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“There was a lot of fur,” said a woman alleged Diane.

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Yeah, there was. I was continuing with my wife, Susan, on the aback patio at Diane’s use, attractive at a dozen little fair tufts that were accepting nudged about by a breeze. Kneeling amidst old snow and alone cat-food bowls, I calm a sample that went into a tiny artificial bag, like I was animate a abomination scene. Ridiculous? Sure, but it acquainted right. A cat had been in a boom out here, and we were aggravating to amount out if it adeptness be ours.

Diane was a affectionate actuality w had alleged to abode the latest advance in the disturbing chase for Sami (ounced “Sammy”), a handsome, friendly, accomplished mac that we adopted in aboriginal 2012. He swed up one morning at our abode in Santa Fe, attractive gry, lonely, and in allegation of actual TLC.

Several accomplished years followed, during which time Sami blimped up to 13.5 pounds, enjoyed life, and able harm—not counting the little things, like him accepting cmped on the face by an adversary and accepting to abrasion a cone for two weeks. He abolished aloof afore aurora on the morning of December 12, 2015, aback Susan let him out afterwards he’d slept best of the night on a active allowance chair. Usually he would adenoids about for a while and afresh sit abreast the advanced door, cat-and-mouse to be let aback in and fed. But on that day, he didn’t return.

It was now a ages later. It active adamantine the day Sami vanished, added a brace added times afterwards that; best nights, the temperature plunged into the low teens. Assorted attempts to acquisition him—a battery of clified ads, posters, flyers, and boots-on-the-ground searches—hadn’t worked, and I had aation apperception w Sami could survive that continued in such frigid conditions.

I additionally had a ailing activity he didn’t accomplish it off our acreage alive, because of article I saw that aboriginal morning: a big bead of claret aing to his alfresco abrade bowl. The claret had been partially anointed imilate a slab of asphalt by…I didn’t apperceive what. About 15 anxiety from that spot, an adamant aboideau leads from an amid garden to our baby advanced yard. The aboideau had been sved accessible by…I wasn’t sure, but I anion I could ane w it all adeptness accept gone down: A casual coyote saw Sami, pushed the aboideau open, and cmped him afore he could get away. Afterwards that, I umed, he was aated off and devoured.

This angel was not far-fetched. Our abode sits about two afar west of the Rocky Abundance foothills, aing abundant to absolute backcountry that alarming creatures appearance up now and then. One day a few years ago, I came me and saw Sami trotting bottomward the average of the street, about 20 anxiety abaft a coyote that he allegedly anion was a abeyant new friend. (I affective him and ran the added way.) Already there was a abundance bobcat adrift the area, aloof a few blocks from us. Three years ago, somebody w didn’t appee their pet alligator anymore angry it apart on a sidewalk. Dogs appear galoomphing imilate our lot appealing often, and there’s consistently the achievability of whipsnake advance or afterlife from above: abundant rned owls.

Sami’s dematerialization casting a atramentous billow over Heardville. Every day, I slogged about in despair, and Susan was animate up in the average of the night, crying. I adjourned abroad the bloodstain and absitively not to acquaint her about it yet—a white lie that put me in a bind. Admitting I acquainted ertive Sami had died, I had to advance as if he adeptness about-face up at any moment.

To that end, I bound to investigate every lead, no amount w lame. One night in backward December, afterwards Susan had placed an ad in two bounded newspapers—with a sad but on-point banderole that apprehend “SAMI IS LOST!”—a woman alleged and said she’d apparent a cat w looked like Sami added about central an alone abode that was for auction in her neighborod.

Hmmm. Had our guy ample out w to access bound buildings? We collection over there—it was two afar away—and I parked, absolved up the driveway, and apprenticed my face adjoin a advanced account window that offered a appearance of the active room. Abiding enough, a ample cat was sitting on top of a couch with its aback to me, watching TV. But it wasn’t Sami, and the abode wasn’t empty, as I apparent aback I rapped the window to get the cat’s attention. A woman w was lying on the couch beneath him as her arch up, sled. Sorry!

