Exactly a year ago (it was the 10th of January 2021) Mr. Max disappeared and I still don’t know what happened.
I went to bed around 2 am and he was purring happily full of love when I said good night to him. Around 5 am he went out for a little peek around as he always did. When I got up around 10 he wasn’t back. Our temperatures were going down below zero at night which is pretty damn cold when you’re living on a half-open boat with some tarps protecting you from the elements. We had a hoolie blowing from the north with clear skies and during the night I did hear things going bump as they were blown around by the wind.
I was instantly very concerned. This was not at all typical Mr. Max. A quick brekkie and off I went calling and looking for him.
It was a Sunday. We were in full lockdown because of Covid, so hardly any of the fishermen were in the port and chances of him getting accidentally locked into a workshop were pretty slim, something that had never happened to him before anyway. But, I did remember last night hearing some activity going on next door in the shed of the ISN, the rescue-guys.
Max and I are very close and I could feel him being in distress. My first concerns were someone had run him over by a car and chucked him into one of the dustbins or, and this has happened already 4 times: he went swimming in the port to escape a dog chasing him.
No joking! The first 2 times he simply turned up dripping wet looking miserable. The third time he was the hero of the port. Alec called me “Dody, you better come to the ramp, Max is sitting there looking pretty sad”. I got to the ramp and the people around told me he got chased by two dogs, went straight down the ramp, into the water and swam off, doing 2 circles of about 20 m diameter. When the dogs lost interest he came back to the ramp and got out. The fourth time it was about a white Labrador-type dog. I heard the chase starting, got after them, Max straight to the ramp and the dog on his heels also joining the water this time. The Labrador was gaining slowly on him when luckily the dog got sidetracked by a seagull and Max, tiring quickly, swam over to the quay-wall holding onto a gap in the concrete. I went straight into the water with all my clothes on and got him out. The moment I had Max in safety the dog had got the seagull as a trophy and the lady still trying in a very friendly manner to make her dog come out of the water. Still dripping wet I couldn’t help but ask her nicely to keep her dog on a leash next time.
Saying this we hardly ever have problems between the animals living inside the port unless it’s about female dogs on heat. Each one has his territory the others are only allowed to cross at certain times during the run of a day. There are passages between the territories which are kind of “safe ground” for everyone to use. They know of each other and have found a way to at least tolerate whoever is living here. The same thing is not true for those dogs that come here when their 2-legged friends are walking them. Neither the 2-legged ones nor the dogs know any of this and seem to think this is wild-west country so they can do whatever they please.
Emergencies first, so I started my search along the waterfront: rocks, pontoons, quay-walls. Nothing. Dustbins: nothing luckily.
His outer territory is limited by the territory of some dogs and he never ventured far into the territory of other cats, a fairly small area to start with. I went slowly along all the workshops calling him, but no reply anywhere. Just to be very sure I called the guys of the ISN in case he was trapped in their shed, but when Philippe turned up to check he wasn’t in there.
Some time in the evening I stopped, sat down and had a decent thinking-session asking myself what could have happened. He might have run a different way being chased by a dog and hiding out somewhere waiting for nighttime to come back. He could have fallen into some kind of hole unable to get out. I had the enclosure aft up which has a zip where the ladder is. The wind was very strong from the North, pushing the canvas with the zip pretty tight against the ladder and shaking from time to time. Could this have freaked him out somehow? And most importantly: where do I continue my search next, what’s the most probable?
It’s not that he was new to any of this or that I didn’t know him well enough. Max turned up here out of nowhere one day in October 2015, still a kitten. He saw me from some distance in the boatyard, came straight up to me and wouldn’t leave my side for more than a meter maximum. I had cats all my life but since I had left my country in 2002 I stayed catless. There was a dog here in the port who had adopted me and followed me around everywhere, Pytuxe, but I only gave him treatment against ticks, fleas and parasites, never food. He was the pet of the fishermen and they would be very sad if I had taken this part away from them.
So, here was this little kitten determined to win my heart. Is it the right thing to do to have a cat on board? Will a cat be capable to be happy with the limited conditions on the ship? How if we go sailing, will he be able to cope with it?
