Monday, September 14, 2009

Binky's Stump

In 1998 Gary and I lived near Lake McCumber near Lassen National Park in Northern California. A short time after we moved there, we decided to get a cat. We brought home a male gray tabby kitten and named him Binky. He was a feisty and gregarious cat. Since we both worked outside the home, a month or so later we decided to get a female cat to keep Binky company while we were at work. That's how our cat, Betty, came to join us. Binky and Betty would play outside during the day and we would bring them in the house at night to protect them from predators like owl and fox. They played and hunted squirrels and chipmunks together and had a grand old time.

One day when we got home we called Binky and Betty like we usually did and Betty came running, but no Binky. We walked all around the area and Binky was no where to be found. Then we got in our car and drove around the neighborhood with the windows rolled down calling and calling for Binky, still no Binky. Finally it was dark and we still hadn't found Binky. The next morning I ran outside first thing to see if Binky was there and he still was no where to be found. A few days went by and still there was no sign of Binky. We asked all the neighbors and no one had seen Binky. We put notices up saying lost cat with our phone number, but no one called us to say they had seen our cat.

A few days later it started to snow. It was the middle of October and once it started to snow it didn't stop and didn't melt at the 4500 foot elevation where we lived till the next Spring. It kept snowing and snowing and a couple of weeks went by and still no Binky. Every day when I would drive to work, I would drive through the neighborhood with my windows down calling Binky. But I never saw Binky. By that time I had all but given up hope of ever finding Binky. I figured Binky couldn't find his way back home with all the snow on the ground.

A month passed and we had resigned ourselves that we wouldn't find Binky. We figured Binky had been eaten by a fox or an owl. By that time the snow was about a foot deep and it was cold especially at night. One weekend we decided to go to the Ponderosa Pines restaurant just down the road from us for breakfast. After we'd finished most of our breakfast we began reading the Redding newspaper left there by another patron. As I glanced through the paper I saw an animal shelter ad telling of a cat for adoption. I exclaimed loudly, "It's Binky, it's Binky!" Everyone in the restaurant looked up. Gary grabbed the newspaper to look for himself. The ad was in black and white but it did look like Binky.

We read in the paper the shelter closed at noon on Saturday and it was already late. I said to Gary, "Quick, lets leave right now and drive down there before they close". Gary said he didn't think we'd make it in time, but we could try. It was 45 miles to Redding from where we were down the mountain. Gary said, "Can I finish my breakfast?". I said, "No, this is important, lets leave now". We drove as fast as we could down the mountain to the shelter.

Once we got to the shelter we had to register to see the animals up for adoption before we could go in, we could hardly contain ourselves. Finally we ran up to the cage where the cat was and called, "Binky, Binky". The cat looked almost like Binky, down to the same coloring and everything, but the cat just blinked at us and it wasn't Binky. For a moment I was almost fooled thinking it was Binky. It could have been Binky's brother, but it wasn't Binky. We were so disappointed. We went out to our car and I cried a little since I had gotten my hopes up.

I told Gary I felt like Binky was still alive out there. Gary said I was just being foolish and putting myself through needless suffering looking for Binky. But I just couldn't give up hope for some reason. I talked Gary into going to the local Kinko's print shop while we were in Redding. I had the newspaper clipping of the cat enlarged and printed on posters. We didn't have a camera at the time and so we had no photos of Binky. We had ten posters printed up with the enlargement of the cat from the newspaper and wrote a message below about Binky being lost with our phone number. Then we had the posters laminated since it was wet and snowy. We drove back up to the mountains and hung the posters all over the neighborhood and we waited.

At the time Gary worked from 7 am to 3:30 p.m. and I worked from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. so we only saw each other on weekends. Two weeks went by and one evening I was at work and the phone rang and Gary said he had found Binky. Gary said a woman named Shannon had called and said "I saw your cat Binky sitting on a tree stump in the woods but when I called him he ran away". She said, "I know it was your cat because he looked just like the cat on the poster". She said, "Hurry, because I had to drive to my home before I could call you and I live seven miles from the lake where I saw him". Gary said he ran out of the house and drove like crazy to where Shannon had seen the cat. Gary said he walked into the woods and saw Binky sitting up on the same tree stump. Gary said he called, "Binky" and Binky came running to him.

I left work early that day to go home and see Binky. When I got home I picked up Binky and he was skin and bones. Binky had lost almost half of his body weight. His nose and feet were frost bitten and he could hardly walk. He also seemed like he could barely see, possibly from snow blindness. I slept with Binky on the couch that night and carried him to his food and his litter box and back to the couch again. Binky smelled like fabric softener. I figured he had stayed outside someones dryer vent to keep warm.

