Be Relentless! The story of finding Simpson

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Be Relentless! The story of finding Simpson

by Wendy Mills

He was a small gold ball of fur in 2010 when I found him in the wheel well of my truck, crouching on the tire. His little cries caught my attention and I couldn’t resist picking him up, cupping him in my hands. A few strokes and I put him back, telling him to return to wherever he came from.

The next day he was still in the driveway, peeking out from under the car, helping himself to dog food or a drink of water, but I didn’t want to encourage him. I’d never owned a cat and didn’t want one. They make me itch — or worse.

Day after day he was there. Within the week and late at night a downpour moved in and I had to rescue him from under the car. I made a little kitty bed in the bathroom for the night. He had his foot in the door…all four of them.

I sought a home for him with no success, eventually naming him Simpson because my step-daughter already had an orange tabby named Homer. Maybe you can see where I was going with that. I may have acted tough, but he quickly found his way to my heart.

Life goes on…vaccinations, “fixing”… he spent much of his time laying on the back steps or playing in the yard, living his little cat life with no worries – entertaining us with games of tag and hide and seek. He loved being outside and stayed within hearing distance. Anytime we’d whistle he’d promptly show up, wondering why we’d called.

I spend most of my days in my office facing a computer, not getting out much. My main distraction would be the plucking on my window screen whenever Simpson wanted to be let in. He knows the window I’m closest to and how to get my attention; that’s me — the doorman. He had a definite in-and-out pattern by which you could almost set your watch.

After Simpson turned three a different atmosphere rolled over the neighborhood, not that we really noticed initially. The normally easy-going, pet-friendly attitude had developed a hole.

It was a warm day for winter, and I worked at my computer even until mid-morning before it dawned on me that Simpson hadn’t asked to come in. I went out and looked around, whistling and calling a few times. No response. I had errands to run and deadlines to finish, all punctuated with short trips out calling the cat.
He didn’t come home that night.

The next day we began our search in earnest. My husband told me to inquire at our new neighbors, thinking a woman is less intimidating. The young man who answered the door grinned and proudly boasted that he had indeed trapped my cat, removed his collar and dumped him “up north.” I was stunned. They – no one on the block – had ever mentioned having a problem with Simpson or with any of the other cats that call our street home. In fact, the couple who had just recently sold that house had doted on the cats and fed them treats.

In my astonished state, I’d start to walk away, think of a question and turn back. It was probably the third time that tested the neighbor’s patience as he unleashed a pitch of profanity and a hand in my face. That’s when my husband, watching from our yard, called 911.
Officer Jones showed up. Twice. The first time he spoke with us and then the neighbor, concluding “It’s just a cat.” His return came when this neighbor accosted a woman from down the street who was trying to retrieve her cat from his drive; she was already missing one cat. His obscenities could be heard doors away. (This is how you “introduce” yourself to a neighbor wearing PJs in your driveway on a Sunday morning?)

We headed to the dump area– an overwhelming, unspecific area off Hwy 74 between Cashion and Guthrie. It was in my head that we’d go whistle and he’d run and jump into my arms, and all would be well. Getting there, the hopelessness of it slapped me in the face. The houses can be a mile apart with small clusters of homes sprinkled around.

As soon as it got dark I’d spread the word online, posting Simpson’s information on various Facebook and lost pet websites and placing ads in a few newspapers. What resulted was an outpouring of concern sprinkled with a few “your cat is coyote food” responses. I was doing what I could, but I kept thinking farmers don’t do Facebook— but they do watch the news and weather.

Local TV news and an online newspaper covered Simpson’s story. One TV report was a “neighborhood cat fight” also covering the other cats missing from the block and days later a second station focused on Simpson’s disappearance and the search.

Calls came in reporting orange tabbies from Moore to Guthrie, Yukon to Langston, not to mention the call from Dr. Phil’s program director asking us to come with or without our neighbors to “resolve our issues.”

We had spent about two weeks canvasing the Hwy 74 area when we learned we were searching in the wrong place.

One of our contacts and new friend is an Oklahoma County Deputy who offered us valuable information, people to contact, and invested her own time to help. When questioning our neighbors, she learned the dump area was a lie — that he’d actually been released on a corner northeast of Piedmont!

We shifted our attention to the new area — all this time I was wondering what would Simpson do? I know my cat and how he behaves at home, but how would he act in a situation like this? Would he hunker down and hide or run like The Incredible Journey? We were told we would probably have to trap him — that even if we could get close, he wouldn’t respond as expected because he’s disoriented.

At about that time I got a call from a woman with tracking dogs who offered to help. It would be good practice for her dogs, she said. I supplied a scent sample for the search and continued doing what I thought might produce results. My husband and I posted signs on poles, flyers in store windows and left scores more at residences along the road.

I had one excited call from Ty, the tracking lady, from the field that day. “We’ve got a hit!” she exclaimed, but later reported they never saw him, just another cat with white legs.

With hopes heightened and dashed, we got dozens of calls that turned into dead ends; several regarding the same friendly little cat who would eventually get rescued. There are a lot of OTs out there.

The days stretched to weeks and then months in the coldest of winter weather, and I didn’t want to imagine what might have happened to Sim. Being a “city cat” I figured — I hoped — he had sought food and shelter from a house. Maybe he already had a new home and a new name and they’d never know where he’d been before they took him in. He has a micro-chip, but often a foundling is never checked.

I had work and other responsibilities that took up my time, but I spent every possible moment furthering the search. My husband broached the idea of a bulk mailing that I’d considered to be a last resort.…and I was getting to that point.

He’d been missing over two months by the time I got my postcard printed and delivered to the mailer for addressing, and things started to happen after that. Within days I had a list of calls from two spots: one a mile south of “ground zero” and another call that was within sight of the corner.

Something about that closest house seemed so hopeful, but these people hadn’t had a real good look at their visitor. He’d come after dark, getting into their trash, and at first they thought it might be a skunk. When they realized it was a cat, they started putting cat food out every night in a dish they bought just for him. But the slightest movement or touch on the doorknob would send him running into the darkness.

I wanted to hurry out there but knew I couldn’t just trespass on strangers’ property. I had to be patient and wait until Cecil got his game camera set up with fresh batteries and memory card.

After almost a week we got his pictures, and I knew instantly it was Simpson; I’d know that Lion King chin anywhere. We made arrangements to take a carrier and trap to them the next day.

It was a beautiful day for a reunion. Cecil and Rhonda greeted us in the warm sunshine of their yard, pointing out spots where they’d glimpsed Simpson or seen signs of his presence. They vouched for him being a mouser.

Before unloading the trap, we decided to walk around and try a few calls and whistles. At the far end of the barn, when I turned to look at Mike about 15 feet away, I saw Simpson emerge from under a piece of farm equipment nearby. He went to Mike and rubbed against his legs. I hurried to hold him while Mike went to get the carrier. I felt his soft purr for the first time in more than 70 days.

Simpson’s gracious hosts offered to keep him because of “our neighbor situation,” but they were happy to see that he was going home with a family who could love and hold him. And they sent his dish home, too.

That afternoon, I started contacting the multitude of people I’d promised to update when Simpson was safe. People actually cried when hearing the news, exclaiming their prayers had been answered. Ty cried too, saying she’d been out with her dogs often but had had no reason to tell me. She’d consulted contacts with cat tracking experience who told her if a cat isn’t found in the first two weeks the chances of finding it are nearly zero.

We know Simpson beat the odds. He’s happy to be home and even content to stay inside. I never tire of watching him play or sleep in his favorite chair, and he gives me frequent cat kisses with a smile on his face.

Back at you, Pooky!

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