PORTRAIT OF AN ESCAPE ARTIST: Bandit, a cat with a never-ending need to embark on new adventures. (Philip Wolf photo)

PORTRAIT OF AN ESCAPE ARTIST: Bandit, a cat with a never-ending need to embark on new adventures. (Philip Wolf photo)

Wolf: The cat came back… then left again for his latest epic adventure

COLUMN: Reunions with missing pets make for an interesting tale

I’ll occasionally stumble across something online that takes me down a YouTube wormhole.

A Black Press story about a woman who lost her cat in B.C. more than three years ago, moved across the country to Ontario and was just reunited with her orange tabby, did just that.

Immediately, it brought back memories of the adventures of some of my own family pets, and I spent the next half-hour or so watching videos of people reunited with their beloved animals – and thinking about how good it was that no cellphone cameras were around to capture my own reaction in similar situations.

When I was a wee broth of a lad in Duncan, we had a cat named Patches who went missing. We went out looking for him every day, calling his name and shaking a bowl of crunchies. About six days in, we were near a home down the road and heard a plaintive meow when his name was called. We tracked the sound to a woodpile beside a neighbour’s house. He was hidden deep inside the pile. We were beside ourselves with delight until it became apparent he had taken sick and essentially gone away to die. Heartbreakingly, he was taken to the vet and put down. But at least we got to say good-bye.

A more uplifting tale came years later.

My sister and I had at this point moved out, and she took her cat ‘Fatty’ with her. He clearly missed his old kitty pals and ran away from his new villa. He was gone for months.

One night, she and her boyfriend (now husband) were driving along a road a fair distance away.

“Something ran across the road right in front of us,” she recalled. “I thought it might be a raccoon but it was too skinny. I just had a feeling and I told (boyfriend) to pull over. We walked back and I called him. He came running out of the bushes meowing. I started bawling. He started purring right away.”

Could have been anything running across that road. But she just one of those feelings… and she was right. Reunited.

I love that story.

And anything like that always brings me back around to re-sharing the tale of my all-time favourite little escape artist.

By this time, I was in Nanaimo, with a family of my own. Bandit, our indestructible bag-of-bones cat, managed to sneak out of an open door.

READ MORE: Inspirational young Parksville man reaches fundraising goal in quest for specialized van

To say he had wanderlust was a gross understatement. He wandered off on a variety of adventures before, leaving home for periods of time ranging from a few days to several months.

He once went on an epic six-month journey. Long story short, he had been living off scraps at a Nanaimo campground and eventually was corralled and taken all the way to the SPCA in Parksville. A friend saw him in a ‘pet of the week’ TV ad and let us know immediately. I didn’t recognize him when I first saw him in his cage, he was so haggard. But then he came out, started rolling on my feet (his signature move) and I knew. And my reaction, had it been on video, would have made be a YouTube staple in perpetuity.

His final adventure was also a doozy.

For years, he was very much housebound. Approaching 15 years old, looking 179. Apparently needing one last hurrah, he managed to get out again.

We went through the usual process, calling the animal shelter and SPCA and putting up posters. (Facebook was just in its embryonic stages).

We drove around the neighbourhood, looked in the ditches, went back past our old house. I felt sad for other pet owners who had put up posters, too.

The worst part was wondering what became of him. You take in an animal and they become part of the family.

A few days later, I’m driving along and I see a flash of white near some railway tracks. I jam on the brakes, dash out of the truck and spot a familiar feline about 50 feet away. I call his name. He stops, looks at me and meows. I start walking slowly toward him and he starts walking slowly, too. Away from me.

I get close enough to pet him, but he zips off into a nearby yard. I’m climbing over fences, trudging through mud. He wanders into another yard, with me calling him the entire time. He then goes back on to the road and sits, square on the yellow line. This is a busy road. I run at him to scare him off the road and I’m now crawling through soaking-wet hedges.

Two more yards over, I gave up. I sat down on a wet step. He stopped and looked back to see if the chase was still on. It wasn’t. Apparently, the game wasn’t on his terms anymore, so he ambled over and started rolling on my feet. If he looked bad before, he was like death warmed over now.

We got home, he ate enough to make a mountain lion blush and wouldn’t stop snuggling.

Old guy must be glad to be home, I thought. He must realize he was near death and would happily live out his remaining days indoors, with a warm place to sleep and a full belly every night.

The very next morning, I woke up to a bizarre sound. It was Bandit, sitting in the window, howling. To go back outside.

NOTE: The BC SPCA urges all pet owners to make sure their pets have at least two forms of identification, one of which should be permanent. Identification can include a microchip, a collar with tags or an ear tattoo. Pets can also be registered online at https://bcpetregistry.ca.

And if you have your own ‘pet came back’ story, feel free to share. I’d love to hear it.

PQB News/VI Free Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email at philip.wolf@blackpress.ca, by phone at 250-905-0029 or on Twitter @philipwolf13.

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AnimalsCatsduncanNanaimoParksvilleSPCA

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