Nine-month-old Piper the Kitten used up one or two of his nine lives this month when he went missing from his home near snowbound Sault Ste. Marie. When his owner, Verna Decaire, let him out the evening of Dec. 8, she wasn’t too concerned when he didn’t return right away. But when he still didn’t show up the next morning she started walking the neighborhood calling his name.
Verna and her family continued to search for the cat over the course of the following weeks. Christmas came and went. No Piper.
My son R.J. “was very upset,” said Verna. “Well, we all were. I kept telling R.J. one of the neighbors had probably picked him up and he is warm and safe and we are going to keep praying for him.”
What she didn’t tell R.J. was that she feared Piper had frozen to death or been killed by a wild animal. But she never completely gave up hope that Piper would return.
“I kept praying he would come home or we would hear someone took in a cat and it might be him,” she said.
This week, when Decaire and her daughter Brittany were getting ready to go shopping, they ran into a neighbor, Mary Hicks, and her dog Aili, a young German Shepherd, at the end of their driveway. As they chatted, Aili feverishly began digging a hole in the snow piled up in the culvert at the end of the driveway.
“She kept digging and digging,” said Hicks. “I was trying to get her away, but she kept on digging. She’s already a big dog, she weighs about 80 pounds . . . she kept dragging me back.
“She must have dug down about three feet. The only thing you could see was her behind and her tail.”
Hicks eventually got control of the dog and they continued their walk, leaving a hole in the snowbank.
Verna went into the garage to start the car while Brittany waited outside. Brittany heard a screech.
“She thought she heard a crow,” said Verna. “She told me it was more of a screech and she looked up at the trees to see if it was a bird.”
The noise got louder and Brittany realized it was coming from beneath the ground.
“Just then a cat crawled out of the hole the dog had dug,” said Verna. “I was in the garage, but Brittany was screaming, ‘Mom, Mom.’ I ran to her and as she turned toward me I could see the cat and I started screaming at the top of my lungs. “
Even though the cat was half the size Piper was when he went missing Verna, knew it was their family cat.
The mother and daughter bundled up the cat, rushed him into the house and were relieved when the first thing he did was run to the bathroom to drink out of the toilet, a longtime habit of his.
When R.J. returned home from school that afternoon, the first sound he heard was Piper screeching.
“He wanted to know what the noise was, but then he yelled, ‘Piper, I knew you would come home,'” said Verna.
Piper and R.J. slept together Wednesday night and things have almost returned to normal.
“I think it is a miracle. I cannot even comprehend being in a little closed space for all that time and have the will to keep on living.
“We are going to save some money and get him fixed so he will be an indoor cat and never wander away again.”
Even though Piper lost two pounds during the month-long ordeal, he is expected to make a full recovery, according to his vet.