had to leave Banjo behind. This was the first poster I got a response from — “Hi Ralph! We found Banjo!! I would love to share the story because it’s crazy haha.”
They promised a detailed email but the trail went cold. Makes me wonder if Banjo has taken off again. Maybe he’s making his way across Alberta on his way back to Sandy Hill right now. So keep your eyes open for a small grey and white cat looking for a home in a great downtown neighbourhood.