|Samura, shortly after her rescue|
The following true story was written by a friend of mine in Germany named Karina Gindele. It is about how she lost her beloved cat, Samura, in the forest on the road between Erlangen and Tubingen; how she returned to the spot again and again over the course of a month to search for the cat; and how the two were eventually reunited. Karina provides a lot of evocative details about her search during the height of the German winter; and although she asked me to edit the story for language and style (English is not her native language, but she speaks and writes it very well) I really had to do only a very light edit.
So it was a calculated risk, and I was prepared so far that I had a thick towel laying on my stuff on the back seat. Nevertheless, she looked rather guilty, especially when I stopped in order to clean my car. I sensed her insecurity and tried to convince her she had not done anything wrong by speaking to her and stroking her. As a matter of fact, there was no big damage at all. She had done her number two on top of the towel which is easy washed and that was all.
It was obvious to me she was not happy about that and when I was done, she tried to escape my hands in order to go back into her transport bag on the passenger seat. But I took her against her obvious will with me out of the car. I carried her about 10 metres along the cart track into the forest, then I put her on the ground and started to undress my jeans. She was very unsecure with the situation, I sensed that, but I thought we would be back inside the car within the next five minutes., So I did not really pay a great deal of attention to her apparent anxiety. I was so sure she could not go away and just thought, okay she will survive a moment in the dusky wildness in my company.
I proceeded in circles which grew bigger and bigger and guided me, step by step, farther away from the place where she had vanished. It had already reached -9 °C (15.8 °F) when I stopped after two hours. Meantime it was getting much colder, and it was pitch dark. I did just wear jeans, pullover and boots with 6 cm heels. There was no snow but the ground was deeply frozen and so was I. It took me a while to find my way back to the car in order to put on my warm hiking-boots I had in the trunk and my coat, scarf, hat and gloves. This time I took my mobile phone with me but it was not of great help since it had no connection out there.
I found a path which was clearly a hiking path since it was marked with the sign of a woodpecker and which was obviously not the cart track which would lead me back to my car. It was nearly impossible to estimate the distance I walked since I did not really walk. Sometimes the undergrowth was so thick that I could only get under it on my hands and knees. At some distance from the car, the terrain became very steep. I decided not to go down there in the darkness. On one point I turned off my torch because I thought Samura might be frightened by the light. Thankfully it was a clear night and I could see enough not to stumble as long as I walked along the woodpecker path. I followed that path for a time always calling for Samura, trying to sound like I would just call her for feeding at home. But as the hours passed by I shouted louder and louder “Samura! Samura! Samura! …”.
It was there, not far away from the deer yard where I was sure to glimpse two cat's eyes. But when I turned in that direction they were gone and I could not see or hear anything. At about Midnight I realised my torch was running out of energy and soon I will have a serious problem if I do not find the way back to my car. I was somewhere in the forest, no Idea where, no idea in which direction the next path is and in which direction my car is.
Now I just had to figure out if my car was to my left or to my right. In order to solve that problem I decided to walk in one direction till I reached the next junction where I was sure to find a signage to the next village. I climbed over the wall and through the trench, and as soon as I left the shelter of the trees, the icy wind caught me. I wrapped my scarf in front of my face so that only my eyes remained free. The first road sign I reached was that in direction of Linden, a tiny village I already had passed by before my stop. So I had gone the wrong way.
Meanwhile, my torch was dead and I wanted to spare my smartphone. I didn't want to risk being hit by a car, so I decided to walk on the wall, a few metres from the road. When I finally reached my car, it was in the middle of the night. I placed Samura’s transport bag on the spot where she vanished with an additional blanket. I left her some food in the hope she would smell it, find her bag and nestle in the blankets, where I would find her in the morning.
It took me a moment to realise it was the bright green colour of the moss, which was covering the ground and the old trees, that created this impression. I spent a lot of time looking under old tree trunks and inside the holes created by the ripped out roots of the old trees. I had a box with Samura’s favourite dry food with me which I jounced. At home Samura cannot resist the sound of her food box and comes out wherever she is hiding for a nap. But in the forest, nothing happened. After I crossed the wilderness I found myself in front of a wall of young conifers planted like soldiers in rank and file with very little space between the single trees. Last night I did not enter that area but now I crossed it partly on my hands and knees.
All the time I shined my torch under the trees where it was rather dim even on such a bright morning. Behind the tree farm the terrain descends and again the flora is wild with lots of thorn bushes. At the foot of the slope are fish-ponds. Beyond them the area again is climbing steep to a harvest field. Beyond that field are the first houses of the very small village called Kästel.
