When we started searching the other direction, Mu immediately found fur. It was in the next door neighbor’s yard. There really was quite a bit of fur, once you started looking, but obviously many people had walked by this evidence while looking for a cat and they didn’t see the white fur. This was a demonstration of Mu’s value. He finds things that people miss. Looking at the color, texture, and distribution of the fur, it seemed most likely to me that the lost cat had actually been taken by a coyote. After Mu pointed out the fur on the neighbor’s lawn, we asked that neighbor to check his surveillance recordings to see if he documented any predators around the time of the disappearance. We took a large amount of fur home to test with Luminol, to see if any blood was present.
After we left that search in Bellevue, we drove to North Bend to look for a little puppy named Penny. Her family had been in a rollover accident on I-90 the night before, and they couldn’t find her. They asked for our help, but there’s no way for me to work a search dog on a freeway, especially where the speed limit is 70. Mu and I drove up there just to look around the best we could. On my first two passes by the crash site, I noticed that the north edge of the freeway was bounded by dense blackberries for miles. Perhaps a little ten pound dog like Penny could work her way through the brambles, but it seemed like a hard struggle. The center median was much easier to get through, with sparse Scotch Broom, and it was about sixty feet wide between the lanes of traffic. Also on my first two passes of the crash site, I scanned for any signs that Penny had been struck, and i didn’t see any.
After another two passes, I decided to check out under the bridge, fifty feet east of the crash site. The freeway goes over the Snoqualmie River, and the bridge spans an area of low land near the river. I could see how a dog could get into the center median and follow the path of least resistance right down to this low, sheltered area under the bridge. To get there, I had to work my way across four lanes of 70 MPH traffic and then get onto the left shoulder and stop fast, short of the bridge, without causing an accident. I managed to get parked away from the lanes of traffic, and I got out carefully to make sure there was no chance of Mu getting out. I locked the car and started winding my way down through the Scotch Broom, slowly and quietly, looking for any sign of Penny. Once at the bottom of the dip under the bridge, I looked across the gravel area under the freeway, and there was Penny, peeking around the corner of the bridge abutment. She looked like she might panic and run, so I pretended not to see her. I turned my body to the side and walked in an arc, so I wasn’t walking toward her, but I was slowly getting closer. She watched me for a while, and then she tentatively came closer to me to check me out. She was actually on the other side of a chain link fence, which may have helped her feel safe to check me out. As she listened to me talking softly, she kept inching closer. As I was calling her mom on my phone, Penny came right up to me on the other side of the fence. When I put her mom on speakerphone, Penny started yipping and jumping up and down. She was ready to be rescued. I walked over to a section of the fence where there was a slight gap over the gravel. I bent the bottom of the fence up so Penny could wiggle under. Once on my side, she practically climbed up me to get in my arms. She nibbled on my ear a little. She has sharp little teeth. I wrapped her in my arms very tightly, half in my jacket. I was nervous as we approached the car. I didn’t want her to panic, perhaps having a flashback of the car accident, and try to wriggle out of my arms right next to the freeway. She was tense, but she didn’t try to squirm away as I loaded her into the car next to Mu. She and Mu sniffed each other a little, and then Mu went back to sleep. Penny stayed on my lap the entire trip home, and had a nice long nap. It was such a relief to catch little Penny, alive and well, in such a dangerous area. We got home and then her mom came to pick her up. She very happy to be back with her family.
I performed the Luminol test on the cat’s fur, and it confirmed the presence of a large amount of blood, consistent with a predator attack. Because Mu had pointed out the area where the cat had been attacked, the neighbor was able to find a recording of the night the cat disappeared. It was hard to see, but in the corner of the video, you could see two coyotes on the lawn. One of them had something in it’s mouth, which looked very much like a cat. Although it was a sad result, Mu’s work at least let the cat’s owners know what happened. Otherwise, the landscape crew probably would have blown away any evidence, and they would always be left wondering if their cat was still out there somewhere, waiting to be rescued. It’s not always easy to tell, but I got the impression the cat’s owner appreciated knowing what happened, even though it was the worst news.
Penny and her family were really happy to be reunited, but it also helped me out considerably. I always prefer to give good news than bad. Having Penny jump into my arms and then sleep on my lap for the ride home was a much needed success.