Not being sure about answers to these questions I tried to talk him out of it, tried to convince him to find himself a better home than what I am able to offer. But he wouldn’t want to hear any of this.
On the third day since he popped up it was raining. I was just about to climb up my ladder when I saw him sitting on my main-mast (both masts are laying on trestles next to the boat), dripping wet and looking straight into my eyes. No I thought, you deserve better! Down the ladder, took him in my arms and carried him upstairs. Within less than a minute I had a loudly purring tiger, dripping wet, in my bunk. Well, ticks and fleas and parasites, we’ll find a way to sort these things out tomorrow, there will be a way!
Lovely sunshine the next morning. I was brushing my teeth at the tap when I asked him about his name. Turns out he wasn’t sure and he didn’t come up with something. So I asked “what would you think of Max? Like Mr. Max, Mad Max or Max the cat?” and he was purring like mad. Alright, that’s sorted then!
For the next few weeks I carried him down the ladder and into the little Caravan when I started my day and back up the ladder when I would spend the rest of the evening upstairs on board. Then, one day, I came back from shopping at the market and Max was no-where to be seen. Oh my, where is he, what happened? Turns out he was upstairs curled up in my bunk! My first idea was that one of the fishermen had wanted to do him a favor and carried him upstairs. No such thing happened, Mr. Max had simply started to take matters in his own hands. Well, that’s what I found out the next day when I had left him upstairs to get something and suddenly he was standing next to me. It didn’t take long and I caught him going down the ladder, head first. A bit wobbly still and he slipped on a step about 1.5 meter above the ground, was clinging for dear life with his front-paws to one of the rungs and then fell. Jumping up and limping a bit which he was instantly hiding the moment he noticed I am watching. No, no worries Dody, I didn’t hurt myself, what do you think of me :-D!
We went to the vet for vaccines, chip and even a passport. Also to get him sterilized when he is old enough – unsterilized tomcats are marking their territory, something that smells very strong and unpleasant for my taste, and I’m definitely not having this on my boat! Sure, sterilized cats (male and female) still might mark their territory but at least the bad smell is not there.
I didn’t have a car, so the son of a friend dropped us off at the vet. Max in his box played dead man and behaved as if we’re gonna kill him right on the spot. Funny enough the moment we were done and he heard me calling Ben to pick us up and bring us back to the port he was suddenly alive, purring and super-happy again. Ever since I was wondering if he might have been abandoned by someone?
Whenever he didn’t know where I am or couldn’t see me he started calling me with panic in his little voice and I had to reply, in return he did the same when I called him. Proper shipshape. We had to establish something so I could do the shopping for us or other things away from the port that needs doing from time to time. I ended up telling him every time I left where I’m going, what I’m doing and about how many hours approximately it will take till I’m back, which worked pretty well. At the time I was expected he would take up position in a strategic place and come running towards me as soon as he spotted me. One day, we were together on a holiday in the Algarve in 2017, I didn’t see him the moment I wanted to meet my parents and thought it would be okay. When I came back hours later he was no-where to be seen, wouldn’t reply to my calls, wouldn’t show up. The garden around our little house was huge, with some other houses, a pool, trees, flowers and a fence around. I checked everywhere, no Mr. Max. The moment I started crying he turned up instantly and we were good again. Believe me, never ever since I would not tell him when I’m going somewhere.
Sometimes it simply took him too long till I came back. I had organized a Boatfestival in 2016 and the second evening we all went to the beach on the harbor-side. When it got dark and I still wasn’t back he came to find me, walked all the way across the port, then the dunes and popped up on the beach. Several times after that we went for walks to the dunes, but he didn’t really like it.
