Louis, the favorite of my cats (don't tell the others, okay?) went missing earlier this week. I was carrying in groceries and he slipped out the door and ran under Gwen and Floyd's front porch. At the time I was tired from working all night the night before and cranky and my throat hurt, so I didn't reach under there and drag him out by one leg like I usually do. He always comes right back, I told myself. So I went in the house, put away the groceries, and did a few little chores...but Louis didn't come back. I went outside with a measuring cup of food and called "Louuuuuuis, here Louuuuuuissss!" while shaking the cup of food, a never-fail trick. It failed. I walked up and down the alley and around the block and didn't spot him anywhere. He wasn't crouched under the steps of my side porch or slinking among Gwen's raspberries and tomatoes or climbing Martha's dogwood tree. So, reluctantly, I went to bed. Two hours later I woke up when I thought I heard him meowing and ran to the back door. No Louis. He still wasn't home when I left for work that night, so I texted my son and daughter-in-law and asked them to come by and look for him later. He didn't show himself to them, either. The next morning I raced home quick as I could, sure Louis would be standing by the back door indignantly. He wasn't. Twenty-four hours missing. He'd never been gone this long. I began to worry.
I put a "Missing Cat" notice as my status on Facebook, which generated a lot of sympathy from my friends and family but no sightings of little Louis. I appealed to my friend Laura, the Cat Whisperer, for advice. She was at work and couldn't check Facebook, but our friend Christy posted this: "When my cat was missing, Laura told me to put out a basket of dirty laundry. I did and my cat came right back." Willing to try anything, and always having a basket of dirty laundry available, I morosely set it out by the back door and went in the kitchen to have a medicinal Woodchuck. Thirty-two hours missing.
Half a Woodchuck later, I heard a very tiny, hoarse little "meow". I ran to the back door, flung it open, and there was Louis, laying on the patio next to the laundry basket. I scooped him up and he snuggled his head under my chin and squeaked "meow". He was filthy dirty, hoarse, starving and thirsty, but overall none the worse for wear and tear.
I joyfully called my sister to let her know that the prodigal cat had returned. "Way to air your dirty laundry, sissa," she laughed. So, I am passing the Cat Whisperer's advice on to y'all: if the cat goes missing, air out the dirty laundry. I don't know how or why it works, but it does. And I am certainly happy for that.