Finding Milo

A Kingfield family’s quest to find their missing cat

KINGFIELD — Laurie Mosel still searches for Milo in familiar places she knows he may never haunt again.

The sleeper sofa in the living room. One time she folded him up into it and didn’t even realize it until later that day when she passed by and heard his muffled, patient plea.

The second-floor window. When he wanted to get back inside and there was nobody at the front door, he leapt from treehouse to roof and pawed at the window until somebody opened it.

Her lap. Not a search as much as a desire to fill the vacancy and a belief in possibility, that when you close your eyes you never know what might be there when you open them again.

Milo’s been gone nearly two months. He got out from the Mosel’s home on the 4100 block of Pillsbury Avenue on the morning of Sept. 7, as he often did. Within hours, when he didn’t return, Laurie knew something was wrong.

The first thing you learn when your cat goes missing is how to manage the regret that comes with struggling to justify a once-predictable behavior. Milo got out. He came back. That’s how it worked. Until one day it didn’t.

“I know it’s bad behavior, I feel guilty about letting him out at all,” Laurie said. “I know it’s better to keep him in.

“But he always came back.”

The second thing you learn is how to describe your cat to strangers. Milo: A six-year-old tabby, striped in grays and blacks with a white-tipped tail and a few black freckles on his paws, friendly, docile, bit of a naughty streak masked by a disarming charm only a cat could possess.

When a person disappears there are any number of official resources to rely on, or at the very least to hold responsible or curse the inabilities of. When an animal disappears, well, you’re lucky if you have family and a good friend or two to pound pavement and computer keyboards.

Laurie’s lucky. She has her husband, Jim. Two children at home, Maddie, 15, and Paul, 8. A second daughter, Jamie, 18 and away at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., not able to walk neighborhood streets but plenty good at searching missing-pet websites and emailing possible leads.

When an animal disappears, there’s little but that support to navigate the chasm of unknown and the vague notions of how and where to search.

The Mosels nailed missing-cat posters to practically every utility pole in the neighborhood.

They knocked on strangers’ doors at dusk and timidly asked them to check their garages.

They posted Milo’s description on Craigslist and on online missing-pet forums.

They checked the city’s shelter and logs, they checked Humane Society shelters, they called local veterinary clinics, every day for the first week or two, less frequently as time passed.

Nothing.

Not then. Not now.

Or the way they see it, at least hope for: Not yet.

“I know the odds are against us,” Laurie said. “But I would really like to know what happened. If he was dead, I would like to know. If somebody took him in and is treating him well, that’s fantastic.”

“I feel really sad not being able to know.”

Yes, they’ve heard it. More than once.

It’s a cat.

Maybe it’s time to move on.

They get that, hard as it is.

Still.

They want to know.

Sudden connection with strangers

The Mosels heard from dozens of people who saw posters and posts. Some had tips, one all the way from Farmington, Minn., from someone who found a cat that bore a remarkable resemblance to Milo. The other tips didn’t pan out, either.

Some had conspiracy theories. Teenagers stealing cats for who-knows-what-unmentionable purposes. Lyndale Avenue construction workers running cats over with those big machines and stashing the bodies. People looking for pit-bull training bait.

Some suggested ways to search. Laurie had heard them all before, but always listened to the well-intentioned strangers on the line.

Some simply wanted to commiserate.

“I pray you find your little man safe and sound,” one woman wrote to Laurie. “I got so many emails directing me to your ad; you have a LOT of people out there trying to find your Milo.”

A continuing effort

On a recent Tuesday in October the Mosels—Laurie, Jim, Maddie and Paul—walked 42nd Street from Grand to Bryant for another round of poster hanging.

Paul and Maddie took turns wielding a rusted ball peen hammer, driving quarter-inch nails through posters that Laurie had recently designed. “STILL MISSING,” they read. “MUCH LOVED AND MISSED by his family.”

While walking between utility poles the family talked about Milo, careful to speak in present tense, recounting memories endeared by absence.

“He was the most aggravating cat,” said Maddie, in a soft way that suggested a description of a good friend’s accepted flaw.

Two years ago Milo ate Maddie’s gerbil. She usually kept her bedroom door shut but Milo got so good at pretending he wasn’t interested that she began leaving it open. She came home one day and found the heavy glass aquarium on the floor and her gerbil, well, you get the picture.

When he was younger, Paul used to fight Milo for Laurie’s lap. Milo usually won. Sometimes at night Paul will say to Laurie, Milo’s not here to hang out with me. When do you think he’ll come home?

Once the posters were hung, the Mosels doubled back down 42nd and stopped at the Caffe Tempo coffee shop at Grand. After a few minutes passed, two men, each walking a dog, approached the café and stopped to read the poster about Milo.

“Look at that,” Laurie said. “Someone’s reading it.”

The Mossels sat transfixed, watching the two men as they hovered for a minute by the sign and then crossed the street and disappeared from sight.

“We’ll see,” Jim said. “It always helps.”

As dark descended, the Mosels left the coffee shop and walked together in the fading light toward home.


Milo’s story, told through Craigslist

The Sunday Milo disappeared, Laurie turned to Craigslist, the classifieds website. She posted in the lost-and-found section. And again two days later. And days after that. A narrative of the Mosel’s loss and searching played out over this sampling of six weeks of posts.

Sept. 7: “Still missing — please check your garages. Lost male neutered grey tabby w/ white chest answers to Milo.”

Sept. 9: “Milo, 6 yr old grey tabby with white chest and white feet, white tip of tail, missing since Sunday … Children heartbroken.”

Sept. 15: “He is a much loved cat and my kids are devastated … PLEASE CALL if any information — have you noticed a new cat in the neighborhood? Did someone take him in?”

Sept. 17: “Please, we need our cat back. Surely someone has seen something. Even bad news better than not knowing … I have 3 kids crying every night about this and am just sick about it.”

Sept. 19: “Please help get Milo home. Even if it’s bad news and he’s dead it’s better than the constant worry that he is being abused somewhere or injured and can’t get home. Please, does anyone know anything about this cat?”

Sept. 25: “We’re still missing our beloved cat! Please, take the time to look at the description and maybe ask your neighbors if they’ve seen him or taken in a lost cat.”

Oct. 2: “God, We ask you to help us find Milo, our dear pet who is now lost. We know that you placed animals on the earth for many reasons, including companionship for us. We therefore ask you to help us find our lost companion, and pray that You will keep him safe and protect him from harm until he is found. We join our prayers with St. Francis, St. Anthony of Padua, and all the saints.”

Oct. 9: “Our cat is still missing. I am reposting with a flyer that we have been posting, we are doing another posting through the neighborhood. If anyone has the time to look at the flyer and maybe pass around? That would be terrific.”

Oct. 17: “Our cat is still missing.”