Max started to be very interested in whichever work I’m doing and he had to be in the middle of it all. Be it a sail repair and me wrestling with a huge amount of canvas, woodwork, sharpening tools or whatever, he simply wanted to be in the middle of it and learn about everything. Noise of machines he doesn’t like but still had to stay close. One day, he was still pretty young, I was painting part of the new deck with Epoxy, kind of fencing it off from him and telling him NOT to walk across. What should I say, he wasn’t listening and struggling for weeks to get rid of the cured Epoxy he got on his paws. That’s when he decided it might possibly be better to reduce his activity to being the building-inspector. Sitting at a comfortable distance watching every move I make and go and have a close look when I’m finished, pointing out things I had overlooked, things which might not be to my usual standard if that happened or which I could have done different to make his life easier. Very soon he was appointed First Mate on board Tonga, something he is super proud of and which he takes very serious. We started to be a damn good team the two of us!
Of course it was unthinkable to go out on new year’s eve! Max might get scared by the fireworks if left on his own – although fireworks here in Portugal are an entirely different thing compared to some countries. Here the town hall arranges a big firework combined with music to the different images in the sky, nothing to be scared of. However, we sit together on the little deckhouse aft watching the spectacle and then go back inside. Our first one of these new year’s eves was a bit on the strange side. During the fireworks till some time after we heard the dogs having a nasty argument with each other on the other side of the port and short after they had sorted it out, the rescue-helicopter came flying search-patterns in the bay. The next morning we learned that a Polish student has been gotten by a wave and in the afternoon the 10 year old son of sailing-friends found my friend Pytuxe bled to death after a dogfight, time for a funeral on the 1st of January. Weird start into the new year!
Loosing Pytuxe hurt me much much more than I had thought possible. Max was listening to all the stories holding my hand between his front-paws to give me comfort while I was crying my eyes out.
I am friends with other harbor-dogs and some time during the day they would come over for a cuddle or a chat or some water. Max didn’t like it at all. They kind of tolerated each other but every now and again it got too much for Max. He would stand his fur on edge, go after them and they ran away.
There were other cats around of course. Max has got nothing of a strong fighter, he’s more on the soft side. And because he’s been with me all the time I had the idea that he might be lacking some typical social skills concerning his own kind? However, whenever he didn’t know how to deal with an issue concerning other cats he would loudly shout for me to sort it out. But curious he was and sometimes I thought yes, he’s getting there!
In February 2020 I turned up with tiny Liza in my arms (https://tongabonds.com/liza-our-new-crewmember/). 755 grams of skin and bones, eyes that looked like they will never see again and not even able to eat or move properly. Max couldn’t do anything with this so he hissed at her. I explained to him what happened and what we need to do. He watched with curiosity when I fed her with the syringe, she got the cosy place next to the heater, medicine twice a day and suddenly Max was super proud of me.
Only, this mysterious little creature, what is it? I know cats, there are some around the area I talk with regularly, but they are my size. They can steal my food – well, I let them because you’ve been telling me over and over again that we have to take care of others and give them food when they are hungry. But they run, they walk, they talk and they behave like proper cats do. You say this is a cat, I can’t see any of this and I’m sure she’ll just jump at me without warning and do silly things.
Max, this is a baby-cat. You were this small some years ago.
Me? Never! You must be joking! And certainly not like this!!!
You’re right, I’m sure you weren’t that ill when you were a baby.
But listen: this boat here is our home and we need to take care of her. You and me are the ones to say what goes and what doesn’t. She has to learn and she will learn all of it, but we need to tell her. I can’t do this without you, will you help me?
Well, I will see what I can do!
And he really made an effort. When she started to get more like a “proper” cat he began playing with her, learning a lot himself, and getting really fit and agile. It was awesome to watch!
Max was having 2 health issues. One was a problem with his gums. The vet told us this will get worse with age, it’s normally not curable and the most successful treatment is to pull all his teeth out. Of course I was horrified! We tried several remedies which helped quite a big deal and we had it pretty much under control at the time he disappeared.
The other issue was a problem with the joint on his right hind-leg. It would start swelling, developing an ulcer which had to be treated with antibiotics and would disappear again. We had to go through this procedure certainly 6 times if not more. One day I came back from a short coffee-break at the harbor cafe and started straight away where I had left things: removing part of the deck on the port side amidships with crowbar and hammer. Unfortunately Max was exactly under this part of the deck examining things and wanted to rush off in a hurry the moment he heard the banging with the hammer directly on top of him. This went wrong. He caught his right hind leg between 2 planks and twisted it poor little one! I went off to the harbor cafe to get me some ice-cubes, packed him into my bunk cooling his poor little leg.
