[Story has happy ending, I promise.]
Saturday, since it was a bright and sunny morning (Really! In Pittsburgh!), I went around the house opening windows to let in fresh air and sunshine. I slid open the living room windows, then went upstairs.
About an hour later Sharon says to me, "I haven't seen Dodger in a bit."
I respond, "Last time I saw Dodger was on the back of the chair in front of the livingroom window."
"The screen fell out of the window. Dodger's gone."
It turned out that the window cleaners had left the screen in the "up" position, and I hadn't noticed when I opened the window. Dodger, while skittish at times, is very very curious and intrepid. We'd noticed pretty quickly that he was gone, but in a hour he could be anywhere. I just could not imagine him going too far, but even one block is a lot of ground to cover.
We searched inside and outside the house, just to make sure he was gone, then I printed up a dozen signs and posted them around the neighborhood. Then, we walked up and down the block, talking to neighbors and walkers. One neighbor across the street claimed to have seen him at about the time he went missing. Many of our neighbors were very kind, and also gave us free reign to hunt in their yards. We shook toys and called to him, but no luck. We phoned around the neighborhood, asking our friends to be on the lookout.
Saturday, of course, was the night with all the fireworks, so there was no point looking for him after sunset. We pictured him cowering under a porch somewhere, startled by all the bangs and whistles. We left the front windows open all night, and I slept on the couch so if he came back crying to be let in, I'd be able to hear him.
Sunday, I posted to Craigslist for wider coverage. We also got an early start searching and expanded our territory to surrounding blocks. We were not having much luck, but then I got a phone call from somebody calling himself "Dave" who said he saw dodger cross the street, but he wasn't able to describe where. He said he had to bring a newspaper to his mom in Greenfield (a nearby neighborhood) but would swing by our house in 15 minutes to show me where he saw Dodger.
A half hour later I called him back but he didn't answer his phone.
A half hour after that he called me back saying he'd been driving around looking for Dodger. I told him that wasn't likely to help and he should swing by the house and show me where he saw Dodger so I could hunt on foot. He hung up when I said that the third time.
I received a very helpful reply to my Craigslist posting. No specific information, but very good general pointers. "Watch out for scammers" was pretty prominent. Internet searches for "finding a lost cat" gave me similar general pointers.
An hour after the last call, Dave called back saying he'd used up a tank of gas looking for Dodger, and was hoping I'd reimburse him. I told him that if he'd asked me ahead of time I would have told him not to do it, and I know times are tough but I can't give him any money. "Why wouldn't you reimburse me for something like that?"
"Because you haven't done anything you said you were going to do, so I just have no indication you've actually done what you say you did." He hung up.
Then he called back with a woman. "Here's my Mom! She'll tell you how I spent the day." I hear, "Come on, Dave," in the background in an exasperated tone. She tried to chat me up a little bit, but when asked "What is the purpose of this call?" she said, "Just drop it," and hung up. I was only too glad.
The tips pages recommended searching in the evening when cats tend to become more active, and bringing a flashlight to catch eye reflections from the cat who is probably hiding and afraid to come out. When we set out Sunday evening to search, I had a good feeling about it, but I didn't say anything out loud because I didn't want to jinx it.
Just two houses away, Sharon spotted Dodger watching us from the yard of a house that's all shut up. The old people who used to live there don't live there any more, but their kids take care of it. We hadn't searched their yard because it's all fenced in and locked up. We called to Dodger, but he went under the gate. I peered into the hedges that are in front of the fence, and saw him go into a low shed with a big hole in the wall.
With Sharon watching the hole, I climbed over the six-foot gate and went into the yard. I damaged the gate in the process, and I hope I can make it up to the people, but the proximal concern was getting Dodger. Now that we'd spotted him, he had to keep him from taking off. I peered in through the sagging door and saw Dodger was still inside, hiding among some lawn furniture and pool supplies.
So far, so good. I tried to entice Dodger out the front with his favorite brush, but no dice. Eventually, we decided I should try to go in and try to grab him. This drove him out the hole in the back, but Sharon was able to grab him through the fence. I shut the front doors of the shed and then squeezed myself between the fence and the shed to get a second grip on him.
We spent a minute or two petting him and telling him he was a good boy. Normally, he starts to strugle after a few seconds of being gripped by the scruff of his neck, but this time he was docile. Eventually I was able to lift him up over the fence and hand him to Sharon, who got a new grip on his neck and hugged him close. At home, this will get you scratched, but he didn't strugle at all.
I climbed back over the gate and we walked home. I opened the front door to let Sharon in and she released Dodger onto his favorite perch. He immediately ran down into the basement, but soon returned upstairs to have a look around. We left him alone for a bit, and he also seemed to be avoiding us. Eventually though, he started talking and talking, and when we started petting him he rolled around on the floor and purred to beat the band. He was home.
I went around the neghborhood and pulled down the signs. One of them had been pulled from its protective sleeve, probably by "Dave" so that he wouldn't have to bother to write down the phone number. What annoys me here is that not only was "Dave" unhelpful, he distracted us from searching and actually made it more difficult to get the word out by taking down that sign.
This morning Dodger was back on his normal morning perch, waiting for us to come out of the bedroom. Hopefully he hasn't developed a taste for adventure, but for now at least he's back to being a housecat.