Wakefield, Quebec couple didn’t give up on Twiggy

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by Trevor Greenway on September 24, 2009

CAT-ASTROPHE AVERTED: Dirk Nielsen and Twiggy together again after almost 80 days. Photo by Trevor Greenway of the Low Down.

CAT-ASTROPHE AVERTED: Dirk Nielsen and Twiggy together again after almost 80 days. Photo by Trevor Greenway of the Low Down.

6 p.m. Get home, quick dinner, start packing up the Twiggy mobile. Flashlights: check, granola bars: check, cat food: check, warm clothes: check. Into the car and off to search for the missing cat for two hours.

That was what most of July looked like for Vanessa Cardy and Dirk Nielsen who lost their cat Twiggy in late June. Twiggy was staying at a boarding kennel in Edelweiss while the couple was visiting the Maritimes, but she busted out and roamed the hills for two and a half months before being spotted by a farmer on Aug. 31.

As soon as the two returned from their vacation, they began pounding the pavement hard, determined to find the cat that they considered a family member.

“Twiggy has been a big part of our life together,” said Cardy from her home on Fleury Rd in Wakefield.

“She has been a huge part of our family.”

Initially the couple took out a four-week advertisement in the Low Down, describing what the cat looked like and where she was last seen. They made up hundreds of flyers with six pictures of the cat from every angle, hoping that, one day, Twiggy would be brought back home.

Seven months pregnant and very emotional, Cardy wouldn’t give up on the cat she raised from birth. The two sent out daily messages in the Wakefield News for the entire summer and although most people had given up on the cat, the two owners wouldn’t rest until Twiggy was home safe. They searched almost two hours every night in the month of July, becoming so desperate, they set up an infrared camera at the Kennels to see if they could catch a shot of Twiggy that would narrow their search.

“We got hundreds of pictures of other cats, but none of Twiggy,” said Nielsen, chuckling.

Towards the end of August, Nielsen said he was “beginning to lose hope,” but was trying to remain positive. The couple wasn’t too concerned about Twiggy’s survival skills, as she has “always been a good hunter,” bringing mice into the house on a regular basis and even fetching a live bat, on one occasion.

After more than two and a half months of endless searching and constant worry, Cardy went into labour and delivered a baby girl, Lucy on Aug. 31. That same day, Nielsen got a call from a farmer on Pike Lake Rd. who though he had spotted the cat. Nielsen went to check out the farm a few days later, but was unable to find Twiggy. The farmer called back on Sept. 10 and told Nielsen that Twiggy was in the yard and that he’d better make it out there before she ran off again. When Nielsen showed up, Twiggy was hiding under a shed, but the sound of his voice sent the cat running into his arms.

“I called her name and she just came running,” said Nielsen.

“I was so stoked.”

Nielsen immediately called his wife and told her that Twiggy would be back at home, but Cardy didn’t think it was true.

“I burst into tears,” she said.

“I just couldn’t believe it.”

Cuddled up on the couch with the entire family, including Twiggy, Cardy began to speak of the toughest times during Twiggy’s absence.

“It was the not knowing what had happened to her that was the worst,” said Cardy, cuddling up to Twiggy.

“It would be nice to see where she went if we had a GPS on her.”

When Twiggy arrived back home on Sept. 10, she was six pounds lighter and had a small scratch on her nose. The two took Twiggy to the veterinarian for a check up, who figured that she must have been eating cat food, as she was in pretty good shape.

Side bar:

If your indoor cat goes darting out the door, the worst thing an owner can do is chase it. The Chronicle Herald newspaper in Nova Scotia published a story in their July 25 edition with tips on finding your lost cat. If your cat is missing, try one of the following strategies.

•First, be sure that the cat is not in the house. They can sometimes hide in clothing piles or even suit cases in closets or under the bed.

•If you know where the cat left the building, start there and think like a cat. It wouldn’t stroll down sidewalks so neither should you.

•Never chase your cat. Instead, leave the door open and walk around and behind the cat to herd it into the house.

•Follow fence lines and walls and search for a hiding spots along the way.

•If you find your cat hiding, don’t chase it out. Let the cat come to you. Be very patient.

•Put up posters that are bright and large enough to be seen by passing drivers

•Hand out flyers to friends and neighbours; even those who don’t live nearby.

•Check the local shelters, as cats sometimes end up there

•Most importantly, never give up. Even if your cat is missing for an entire summer, like Twiggy was, don’t stop searching. Vanessa Cardy and Dirk Nielsen never gave up once, and their cat Twiggy made it home two and a half months after it went missing.