The next day I called the vet to ask what I could do for Binky. The vet said he might have major organ damage from starvation and all I could do was feed him and give him lots of water and hope his kidneys and other organs were OK. Then we realized we had no way of thanking Shannon, the woman who had called us to tell us where Binky was. Gary had rushed out the house so quickly he didn't get her phone number. All we knew was that she parked near the lake and hiked around the lake each day.

Later that summer I was driving to work late one morning and I saw a woman walking along the road alone. I pulled up alongside her and rolled down my window and said, "Are you Shannon?" She said, "Why" looking rather suspiciously at me. Somehow I knew she was Shannon and I said, "Because you called us and told us about our cat Binky and I want to thank you so very much". Shannon exclaimed, "Oh I am so happy, I never knew if you got your cat back or not because he ran away from me and I had to drive seven miles to my home before I could call you." I told Shannon how Gary had driven to the exact spot she had described and how Binky was again sitting on the stump and ran up to Gary when he called him. I also told Shannon she had saved Binky's life because he was almost dead.

Shannon relayed how she had called several folks up in the mountains about their lost dogs and always wondered whether they had gotten them back. I said I was so thankful to her for calling because a lot of folks don't take the time, especially for cats, thinking they are stray or can fend for themselves. Shannon said, "I am so happy you got your cat back; I just knew it was your cat because he looked just like his photo on the poster". I said, "Yes he does, doesn't he!"

While we lived at Lake McCumber every time we drove by the place where Gary found Binky, we would always say to each other, "There's Binky's stump!" I've kept the newspaper clipping of the cat in my wallet all this time. It's been about ten years since Binky was lost. As you can see Binky isn't starving any longer, he made up for lost time in that regard. To this day Binky is scared of loud noises and runs if you pick up anything like a broom or package, but he is the sweetest cat you could ever know. We've moved a couple of times since then, but one time a few years ago Gary and I made a trip up to Lake McCumber and as we drove by the area Gary pointed out Binky's stump to me again.


  1. Awe what a cutie and LUCKY to have Several lives! Glad you got him back!

  2. Great story -- I had a dog I lost for six months & got back -- those lost pets keep a memory of their struggles I think. My dog wanted to always be right beside me -- I think he thought I was lost! lol

  3. Hi Mary, thanks, yes, cats do have several lives, we don't always know about them.

    Hi Judy, thanks, you're probably right, your dog thouht you were going to get lost again and was afraid he couldn't find you.

  4. What a wonderful story. Give some love to Binky from me :-)
    I lost a kitty back in March, she bolted out the front door the same night she was given to us for safe keeping. I was devistated. It was cold and it snowed. We trapped and released every cat in the neighborhood with a racoon trap baited with a can of cat food. Finally after a week of bad weather and glimpses of our missing cat, and hearing her cry at night but too scared to come to us, we caught her. She was thin and cold. It was so hard because she was new too us, did not know us well. She is now a happy part of the family, and doesn't even think about going outside anymore.

  5. So sweet and most lucky you got Binky back. That Shannon was a very good samaritan to call you!

  6. A nice story Linda, and you tell it so well. It gives hope since I recently had a cat go missing. No sign of him and it's been over a month. I fear there may be a coyote lurking the neighborhood. Give Binky a hug for me!

  7. Hi Pam, thanks, I am so glad you got your kitty back, another great cat story. Cats, heck every animal, are truly wonderful.

    Hi Tina, thanks, yes Shannon is a special person and I am thankful every day for people like her. You think voles are bad try gophers, they are the worst for gardens.

  8. Oh Mary, thanks so much. I am so sorry your cat has gone missing; I do hope you get him back. Don't give up hope and try putting up the posters with a photo (I got a dog back after three months that way once), checking with all your neighbors, the animal shelter regularly and local veternarians too. Sometimes folks bring cats there. I am thinking good thoughts for you to get your cat back.

  9. wow, great story. When we started our transition to the coast, we left our cat in Bakersfield with our friends who are renting our house. We were back and forth so much that we knew it would drive our kitty crazy. She's so bonded to our old neighborhood and we think has several other "homes" in the hood. Anyway, after about two months, she quit coming home and we figure she either settled in somewhere else... or... I'm going back there tomorrow. Maybe she'll show up!

  10. I'm thinking it might be time get some more cats:)

  11. Oh Patricia, another lost cat, perhaps he adopted another family in the neighborhood. I hope you hear where he went. Some time in the future I'll tell the story about Butter, you will like that one too. We left one of our cats in Arkansas when we left, Cruiser and the people who bought our home just loved her. The posters with photos really help, try it.

