It happened within seconds! I had arrived early to practice our music selections for our Animal Blessings Service at St Stephen’s Church and swung around to the passenger door to get my 3-legged cat Smoky out of the car. He was nestled securely in his plastic cat carrier case…or so I thought!
I was looking forward to this service with thanks to God for all the provision he gives us, including the unconditional love from our pets. As the service wasn’t to start for about an hour, I had packed an extra towel in to the carrier to make him more comfortable.
Happily, I picked up the carrier and was rounding to the back of my car when “TWANG” – the carrier exploded and fell in sections back down to the ground…cat included! The extra weight of the towel must have exceeded the weight specifications of the plastic carrier…be forewarned!
I stood in shock, as did Smoky, and then in the blink of an eye he darted to the front of my car, alongside some bushes. I felt like I was underwater but I moved to him and tried to pick him up gently around the waist. He wanted nothing to do with that and skirted off into the undergrowth. Our small country Church is situated on 5 acres of meadow nestled in a valley surrounded by farmlands.
My face registered anguish and, as I turned in shock, I noticed a senior couple had also witnessed his escape. My elder sister and I drew together in prayer and asked for God’s protection around Smoky. My cat found himself in unfamiliar territory and had to cope with a burgeoning population of interesting animals..the majority of which were dogs!.
I really didn’t know what to do with myself with Smoky gone so I moved forward and carried through with our music practice. I did tell everyone I knew that Smoky had escaped…just in case he was sighted and I could come to his rescue. Gallant mother rescues distressed cat!
However it was not to be on that day. Our service went smoothly and I noticed more deeply how much love was mirrored between the pet owners and their pets. How I wished Smoky was beside me at the keyboard so that I could love him back! I put on a brave face but was anxious to try to find him once everyone went home.
Several of my friends stayed behind and we tried the “Smoky” call n’ whistle but the only answer back we got was a gentle silence. I really felt like we were looking for a needle in the haystack. My friend thought she heard him in the vestry but by the time we both looked he wasn’t to be seen. Some of us walked down the lane alongside the church to no avail. I thought to myself how well his dark grey coat would blend in with the birch trees and brush, making him harder to be found.
I ended up leaving his cat carrier, with the towel and some food in the exact location where my car had been parked. I came back in the evening and listlessly walked around but still no Smoky. We all missed him and for the next 3 days I came down to the church as often as possible. I never felt like giving up because he was an indoor/outdoor cat so I knew he could survive in the outdoors, especially in the summer.
My friends were very supportive and suggested several things to do to alleviate the worry and provide a sense of purpose in trying to find him. It was a comfort to know that God was in our midst, directing our steps.
I put up picture posters in the immediate vicinity of our church, hoping his three legs wouldn’t carry him too far. Ads were placed in some local newspapers and the vet was kept in the loop.
We had a break mid-week when a neighbour near St. Stephen’s said her husband had a sighting of a grey cat playing with their outdoor black cat in a large adjacent golden field. She advised I could come to their property and look around so I jumped into my car and headed down to their home. I walked around their large terraced backyard and did the cat-call Smoky was well used to. Gentle silence was the reply.
Ironically, my friends called me to ask how things were going when I got home. I told them about the sighting. So in the later evening we did a ‘night-scope’ of the property and met up with the outdoor black cat Smoky had played with. This raised the bar of hope up one notch! No luck…the black cat got all of Smoky’s treats. However my friend and I did a sincere prayer, as we both love animals, and we believed that God would help us. Not only is God’s “Eye on the Sparrow” but on all his living creatures!
So a week passed since I last saw him. It was now Sunday, August 19th and after dinner I felt a stirring that I should go down to the church. I packed my usual treats and some water. As I arrived at our little church and was walking towards the graveyard, I heard a small station wagon with some lively music pull up into the parking lot. I started walking the perimeter of the graveyard near the alley and then scoped the other side where the big gulley was filled with brambles.
Smoky…whistle….Smoky….whistle….MEOW! Smoky? MEOW! Smoky? MEOW! I couldn’t believe my ears. I was shocked at first and then I thought this could be the Smoke. Was it really the Smoke? At that exact moment of realization, a young man came up to me and asked if I needed some help and was I looking for my cat. I said yes. He said he could hear the cat too but it sounded in distress. I felt rooted to my spot. He asked if I wanted him to go around to the other side to try to herd him towards me.
I felt bad because although the young man was protected with pants and a long-sleeved shirt, I didn’t want him to get cut in the bramble bush. He said he wanted to help and I thanked him warmly. I continued to call and then all of a sudden I saw a small bush move halfway up the gulley. As I peered down I saw a pair of yellow eyes…Smoky’s eyes and his little fox-shaped face. I said ‘Praise God’ at least 6 or 7 times.
He looked spooked and I didn’t want to scare him. I drew a little closer and then he went back down the gulley. I decided not to panic but have faith. The young man was continuing to move bushes at the opposite side of the gulley. I told him what happened and then I started to call again. I was not going to give up at this point!
Rustle…rustle…after about 5 minutes I saw Smoky come out in an area more level and he laid on his back underneath a small evergreen bush. This is what he always has done when I come home and he wants to greet me. I tentatively went towards him and slowly picked him up. He tried to squirm but I was not letting him go. I went directly to the car and sat him in the passenger’s seat where a royal feast of treats awaited him. He was absolutely starving and ate everything. He then curled up and was very still.
I dared not get out of the car in case he escaped again so I waited for the young man to come back to the parking lot. When he approached my window I told him how much I appreciated his help and that he was instrumental in bringing Smoky back home.
I decided on my way to work the next morning to drop off some tasty fish, bread and salad for the young man as a thank you. I believe God orchestrated us to be there at that exact moment to help find Smoky. I also believe that God cared for Smoky “out in the wild” and herded him to that ravine so that he could hear my voice when I walked up the east side of the graveyard.
Nothing is impossible with God. I am forever grateful to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for their daily provision for each of us and for our family members, which most definitely includes our beloved pets.
Postscript – I have bought Smoky a secure fabric carrier so that he now travels first class!!