As we started the search, Mu paid close attention to one particular spot on the lawn. This can sometimes be an indicator of a predator attack. I examined the area closely and couldn’t find any detectable evidence. I invited Blue’s owner to come with us on the search, but he had a house full of children and stayed inside with them. Where we went into the woods, at the edge of a deep ravine, Mu took notice of something I hadn’t seen. He had found grass that a cat had thrown up, a good sign that Blue had been this way. A little farther on, he found more vomited grass. Some rustic trails helped us get through the woods in places, but in other areas, we had to crash through the brush. The hillside was very steep, also, and difficult to navigate.
Trying to cover the grid of the most likely hiding places, we worked around to the nearby horse farm. This had hundreds of hiding places in derelict buildings and abandoned trucks and RVs. One building, and old barn, was completely engulfed in blackberry vines, so we couldn’t gain access to search it, but a cat could. Around near the top side of the property, we searched around a home under construction. It was about 64 degrees, not hot, but at the upper end of Mu’s working range, before he starts panting too much to search properly. The house under construction had a freshly poured concrete pad, set but unblemished by use, and Mu sprawled out on the white concrete to draw heat out of his belly, into the slab.
We searched a large area of woods, fields, old buildings and defunct vehicles. I looked at the GPS record of where we had been, looking for any gaps. There was an area northeast of the house that we had gone around, leaving a large space unchecked. As we went back to cover that area of woods, Mu’s nose went up, and I knew we were close to a cat. I thought we were going to find Blue, alive and well. When Mu tracked down the source, it was a small amount of remains. Mu went and sat nearby. He knew his work was done. He might have been sad, but not obviously so. I told him he did a good job. Even though I was sad about the outcome, I wanted to be sure to let Mu know that he did a good job, and I appreciated him. We searched more than six acres of woods, junk vehicles, and collapsing structures, and Mu found a bit of evidence, no bigger than a baseball, amid leaf litter and fallen branches. No human ever would have found this evidence with a visual search.
The remains Mu found consisted of the lower jaw bone and most of the skull. The teeth were in the pattern, size, number, and shape of a cat, not a possum or dog or fox. The teeth had plaque, and a couple were missing, consistent with a 14 year old cat. On the underside of the jaw was a small amount of white fur, consistent with the pictures of Blue. While it is possible that an older cat with white fur on his chin, some cat other than Blue, just happened to be taken by a coyote 150 feet northeast of Blue’s house, during the one week period Blue went missing, and Blue was alive and well somewhere, the most probable explanation for the evidence was that a coyote had taken Blue. Blue’s family kept him safe indoors for 14 years, but because of one error in judgement, they last him to a coyote before we could find him.
Blue’s family was very upset, of course. I made sure to pay extra attention to Mu on the drive home, to let him know that I appreciated his good work, even though it was an unfortunate ending. I still don’t know the best answer to the question of whether a cat’s family would want to know that their cat was dead. I have had some people seem to be in denial when I told them their cat was most likely dead, as if I was being intentionally cruel. Blue’s family seemed to appreciate knowing, so at least they wouldn’t have to spend every day searching and hoping in vain. I think I would rather know than not know.