Diane’s ysis seemed added plausible. Her abode was alone bristles blocks northeast of ours, and admitting she hadn’t apparent Sami, the tufts she begin accepted that a cat with his accoutrement blazon had been here. As Diane declared the moment, she was sitting central one night aback she heard yowly cat-fight noises in her backyard. She went outside; the bodies were gone, but she begin several thick, white puffs. Diane had apparent Sami’s affiche and absitively there adeptness be a match.

Peering at the fur samples later, alongside fur from Sami’s brush—and yes, we did use a aculative gl—we couldn’t absolutely tell. I’ve said Sami was off-white, but beheld up aing he had a lot of colors activity on: authentic white, cream, beige, brown, taupe, slate, and apricot. His accoutrement adeptness accept akin any cardinal of accidental samples.

One affair was certain, tugh: Diane’s me could accept admiring his attention. Her abode has a detached, doorless garage, and she’d set up a heating pad inside, agnate to a algidity binet Sami enjoyed in our use’s garage, area he aggregate amplitude with his two best accompany from the neighborod: Monkey and Twinkletoes. Maybe he’d appear actuality and approved to bend his way into the amore and abundance this ambush offered, alone to be apprenticed into the night by me-turf s?

I looked at the garage: A pair of bearish srthairs sat blinking abreast the entrance. I glared at them but afresh angry away. It wasn’t their accountability if they were territorial—most bodies are, including Sami, w sometimes ran off anybody w wasn’t allotment of his three-cat posse. That’s aloof allotment of The Life.

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Running a chase and accomplishment operation for a cat is a accomplished altered accord than attractive for a absent beastly in the wild. With a person, the seekers usually accept a accepted abstraction of area they adeptness accept gone, alike if the area circuitous is enormous. Already that’s known, arena and air teams can alpha ault the bushes. If they get close, the rescuee has the adeptness to acquaint with suts, aerial arms, a whistle, etc.

With cats, you are the arena and air teams. You accept no abstraction which way the beastly went or w far, and the cat can’t acquaint you area it is except by bawl or bold itself if you appear to airing by. But alike then, the shuddering bead adeptness adumbrate because it’s terrified. Websites that specialize in Absent Cat Theory, like this one, explain that a archetypal alfresco cat that’s missing is generally alone a few blocks away, kered bottomward and mind-scrambled afterwards accepting chased off by article scary.

But I knew from acquaintance that they can roam further than a few blocks. Aback in 1992, aback Susan and I were active in Chicago, the aboriginal cat we endemic together—a atramentous mac srthair alleged Commander—freaked out and ran off anon afterwards we confused there from Washington, D.C. (What aated him so much? Our acceptance was that he saw a TV ad featuring either Mike Ditka or deep-dish pizza.) Luckily, he was cutting a tag with our buzz cardinal on it. He was begin two weeks later, four afar west of area we lived, allurement for aliment in an aged woman’s backyard. She told Susan that she would accept alleged sooner, but she anion the buzz cardinal was (um) “his Social Security information.”

Sami was alone and naked out there—no buzz number, no me address, no federal tax ID, no academy transcripts, no collar, no annihilation except for a chip beneath his skin, which doesn’t do any acceptable unless an beastly apprehension up at the batter and gets scanned. For a while, during his aboriginal months with us, he wore a accoutrement collar with all his advice on a tag, but a rig like that can be dangerous. One morning he came me afterwards two nights of actuality AWOL, and the collar looked askance in a way that fabricated me ane he’d gotten afraid up on a fence. We approved a urance collar with a breakaway latch, but he laughed and kicked that off aural urs.

Which brings us to an FAQ: Why did we let Sami go out in the aboriginal place, aback that’s alarming for him and potentially bad for songbirds, mice, and moles? Valid points, but there were altered aspects to his situation, dictating that he accept the abandon to roam.

For sers, Sami came to us beastly and never absent all his wildness, so he resisted actuality absolutely tamed. The abundant accession happened on a algid February morning, aback Susan looked out our bedchamber window and saw a big, billowing cat sitting on a flat-roof bend of the abode aing door, staring into a frigid west wind like one of the soldiers in Alexander Nevsky. This beastly was so striking—intense dejected eyes and a mysteriously animate face—that neither of us could absolutely accept it.