At about 3 pm I was entirely exhausted, hungry and frozen. So I went home to warm myself up eat something and rest a bit. I was back at the spot at 6 pm since I hoped she would come back to the spot I lost her on the same time. She did not. Again I searched for her till it was pitch black, and I was chilled to the bones. I really wanted to go home in my warm and cosy bed, but I simply could not. Always when I turned the engine on in order to drive home, I got this picture from her in my head, where she had tried to wriggle out of my grip and went back in her transport-bag on the passenger seat. And I had forced her to leave the warm car with me and now she is outside there in the freezing night alone. I simply could not leave her there alone and go home in my warm apartment. I simply could not.
At about 4 am my feet were so cold that massaging them did not help at all to warm them up. From time to time I started the engine to heat the car up while I was outside searching for Samura again. The whole night every hour I searched for her in the area around the car hoping she would come back to the spot where she run away. I was told there would be a change during the first three days that she might come back. So I waited and hoped, but she did not come.
At about 6:30 am shortly before dawn the police arrived. It turned out Andreas was so afraid I would have fallen asleep and frozen he had called the police. And now, two young police officers were standing in front of my car, with that look at their face, which made it very clear, they thought I was crazy. Well, maybe I am crazy, but for me my cats are my children, particularly since I had my miscarriage, and I could never abandon one of them. What would you do if your child is lost in a forest during the coldest period in the year?
When I reached my familiar spot in the forest near Kästel, I had not to search long, there was a cat trace not 10 meters from the spot where Samura vanished. I followed that trace which led me criss-cross across the forest and forced me into the undergrowth. It led me again and again in circles back to the spot not far from my car. It was just one cat. Always when I saw another trace and thought, okay, there are two cats, it turned out one hour or so later, that the trace of the second cat was actually from the first which just circled back to its earlier trace.
I spent hours following the trace. I found the place where she obviously spent the night and I found three spots where she obviously had tried to find something under the snow because there she had pawed away the snow. At about 5 pm the light started to go and still no glimpse of Samura. I was cold, tired, hungry and exhausted and I gave up for the day and went to my car.
Several times I found myself forced to circle a spot in order to identify the freshest outgoing trace. That was all very exhaustingly and frustrating since it all led to empty places. I was even not sure it was Samura I was following. When the sun started to set down on the second day, I was devastated. I knew it would not be easier the next day. Meantime I knew, the radius of movement of the cat I was following was not very big, but still I could not find her. When I started to make my way back to the car on these evening, I was close to tears while I followed my own boot-prints from the evening before.
I got on my knees like I had done countless times these last weeks and peered in that “tent”. It was dark under the branches and I almost would have overlooked her if not for her pairs of eyes staring at me from the farthest corner where the branches were so thick that there was a snow free spot where she was hiding. She was so small and she was shaking. I could see that she did not recognise me but was afraid of me.
She bit and scratched me till I had her on her back. I told her she might bite and scratch me as much as she wants but I would not let her go. I do not know if it was the sound of my voice or the scent of my hand on which she sniffed now, but she looked at me and I could see the recognition in her eyes. She stopped fighting my hands and when I released her, she did not move. I took off my winter jacket, put it on the ground next to her, cupped this little creature, which was literally just fur and bone gently in my hands and put her on the jacket which I wrapped around her. Now where I realised how malnourished she was I started to panic I might have come too late, and she might not make it.
While she was eating I called Andreas to ask him to check whether the veterinarian office in Dachsbach, two villages away, was still open. It was 6 pm and I wanted to bring Samura as soon as possible to a veterinarian. Not ten minutes later he called me back to tell me I could go there, so I headed to the vet. Mrs Hermann is a veterinarian by passion, and she gave Samura a thorough examination. After that she calmed me down by telling me everything would be all right with some antibiotics, food and love. I was so relieved I sat on a chair in the consulting room and started to cry. Samura had a lot of ticks. It looked like she took shelter in a tick-nest. She had open wounds on all her legs, her paws where swollen, she had an acute bronchitis, and she was malnourished. But I was able take her with me home on the same evening.
I was lucky, I just had an infusion in the emergency, had my hand and half my arm fixed in a splint, had to take antibiotics every day for a fortnight and last but not least I had to promise the emergency physician that I would go to my family doctor the very next day and come back immediately should the pain went worse. Then he let me go but mostly because I made my point very clear that I would not stay in hospital since I have a cat at home who needs my attention.