Cat of the Day

August 24, 2003

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Bailey, the Cat of the Day
Name: Bailey
Age: Five years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Cat
Home: Glendale, Arizona, USA
   Bailey was born wild. His feral mother delivered Bailey and his siblings behind a neighbor's woodpile. He was already a few months old when we first discovered him, in mock combat with his brothers, rolling around in the yard next door. His thickening long hair was almost entirely white. There were only hints of gray on his nose, ears, and tail. And his eyes were a rich deep blue.

    Neither of us can remember why we started to set food and water out for these cats - we've both been life long 'dog people'. Nevertheless, they soon became regulars at our doorstep for morning and evening feedings.

    Lisa worked months with Bailey until she was able to pet him. (She named him Bailey because his coloring reminded her of Bailey's Irish Creme.) The others would have nothing to do with our physical contact but, to our surprise, Bailey became very comfortable with our affections. At the age of about six months we caught Bailey and his brother and took them to our vet to be checked and neutered. Soon, Bailey started venturing through the front door and into the house. For over a year he was a regular in and outside our house. Each night he'd come in and sit beside us on the couch.

    Then one day Bailey didn't show up for his feeding. We waited three days before we became really worried. It was painfully clear how much Bailey had come to mean to us. We were heartsick. We searched the neighborhood for him. We hung lost pet posters and registered a lost pet report with the Humane Society and on the Internet. We even checked with the city's dead animal pickup service. Happily, they had not 'seen' Bailey.

    Two weeks passed. We were overwhelmed with grief and had all but given up hope. Lisa, however, insisted we again go out and hang lost pet posters. I knew it was hopeless.

    We pulled the car up to a light pole two houses down from ours. Lisa got out to hang a poster on the light pole. As we talked through the opened car door we both heard a faint meow. I jumped out of the car and we looked in bushes near the light pole. Nothing. Then another meow: weak, but sounding familiar. I called out for Bailey and again we heard the meow. It came from within the storm drain on which we were standing. We couldn't see into the drain but I recognized that meow! Bailey!

    We lifted the manhole cover and there sat Bailey glaring up at us ("What took you guys so long?"). Even with the manhole cover off, Bailey couldn't jump out. He'd hurt a hip repeatedly trying to jump out of the storm drain. Lisa held my legs as I lay on the sidewalk and went headfirst through the manhole. At first Bailey backed away. Eventually I grabbed him and Lisa pulled us up and out of the storm drain. Between the three of us, I don't know who was more relieved!

    We rushed Bailey to the vet. He was dehydrated, had lost two pounds, and needed the hip surgically repaired. Otherwise, he was amazingly well off considering the time he must have been stranded in the storm drain. It took Bailey only a few months to fully recover from his ordeal and the hip surgery. He's now happy, healthy and strictly an indoor cat!

    As for us, we've become the neighborhood cat people. We've taken in 17 feral kittens or abandoned pet cats. They all stay indoors - we now understand why they shouldn't run wild outdoors. We work with other feral cats in a nearby park by trapping, fixing, and releasing them. We also keeps them healthy with daily feedings! But it all started with Bailey. We don't tell the other cats, but he's a little more special to us.

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