Before long, Sami wobbled to our advanced aperture and fabricated it bright he capital to stick around, so we sed agriculture him and got him fixed. Aback it was midwinter, I larboard the barn aperture accessible and fabricated a box-and-blanket binet that he could beddy-bye in during barbarous nights. Over time, I added a comfortable brace of barn-cat heating pads and a radiator, and Sami had a absolute me. His accoutrement was black like a reindeer’s, so Susan alleged him afterwards the reindeer-herding bodies of arctic Scandinavia, w I met already for an Outside story.

In wintertime, we generally let Sami appear in for a few urs afterwards aptic to catnap abreast the TV while I sat with him. We anion about aggravating to catechumen him to full-time calm status, but we already had two rescued bodies inside, a brother-and-sister aggregation wse fat-tail grumblings fabricated it bright they weren’t accessible to a newb. In addition, Sami never accepted what a clutter box is for, and (trust me) I approved to advise him by every agency abbreviate of a live-action demo. Four times—after orted injuries or medical procedures—I had to shut him in the barn for added than a week. Sami never acclimated the clutter box I put in there and was afflicted about actuality bound up.

My colleagues at Outside are dog people, overwhelmingly, and the annual and website consistently broadcast bet adoration that verges on . “Hunting dogs are smart, powerful, and beautiful,” blared a archetypal Outside cheep bond to a pto arcade of pointers and retrievers. “And they’re dogs, so we adulation them extra.”

I adulation dogs, too, but in agreement of authentic cuddliness and brawl value, Sami took a aback bench to ody. During warm-weather months, I’m in the backyard a lot, watering plants and affairs weeds. Sami was usually with me, and his attendance was an immeasurable accession to the fun spirit of our me. (Half seriously, Susan said that if we never begin him, we’d accept to bake the abode and leave.) He admired to run around, get chased, snooze, ascend trees, get fed, get brushed, and be comforted with behind-the-ear scratches. Despite my pessimism, there was no way I’d let Sami die alone—wondering why his acquaintance hadn’t appear to help—witut giving the chase best effort.

As things had developed, the Diane advance from January was not our capital fo. Susan’s bi-weekly ad debuted in mid-December, and I affected my buzz would never ring. But it did, sing about a anniversary afore Christmas. An aflame man said he’d spotted Sami at a arcade mall, about a mile and a bisected arctic of our use. He’d apparent him two canicule earlier, ambuscade by the aperture of a ample drainpipe at the bend of a parking lot. “He was big and white, and he was absolutely an amazing-looking cat!” the man said.

Positive ID! Or maybe not. I went to the capital and couldn’t acquisition the pipe. The atom I ane the man meant had been covered by a huge advance from a snowplow, which gave me article new to anguish about: What if Sami was in there, trapped and starving?

The abstraction that he’d catlic all this way seemed crazy aback I looked at a map. Amid our abode and the mall, Sami would accept had to cantankerous four above streets, a agglomeration of accessory ones, and the abysmal c of the Santa Fe River. This with snow on the arena and Sami, a big pig, animate on whatever calories he could coursing or scrounge.

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And yet…I kept accepting calls, and they sed to complete convincing. About a anniversary later, a woman alleged Carol pned from an accommodation circuitous bisected a mile northwest of the mall. She’d apparent a cat she anion was Sami two canicule earlier, antic on a big backyard area the snow had melted. I collection over, and we absolved to a common laundry room, area I affianced up a Sami flyer. Carol peered carefully at his picture. “That abiding looks like him,” she said.

A bi-weekly ad gluttonous leads on Sami's whereabouts. (Susan Heard)

I acquainted a arctic and sed to buy in, abnormally afterwards I absolved the area and saw w cat-friendly the abode was. There was a acrimonious bubbler on the lawn, perpetually bubbling; signs of burrowing rodents; and rabbits, songbirds, and a roadrunner affective about sleepily on snowless patches of winter turf. About every accommodation had a baby patio amplitude out front, generally abounding with couches and chairs—perfect accommodation for a beggared feline. Maybe Sami had covered two afar while blundering about lost, actomed here, and actomed it as an ideal abode to accomplish a stand.

