He had planned it for a little while. He saw the family canine go in and out of the house for a walk or to relieve himself, and Zero thought it would be neat to experience the other side of the mountain too. After all, if a canine could go out and about, why couldn’t a feline do the same thing? Zero had never explored the out of doors before, but he figured it couldn’t be that much different from being inside. So, one evening, when the family canine went out, Zero snuck out with him. With his dark coat, he had no problem blending into the shrubs, bushes, and trees that surrounded his safe zone. When it was time for the family dog to go back into the house, Zero watched from the cover he had taken. He hunkered down until he was sure there was no chance of his discovery and then he proceeded to go on safari. It was April and it was chilly. However, Zero had eaten a good meal in preparation for his trip and his fur coat kept him warm. Zero realized that the sounds he heard outside were greatly magnified. When he was inside, a car engine sounded like a cat’s loud purr. However, when he was outside, the sound was like the roar of a lion. A dog’s barking was a lot louder and much more agitated than any he had heard from the inside of the house and much more menacing than the bark of the family canine. He heard voices he didn’t recognize.

Zero kept moving. He lost total track of time and location and realized that he was lost. He wished he could find the way back home, but whenever he tried, he just got more lost. He doesn’t know when he started to get hungry and cold. His safari was no fun anymore. He missed the cuddling and warmth of his family. He felt like a traveler in some distant land.

After a week or so, he settled into a yard that seemed safe to him. He watched a lady go in and out of the house. One day, she saw him and started to speak to him. She seemed friendly and so Zero approached her. She started to leave food for him. He had acquired so many matts in his fur and one day she combed out the matts and put some Frontline on him. He wanted to go inside with her, but the door always closed before he could place one paw inside. That lasted for several weeks. Zero felt somewhat safe in his situation but still missed his family. Would he ever find them again?

It was now late May and Zero had almost given up on any kind of reunion with his family. He missed the children and he missed the adults. He even missed the family dog. The safari had been a bad idea.

One afternoon, the lady took him to a building that looked like a house, but it was not a house. There were counters in rooms and a room when you went inside that had chairs lined up in rows. There was a man in a white coat and several girls who wore smocks with cat pictures. Everyone was happy and that made Zero happy too. One of the girls checked Zero’s back with some kind of apparatus and seemed please. She had found Zero’s microchip. A little while later, Zero heard familiar voices. His forever family had come to pick up Zero and he was going home. Zero looked around and everyone was crying. His forever mom and his forever siblings were crying. The girls with the smocks were crying. Zero didn’t understand this but felt it must be a way people express joy and happiness. Felines just need to purr to show their satisfaction. They have it easier.

Zero found out later that the Free Roaming Feline Program had reunited him with his family. The nice lady with the big yard had called Kathy and Kathy, who manages the Roamer Program, told her to take him to the Two Rivers Veterinary Clinic. The first thing the techs do when a stray Roamers is brought in is to check for a microchip. The Program has reunited several strays with their forever families because microchipping had been done.

Zero really never fancied himself a Free Roamer, but now he understands that the Program not only assists with the sterilization of feral felines, but also reunites lost felines with their families, and adopts abandoned felines into loving, forever homes. Zero’s walk on the wild side has a most happy ending. The Roamer people want happy endings for all felines who find themselves in perilous circumstances.

—Kathy Beer, for Zero

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