By KEVIN NEVERS
Cats are perverse
creatures. By turns affectionate and malicious, yowlingly needy then
serenely aloof, crafty one minute and asinine the next, they might have been
put on earth solely to prove Emerson right, that consistency is the
hobgoblin of little minds.
Cats are great
believers in their own dignity, and for that reason easily embarrassed, yet
they’ll upchuck a hair ball on your pillow and look you blandly in the eye
while doing it.
Cats are supremely
confident, tremblingly skittish, fickle, ungrateful, fussy, crude, inspired
to acts of vandalism and bloodletting by ghostly voices only they can hear,
and for all that we still welcome them into our homes and hearts, because in
the end we need them more than they need us.
Except when they
do need us. For cats are one other thing too: oblivious to their own
best interests, maddeningly obstinate, suicidally willful, happy to
sacrifice the nose to spite the face.
Consider, then, the
case of Mili, a gray tabby who, on the night of June 30, bolted from her
owners’ moving van while it was parked on the side of I-94, by the Ind. 49
exit near Saemann Road. A stupid move, even for a cat, but that much more
stupid because Mili’s owners, en route from the Detroit suburbs to their new
home in Palatine, Ill., couldn’t spare more than a few hours to hunt for
her, by flashlight, through the tree line at the top of the embankment.
An indoor cat
unaccustomed to the wilderness, Mili nevertheless went to ground, ignored
her owners’ frantic pleas, figured she knew better. Perhaps she even watched
as they finally drove away, heartbroken.
And there the story
might have ended--just another house cat lost forever--had not one man made
Mili his personal project. His name is Mike Davis, a Dunelander who was
returning home from an evening of shopping in Michigan City when he chanced
upon the moving van, saw the bob of flashlight beams, and stopped to help.
Davis joined the search, really put his back into it, did what an animal
didn’t want to be found.
“We were at it for
a couple of hours,” Davis remembers. “But the people had to leave. That was
a terrible feeling. I felt pretty alone trying to find the cat. I felt
Sick enough to keep
Davis began by
distributing a LOST CAT flyer to 400 homes in the area. He got his hands on
some live-traps, baited them, and placed them in likely spots along the tree
line. He also mounted a game camera in the area, in the hope of capturing an
image of Mili and getting some kind of a fix on her. “Every single day I set
the traps and re-baited them. And I’d check them several times a day and at
Then Davis enlisted
the aid of Jane Hullsiek, who operates the Humane Society of the Dunes and
has been rescuing cats for nearly half a century. What Hullsiek doesn’t know
about wrangling wayward and orphaned felines isn’t worth knowing, and yet
still Mili refused to be trapped, in unaccountable defiance of the genetic
imperative hardwired into all cats everywhere to seek out and jump into shoe
boxes, sauce pans, wastepaper baskets, laundry hampers, suitcases, woks, and
other confined and enclosed spaces.
“We put food in the
traps,” Davis says. “We put food on the side of the traps. We put food in
front of the traps. But the cat never went inside the trap.”
“I rescue 100
animals off the streets every year,” Hullsiek adds. “I’ve been doing this
for 41 years. Mili was the worst, the hardest, the most challenging.”
After three weeks
without finding a shred of evidence that Mili was even alive, much less
well, Davis and Hullsiek had begun to give up hope. “We just thought the cat
was gone, had moved on elsewhere,” Davis says. Then, on July 20, he took his
game camera’s SD card to the Westchester Public Library to read on a
computer and sure enough got a glimpse of the prodigal cat. “There Mili was.
I just about lost it in the library. I just froze up. They were asking me
So Davis and
Hullsiek redoubled their efforts, took to setting the traps in shifts, Davis
in afternoon and at night, Hullsiek in the morning. Hullsiek invested $400
in a remote-controlled live-trap and they began leaving food near it, just
to get Mili used to the idea of the device. They bushwhacked their way
through a labyrinth of dense thorny brush on the far side of the tree line
and when they did found a trail leading to the old ceramic factory. Working
a hunch they started baiting traps along that trail as well. Then, on
discovering a groundhog burrow dug in the middle of it, they went about
trying to trap the groundhog too, thinking maybe the beast had spooked Mili.
And still she
refused to be trapped.
“By now we were
thinking, ‘How much longer can we keep doing this?’” Davis says. “Our lives
were completely put on hold by this cat. I had this sinking feeling. I
didn’t know it was going to be such a long drawn-out process. But I just
didn’t want to give up. I prayed every day and asked God to help me get the
At 10 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 5--fully 35 days after Mili lit out for the
territories--Davis and Hullsiek re-baited their traps as usual but by now
were focused on the groundhog. Remove the groundhog from the equation, clear
space for the cat, that was the logic. Six hours later, at 4 p.m., they
returned, hoping to find the groundhog in the cage but this time, at long
last, finding Mili instead.
“We both freaked
out,” Davis says. “We called the people in Palatine and they freaked out. It
was just a great, great feeling. The people came back and hugged her and
kissed her and played with her. I was so glad I got the chance to see that.”
The best part of
it? “It was their wedding anniversary,” Davis says, “and the only present
the woman wanted was having Mili back. And that’s what she got.”
Porter Police Lt.
John Lane, who followed the search and has long known Davis to be an animal
lover, now knows him to be the salt of the earth. “I’m frankly amazed by
Mike’s commitment to help strangers. This is really what makes Duneland a
place that someone would want to call home.”
The Humane Society
of the Dunes is a not-for-profit entirely supported by tax-deductible
donations. Send contributions to P.O. Box 2481, Chesterton, IN 46304