    Hi Tina, thanks, cats are really special, they know when you aren't feeling well, they are very intuitive. I was raised with dogs and love them, but I am a cat lover too.

    Hi Meredith, thanks, yes Binky is lucky and when I got him back I was thinking that I was very lucky too - I just couldn't believe my luck.

  12. Hello Linda Starr.

    What a touching story!! And how lucky you and your cat!!
    I understand very well how you were worried about Binky at that time. In the early days when my cat came to my place, she often went out at night for many hours. So I was madly worried about her then.

    I've read some of your posts on clay artworks. I love clay art!!

  13. Hello Sapphire, thanks so much about my cat story. I really enjoyed visiting your blog and seeing all the gardens and the bridges. Years ago I worked as a traveling photographer and each city I visited I would make a point of visiting nearby public gardens. I love your description of folks visiting your blog releasing a little stress. Gardens truly are a beauty to appreciate as much as we can, whenever we can. I will be moving soon and hope to set up a new place to work in clay and be able to pursue my clay art much more in the future. Thanks for visiting, come back again.

  14. What a great story! I'm so happy you found him. I almost cried when I read it wasn't Binky at the shelter. Does he stay inside now or still go out? I'd think he'd be scared...
    Anyway thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting!

  15. Hi Linda!

    I have 4 cats and they are all indoors, due largely to my experiences with outdoor cats as a kid. We had our beloved Atocha die because he was beaten with a stick by some sadist. He disappeared over night and then showed up on our porch with his back end crushed. The vet said it looked like a beating rather than a car accident. Atocha spent the next few days on my bed and had to be taken to the vet to be expelled to clear him of waste, but he just could not survive. We loved him dearly and will never forget him. I was about 15 years old at the time.
    Two of my husband's parents' cats were lost (presumably to predators) in the northern region of Ontario (where we are from). We are adamant about keeping our 4 inside, but they do have plenty of windows and nature to view--they just can't get up close.

    I was so relieved to read that you found poor, Binky. Cats are resilient, that's for sure.

    Thanks for visiting Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes. I appreciate your comment.


  16. Hi Bambi (Susie?), Thanks so much, I love telling this story. Binky was staying inside till we moved here; now he goes out for a short time in the morning. He overheats very easily so I bring him in when it starts to get hot. He was scared for the longest time but then our cat Butter adopted us and Butter brought Binky out of his shell. The story of Butter will be another cat story soon.

  17. That was a beautiful(happy ending) well told story. You had me glued to the screen.
    When there is no resloution, it is awful. Not knowing is horrid. Your refusal to quit looking is what brought him home.
    Cats can survive better than dogs in the wild, but not in the type of winter you described.
    Loved seeing that well fed belly sprawled on the floor.
    Thanks for the great ending.

  18. Hi Kat, so sad what folks will do to cats, if only they could suffer the same as they inflict. Any person who harms a helpless animal isn't a good person in my book no matter what type of creature. I am so sorry to hear what your cat had to suffer. I am very particular when I let my cats out and we have three acres here and it is fenced, but they are in when I am gone and always in at night. They mostly stay on the patio by the studio all day any way, but they like the outdoor fresh air. They usually go out for 2 hours in the morning, come in and then out for about an hour in the late afternoon. thx for stopping by.

  19. Hi Patti, sometimes there is a happy ending to true stories and this was one, so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much and Binky has had a good life since then for sure. He is a sweet cat even though he does try to hoard his food from my other two cats, but I can't blame him for that.

  20. I loved the Binky story, and the favorable, if delayed, outcome. He's a walking miracle!

    Thanks for your visit to my 'cat' post and your nice comment. Always appreciated.

    Hugs to Binky and Betty from me, and greetings to them from Sweetie Pie, Missy and Squeak.

  21. Hi Pat, glad you enjoyed the story, I sure enjoyed your blog too. I am sure my cats would enjoy meeting your cats. You avatar looks a bit like Binky.

  22. What a great story and a happy ending! It's my worst fear that one of my dogs will escape the house and get lost...

  23. Hi Cynthia, thanks, I thought about micro chipping and in the future I would do it, but in this case it wouldn't have helped at all.

  24. Wonderful about Binky. Amazing what cats will get through. It also illustrates that one should never give up!

    All the best with your packing and your planning. Hope you have a great and wonderful adventure!

  25. Hi Peter, I was momentarily confused as I know another Peter and in my mind I thought it was him but he lives here locally and never comments on my blog. Then I saw it was you. Aren't cats amazing - and yes one should never give up - I have so many stories in that regard I could fill a book up. thanks we are madly packing and dealing with all the other details. I will post more about that as the time grows near for us to leave. Hope all is well with you and Laura and both of your art pursuits.


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