I lost it then and there, sobbing as I flipped through pages and pages of photos of cats who are no longer with us. I don't think I drew a single breath until I reached the end. She wasn't in their book of dead cats, but she wasn't in the cages either. I had to get back out onto the street to find my girl.
Hours of more searching ensued. I put her litter box outside in hopes the scent would draw her home. By late afternoon I was exhausted from the trauma and the searching and the sobbing. I took a break from calling her name, sat on the back stoop, and put my head in my hands in despair.
And that's when I heard it: her little meow.
My head snapped up, darting wildly about, trying desperately to locate the source of her tiny mews. I crawled on my hands and knees, inching closer and closer to the sound, when it dawned on me: she was under the house, in the crawl space.
Relief flooded me and more tears came, this time tears of immense joy. I coaxed her toward the small door that served as a tiny entrance to the space under the house, and once I had her in my grasp, I pulled her out and held her to me as tightly as I could. Even as she scratched up my arms as she struggled.