Of course the story didn’t end here. He needed to see a vet, urgently. Being still without a car a friend of mine was planning to take his cats to the vet the next day and offered to pick us up to go with him. He used to go to the vet in Sao Martinho do Porto, which is 8 Nautical Miles to the south of here. The clinic does have a good name but when we popped up the vet was on holiday and someone else was running it. Exquisitely dressed and made up very attractively, from the beginning she was dealing with Max in a way I detested but tried my very best to hide. Taking him for X-Rays I could hear his screams through the whole building although he was on a different floor and the opposite corner of the building. When the X-Rays were developed she told me snappishly that Max has cancer in his right hind-leg and the leg has to be removed, but it can’t be done right away because there is an infection which has to be dealt with first. Hang on a minute, what??? It took me much convincing her to hand over the X-Rays I had paid for, the image itself damaged on the corners, dirty and with all kind of blotches from bad developing. On our way home we stopped at my friend’s house and asked his mum (who is a GP) to have a look at the x-raus and she said there is a very bad infection, but she can’t see anything about a possible cancer. I treated Max with the medicine I had from there and went to our vet the next day. Alexandra, our proper vet, had a look at the x-rays and didn’t see any sign of cancer either. She gave me 2 different antibiotics and some other treatment Max was meant to take for at least 3 weeks with regular checkups. Everything went fine and ever since he never had this problem again.
We had to deal with something else and Max and me were fighting for his survival. He stopped eating, had diarrhea and was vomiting – even green bile the moment we were on the way to the clinic. It seemed something like poisoning and we were wondering if he might have eaten some grass after they disinfected the whole port-area because of Covid19. He had to stay at the clinic, got treatment and put on a drip feed. I was allowed to visit him once a day, and I could call any time to ask how he’s doing. Because of Lockdown and Covid19 no clients were allowed to go into the premises but Doctor Alexandra was so nice to bring him out for my daily visits and I was even allowed to touch him and give him a little cuddle. For some reason every time I drove back home there was some really powerful music on the radio so I cranked up the music singing along with it and still the tears running and running.
This music, now that he has disappeared, whenever it is played on the radio again, makes me remember him even stronger than ever and the tears come up again. Still, it did give me heaps of force at the time and maybe some now as well!
All my friends adore Max, so I thought I let them know via Facebook that he disappeared, using “public” when posting it. At the time I wasn’t aware that Portuguese people do a lot with Facebook and was very surprised when people from Nazaré gave me tips, helpful hints and shared my call for help. I called our vet and they published it on their website which also got shared a lot. We have a local organization called “GRUVA – Nazaré” which is doing wonderful work to help street-animals to survive, get treatment, get food and shelter. People can donate food and also medicine at “Lilly cafe”, a cafe and takeaway-place in town. I didn’t know about them before, but ever since I take great care to help them a little with food donations (https://www.facebook.com/gruva.nazare/). However, they also shared my cry for help.
Max has got a chip so I thought we might be able to detect his whereabouts, but unfortunately this is only a means to identify him when he is found. But, these chips are in a central register and one can report him as missing (https://www.siac.vet/). In theory this means when he is brought to a vet or discovered by police, fire brigade or anything official they will instantly know that he is a cat reported missing and by whom. Something else exists in Portugal which is a website where missing and found pets with their pictures are published: https://www.encontra-me.org/. No question, of course I registered him there.
I printed posters and sealed them in plastic to make sure the rain won’t destroy them directly the next moment. Should have done the holes first and then plastify them, because the holes I made with my marlin spike when tying them to something of course let the water in. Strange enough I didn’t see any other posters of missing pets in Nazaré at the time and was wondering if this might be forbidden? So, kind of like a thief I tried to get the message around but there was no problem of course. Unfortunately the supermarkets had taken their blackboards away because of Covid19 and Lidl’s doesn’t even do a blackboard. But there were still some possibilities.
