[The following is an excerpt from "Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology," with illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton.]
The animal shelter looked like a prison. It had long concrete hallways and heavy doors that rang out when shut. A perky volunteer showed me around. My crutches sounded like hammers thudding on the floor.
The volunteer took me to the cat rooms, which were lined with cages, and stepped back as I peered into each one.
"Tibby?" I whispered. The adult cats were crouched in the back and looked at me without moving. The kittens came forward, but they had drooping tails and mystified eyes. "I'm so sorry," I said to each one. "I wish I could take you home."
I returned to the pound every three days, and every three days it was the same. A volunteer would appear with sympathetic smiles and a bouncy voice.
"I lost my kitty," I would whimper. "He's large, shy, with wet, extraterrestrial eyes. He disappeared fifteen . . . twenty-one . . . thirty-three days ago."
"Oh, cats," the perky volunteers would respond knowingly. They would tell me hopeful stories. Everyone had hopeful stories. There were cats who had been gone for days, weeks, months before returning home. There were cats who had been found three thousand miles away, two years later. I listened with the fervor of the newly evangelized. Clearly the volunteers had some magic that I had lost or never had, an emotional sturdiness behind their bright smiles. How else could they stand all this kitty misery?