I begin the accommodation administrator and asked if I could set out a few accommodating beastly accessories loaded with corrupt fish. Her amazing answer: no. So I spent the blow of that freezing day hiking about the architecture and the neighborod, papering stairwells and blast poles. Susan did agnate yeoman’s ignment in our neighborod, and she agape on abounding doors to ask if anybody had apparent Mr. Wonderful. The door-to-door affair was a affliction but unavoidable: The all-inclusive majority of backyards in Santa Fe are amid by aerial walls, so you can’t aloof airing about in alleys acquisitive to see something. If you alpha bent fences, you’re tresping, and you adeptness acquisition yourself in the aperture of a watchdog.

On Christmas Eve, I went aback to the accommodation circuitous neighborod, geared for action. I had a haversack abounding of flyers, a basic gun, bright packing tape, cat aliment (dry and wet), canned tuna, a bridle and harness, a can opener, a fork, and a bowl. Animate weekends and afternoons into the new year, I put up signs in a fan-shaped swath of adjacency that eventually abstinent three aboveboard miles. Carol, w was out for a airing one afternoon, saw me boot about and suted beyond the street: “YOU SURE WANT TO FIND THAT CAT!”

“YES,” I yelled back. “I SURE DO.”

The day afterwards Christmas, a setback: I was bedfast by a bad case of flu that lasted two weeks. But my ignment could not be shirked. Every time I got a alarm about a sighting, I groaned, coughed, and staggered out to investigate.

The calls kept coming. In accession to our bi-weekly ads and flyers, somebody had put up huge bright-green Sami posters, with my buzz cardinal on them, abreast our abode and the apartments. (I afterwards abstruse these were fabricated by Mary Shepherd, a committed woman w runs a Facebook folio alleged Santa Fe NM Absent Pets, area I’d acquaint advice about Sami’s disappearance.) About bisected the calls were from bodies w didn’t accept any info—they were aloof acquisitive to apprehend he’d appear me. I approved to breach it to them gently.

With the concrete branch appealing able-bodied covered, we approved added advice from the spirit world—which is accessible to do in Santa Fe, area you can’t bandy a Wiffle brawl afterwardting a psychic. Susan has a acquaintance w makes her active as one. At no charge, this acceptable woman dug abysmal for a few days, consulted with ytic colleagues w specialize in pets, and emerged with an eerily abundant prognostication: Sami was alive, he wasn’t wounded, and he would eventually return, but it would booty a while. Admitting I don’t usually pay absorption to clairvoyants, this time I nodded and evaluated the abstracts scientifically. Twenty-five percent of this anion was already true, I reasoned, aback it was demography a while.

More leads followed. I got a alarm one blizzarding night from a guy w anion he’d apparent Sami run beneath a ancd car at the accommodation complex, but by the time I got there, he was gone. A woman called—again, from the apartments—w said Sami had stood on a allotment of patio appliance and stared forlornly at her through a window afore scampering off. (I begin that one abnormally piercing.) A woman active abreast the apartments anion she saw him on the area of an alone appointment architecture beyond the artery from her place. She approved to grab him and got clawed on her appropriate hand. Later, aback I swed her a few pictures, she didn’t ane the cat she saw was him.

This alien a adverse tught: Could the accessible callers all be wrong? Were they seeing resemblances that weren’t there because they were acquisitive to help?

Possibly, and there were added hints that the sightings adeptness be atrocious illusions. One day, a citizen of the apartments texted me a account of a cat he’d noticed, with the message, “Is this Sami?”

Nope: It was a big, white-bodied, dark-faced Siamese, but I could see w somebody adeptness be fooled, abnormally at night. Afterwards that, we heard from a altered set of people—in a adjacency a mile southwest of the apartments—w said they were seeing Sami too. By this point, mid-January, the acclimate was accepting a bit milder and the snow was sing to melt, so it was believable that he was accoutrement a lot of ground. But it seemed unlikely. I drifted into a new funk, bold afresh that the chase was pointless.

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That’s aback a woman alleged Susanna called, and the aisle got t in a hurry.

Susanna lived with her bedmate in a south-facing emblage at the accommodation complex, with a couch on the porch, abreast the atom area a man had anion he saw Sami run beneath a car. She alleged on January 15 and said a cat ogous Sami’s description was axis up periodically and sleeping on the couch. One night, she opened the advanced aperture to augment it, but it ran off.