I was incapable of doing anything but finding my lovely little friend and companion. During daytime sometimes Sally and Richard joined me (friends who are liveaboards like me with their yacht “Selkie” here in the Marina), at night most of my cats gave me a helping hand, and sometimes in the early hours of the morning with some hot tea in a flask, something to eat and of course the obligatory box with dry food to make some careful noise and a huge tin of tuna fish.
Towards the East and North the port of Nazaré is surrounded by a high fence, the gaps are far too small for a cat to get through and there is no gaps or damaged areas. A small gate to the North which can not be used by cars. Road access is via a gate with security to the South-South-Eastern side of the boatyard and it’s extension, maybe 400 meters away from us. A bit further south of the gate is a water-treatment facility and the river, there is no fence there but several dogs and many thickets. To the west is the Atlantic Ocean, about 5 minutes on foot from Tonga to the beach (for 2-legged people). The South-Western part of the port up to the river is a pretty big natural area, partly covered by the dunes and then the beach. The North-Western part has a few abandoned houses on top of the dunes (they did them up last year), then the southern breakwater of the harbor entrance.
All this was the area I combed meticulously during the first 3 days when I received a message from someone feeding a colony of stray cats near one of these higher buildings: last night a cat turned up whom she’s never seen there before, very hungry, extremely careful and who looks a bit like Mr. Max but she’s only seen him at night. The photo was promising as far as I could tell, although the cat looked bigger, the tail more bushy (which could have to do with him being scared by something) and I thought I could detect a distinct difference in color in the area of the breast but the photo itself was not that clear. I got excited!
She would be feeding the cats around 18:30/19:00 every day, if I would come over? Of course!!! I was about 2 hours early the next day to have a look around for hiding places, discovered some more colonies of stray cats being fed and cared for by people living in the area, and talked with almost about anyone – 2-legged or 4-legged – showing them pictures of Mr. Max, but so far no news.
The mentioned cat didn’t turn up this evening, and he didn’t turn up any time later.
But: the area between the port and the eastern side of those buildings had the looks of a paradise for any cat. Part of it was being left natural, part of it with small fields where people were growing vegetables. So this is where I’m gonna intensify my search next.
Then I received a message from someone buying fish at the “Lota” – which is the auction going on here in the port when ships have unloaded their catch. There is a cat living on the rocks very close by the tower which is next to the “Lota”. Off I went, and I found the cat, but definitely not Mr. Max.
To keep myself sane during the times I couldn’t look for Mr. Max I decided to do some knitting, and found myself the most complicated jumper to make. One where I had to concentrate hard nearly all the time.
I had distributed one of the posters to the security guys at the gate and they asked all of the people feeding and caring for the stray cat colonies in the port when they passed the gate. One of these people called me, saying there is a cat similar to Mr. Max on the south breakwater. He doesn’t mix with the others and they don’t let him eat with them so they have to give him food at a separate place. I met up with her and she showed me where they feed him. The next morning I grabbed the jumper I had begun knitting, found myself a place on the dunes where I could overlook the whole area and waited & knitted. Max always loved this wool and he adored sitting next to me when I’m knitting so I was hoping.
A dog turned up who had something of a German Shepherd in him and he looked a bit lost. We had a chat and then he continued on his way. Some time later a cat turned up, but it wasn’t Mr. Max.
By now all the cats in the colonies inside the port had seen the picture of Mr. Max and I had asked them to tell him that I love him and miss him terribly, if he please could come back?
Meanwhile I continued in the semi-agricultural area to the North of the port. Now kind of trained I found a huge amount of animal paths everywhere and discovered some awesome corners. I went out in all kind of weather, most promising in my opinion was a rainy day without wind. Nobody out there, no noise coming from activities, the lack of wind making it possible to hear everything and the seagulls were pretty quiet (it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish them from a crying baby, a cat or anything else). I met up with several cats, one being so scared that he instantly disappeard, and another one wet to the bones on a wall. She was beautiful with golden eyes and we had a long long chat. I gave her some of Max’s food and after a while we both went our ways. Water had accumulated on some of the fields and the wellies I was wearing were not high enough, but it couldn’t stop me. After many hours and wet to the bones I gave up for the day.
The next morning at 06:00 my phone rang. “Dody, I’ve seen your cat, he is here, come to gate and I show you!”
Apart from the moment we found ourselves nearly on the rocks in Douarnenez I can’t remember a moment when I was in my clothes with a speed like this.
It was one of the security guys of the port entrance. He had taken a different road on his way home from nightshift this time when a cat crossed the road in front of him. He stopped, the cat jumped onto the wall of an abandoned building, they had a long look at each other and then the cat left towards the agricultural area. He showed me the wall and where it all happened.
Cats do have some sort of schedules they follow, so, needless to say: next morning I got up at 03:30, made myself a flask of hot tea and drove up there, finding a spot of grass where I could hide out from direct view somewhat comfortably. Not a lot was going on at this time of the night, 3 cars passed, one speeding like crazy going the wrong way around the roundabout a few meters to the North of me. Nothing happened. Then, it was around 05:30 I could hear something moving in the canefield on the other side of the road. It didn’t take long and a cat came out, creamcolored, loudly talking. No, this is not the voice of Max, but who knows? He came my direction, crossed the road and saw me, jumped onto the wall he went up yesterday and moved onto a roof. From this distance we were having a decent conversation for some time. He didn’t have news of Mr. Max, didn’t want any of the food, so we parted company and he continued on his mission. I tried making a photo, he has a lot of similarities with the cat of the feeding place in Nazaré, but no Mr. Max.
I had combed this area for days now. I checked every hiding-place, water reservoir, thicket and whatnot. In between stopping every now and again, calling, making a noise with the box of food, listening, waiting. I had met the local shephard and talked with him, he hasn’t seen Mr. Max but we exchanged phone-numbers just in case. As beautiful as this area might be, but it seems I’m looking for him in the wrong place.
Right, the hillside next then! Sally and Richard joined me once again. There is no footpath known to me from the port, we simply left the port area at the security gate in the south, across the roundabout and followed animal-tracks uphill, finding our way through thorny thickets, cane, and whatnot till we were stopped by a fence. Following it we ended up at a dirttrack which turned into a tarmacked road up at the Hotel Miramar. At the place next door the gate was open so we sneaked in having a lovely view over the whole area.
We continued to Paderneiras, asked whom ever we saw on the way, passed the cemetery and climbed down a very steep track a bit further North leading to an abandoned farmhouse. We had crossed the main road and were back on the dirt track leading from the agricultural area to the port when Sally spotted a cat up on the hillside with people nearby. We called over the distance and talked with them, but they claimed it was their cat.
One of the surfers had told me about a cat she saw when coming back in with her jetski which looked far too beautiful to live on the rocks of the North-breakwater where she saw it. So we didn’t go straight back but went for a little detour to investigate. No luck either but sundown came and it was a gorgeous one.
The recommendations I had received from those trying to help included something I wasn’t sure if I should believe it or not. Some people claimed a cat can smell her/his litter-box from many kilometers away and one should place it outside to help the cat find his bearings again in case they were lost for some reason. That was maybe 3 weeks after Max disappeared, so, with the cat-family living with me certainly not the same litterbox. Whatever helps is good enough for me I thought, and he will certainly remember the smell of our family. So I put some litter outside Tonga and laid little tracks from all directions ending up at Tonga.
On the next day Sally, Richard and me investigated the southern side of the river and I laid a track across the bridge in an attempt to give him another help to find his way back.
However, it was a rainy day. We walked all the way to this little chapel they claim to be the oldest church in Portugal (they are finally doing it up now, it’s nearly finished, just went there today).
In the old days all this and everything behind the hills was a lagoon and there was a shipyard on the Northern side of it. No foreigner knew about the yard which allowed them to build in secrecy. The object: Galeons to find the seaway to India. They had sent out a spy to follow the silk road to the red sea, who had shipped with Arabian dows and arrived in India. When he came back it was clear that the “only bit” missing was how to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indic, a seaway was expected. However, these Galeons were baptised close to this little chapel and it is said the Captain and crew as well before they headed off.
The area is beautiful as well, but I had criscrossed it ever since I got better after my accident in 2018 with a mountain bike, including the hillsides, but couldn’t really see something that would attract Mr. Max to live there.