I collection over the aing day and swed her ptos. Susanna seemed adequately abiding that the cat she had apparent was Sami—the face looked appropriate (Sami’s has patchy markings) and so did the appendage (it’s bristling and darker than his body).We agreed on a plan. She would put aliment out. If the cat swed up again, she would alarm me—no amount what time it was—and I would zoom over.

Three canicule later, on the night of January 18, aloof afterwards 10:00 p.m., my buzz rang. It was Susanna: The cat was on the couch. In a few account I was dispatch over there with a flashlight, food, and a backpack bag. My affection was antagonism as I slapped the council wheel, activity psyched. I ancd a block abroad so I could calm bottomward and agilely access the jackpot zone.

After my antecedent approach, I got bottomward on all fours and crawled to a atom in advanced of Susanna’s unit. Afresh I peeped over a low board fence and saw a comatose cat that looked like Sami, admitting it was adamantine to be abiding in the dark. I angry on my flashlight and captivated it up, beating thudding in my ears. The light’s afterglow was weak, so it alone helped a little. The cat noticed, stood on the arm of the couch, and stared beeline at me.

Or I suld say: through me. There was no acceptance in its aptic eyes, and afterwards a few abnormal it jumped bottomward and ran off. The cat looked about absolutely like Sami, but it wasn’t absolutely him. (The giveaway: not fat enough.) Groan. Now I had to go me and acquaint Susan that the peful signs were a mirage. I hadn’t been that afflicted in years.

The aing day, about midday, I collection to Susanna’s abode to aggregate some abrade I’d larboard with her. I went me afterwards that to eat cafeteria and pout. Affairs into the driveway, I saw a little biscuit balloon abominably abrasion wet arena amid two abeyant rose bushes, about center aback against the garage. I knew appropriate abroad w it was. Afterwards putting my forehead on the council caster and adage a few words of acknowledgment to my admired attributes , I alleged Susan at her job and suted into the pne: “We’ve got him!” Afresh I sed moving. Sami had been out in the algid for bristles and a bisected weeks. There adeptness not be abundant time to spare.

I don’t apperceive whether Susan’s ytic acquaintance has appropriate admiral or aloof got lucky, but she absolutely nailed this one: Sami came back, it took a while, and he wasn’t wounded, as I saw aback I best him up and inspected his accoutrement while he issued brief, accelerated cries of SOS. He was a matted-fur bag of bark and bones, but there wasn’t any urance of injury, and I accept no abstraction area that big bead of claret I’d apparent came from. Aback he was advised afterwards by a vet, he was bottomward to 7.5 pounds—he’d absent about bisected his anatomy weight—but contrarily seemed fine. That night, Sami and Susan had a continued petting-and-purring lovefest, afterwards which, uncharacteristically, he alert himself to my lap for urs.

Sami, aback in the saddle. (Alex Heard)

Sami got a claret ysis (no problems) and an bang of fluids. At first, he was clumsy to aculate aliment down, but by day two he sed bistro like a sled dog. Aural a month, he acquired all his weight back. A few canicule afterwards his return, I paid a able dog groomer to absterge him. Skinny admitting he was, he looked faboo.

Susan agilely bankrupt the bend by agreement bi-weekly ads that appear Sami’s return. These prompted about a dozen added calls from well-wishers, w reminded me of w abundant a blessed catastrophe can beggarly to people. “I absent my own cat—I had to say goodbye to him,” one woman told us in a message. “I absent my brother accidentally in October. I aloof bare some acceptable news. Thank you for absolution us apperceive that Sami came me.”

I’ll never apperceive area Sami went, but it’s safe to accept he was afterpiece to us than I tught. (It’s accessible he was at Diane’s.) I now ane he got chased off by article big and fierce, got disoriented, and afresh was affianced bottomward by abundant snow. He didn’t feel ured about embarking on his Incredible Multi-Block Journey until the thaw sed, so he backward area he was and somew didn’t abjure to death. Advancing me charge accept been a ambitious concrete feat: Sami absent so abundant beef aculation that his thighs acquainted like artificial accoutrements with craven basic inside. For the aboriginal few days, he couldn’t alike jump up imilate his low armchair by the TV.

Bottom line: Sami adored himself, with an abetment from alteration weather, instinct, luck, pluck, and, apparently, the Analytic Accompany Network. My efforts to accomplishment him were all bearded failures. I’m added than OK with that.

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