One day I received a phonecall from a Lady from Senegal living in Nazaré. There was a cat that looked quite a bit like the one on the poster I put up everywhere, and who turns up around 11 pm at night. She gives him food and he is sleeping at her house for a few hours, then disappears again. He wouldn’t let her touch him. I met her and we talked a lot. Walking around and the next day coming back (the neighbors already recognized me as the lady looking for her cat) I found him between ruins of a house nearby, but it turned out to be the same cat I had met up with in the early hours of the morning close to the road and possibly the same cat of the first sighting.
I kept on going in the agricultural area when I found a post on Facebook. A cat had turned up at a “Quintal” – which is something like a house with a garden – and the Lady was sure this cat belongs to someone. It was in Nadadouro, somewhere about 30 Kilometers to the south of here. She posted some pictures and there was a huge similarity to Mr. Max. Very excited Sally and Richard hopped into to car (nowadays I’ve got one!) and there was nothing to stop us paying a visit.
Unfortunately, although very similar but bigger and with thicker and longer fur it wasn’t Mr. Max and he didn’t recognize me of course. The Lady, Fernanda, and I went to the vet in Foz de Arelho to find out if he has a chip. He was pretty cheerful on the short voyage to there, but had his very grumbly moment at the vet. The vet couldn’t detect a chip and that’s where we left it and went back to her place. And now what?
During the first 6 weeks of Max’s absense no-one would have dared to use any of his preferred sleeping-places, and the tomcats of the port stayed away because he had told them to. 4 weeks down the line things started to change. Not with Max’s and my family, but the tomcats noticed, and being part of Tonga suddenly seemed to be something very appealing. My girls found it hilarious and were joking about it, the only one doing something against it was Liza. They came on board, wolfed down all the food they could find, and started marking “their” territory! Tonga started to smell like a tiger-cage, I didn’t like any of this.
Also, I had a decent conversation with Janis, asking her if she had anything to do with Mr. Max’s disappearance. Her eyes instantly turned completely black as if she wanted to hit me. I took that as a definite NO!!! Since several weeks before, Janis only turned up ocasionally and after this conversation she left and I didn’t see her anywhere. Getting a bit concerned I asked the people she actually belongs to but they hadn’t seen her either.
I’ve got one of these fitness bracelets. Turns out that I’ve done more than 300 Kilometers on foot trying to find him. It sounds like nothing, but when you think about it involving stopping every now and again, patiently waiting for possible replies, walking on difficult terrain, talking with 2- and 4-legged people, time flies. 4 weeks had gone by this way like nothing and I was not the wiser. I really could have done with a proper bear-hug during these difficult times, but with Covid19 there was no way. People around me, here in the port, kept telling me he is so beautiful and has such a lovely character, they are convinced someone took him away. True. Possible. And, we were in Lockdown. Some people can take it without a problem to be isolated, others are struggling terribly. In a way I am hoping that someone nice took him in, convinced that Max will make this person happy and able to smile and enjoy life again. In another way he might still be out there somewhere. I don’t know. There is times I still can feel him strongly, even now which is more than a year ago since his disappearance. Where are you? Are you happy? Is there someone who takes proper care of you and gives you the love you deserve my lovely friend and companion? And sometimes it still hits me like a hammer. It’s terrible when you have absolutely no idea about what happened to your loved one, when he simply disappears into thin air leaving his phone or whatever behind so you have no means of contact, just broken off. Nothing I can do about it. But, to tell the truth, it still hurts me terribly.
The cat in Nadadouro was very unhappy. Every night he was crying in front of Fernanda’s bedroom asking to be let in, the cats outside were attacking him when he was trying to eat and the dogs would make his life complicated and even take a rest on the sitting place above where he found his shelter. Counting two and two together I started wondering if it would be a good idea to take him in with my cheerful lot. We would be able to keep the tomcats at bay, and he might find a happy new home with my girls. IF, he would need a name that would come much better off the tongue after Max then before. Max always has to stay number one.
Little did I know what would be coming next, never a dull moment …