Sashi's owners were on vacation in Italy when they learned their cat had escaped from the pet-sitter -- without a collar on. When they got the news, they flew back to Washington.
"Like I said, we're crazy," said Heather, who -- fearing that people might think she really is crazy -- asked that I not print her name.
Sashi, she said, is "like a part of the family."
Anyone who's loved a pet knows the feeling, the way a mere animal can insinuate itself into your life, can judge your moods, can lower your stress level. And occasionally raise it, such as when they take a powder.
Sashi's owners were determined to do all they could to find her: ads in the newspaper, posters on telephone poles, calls to animal shelters, the services of a pet detective. (See yesterday's column for how their search started.)
When none of those methods was successful, they called a psychic.
"A friend had used her," Heather told me. "Supposedly she'd been able to tell them a house number" where the pet could be located.
"I'm a sensitive, an intuitive," said Nancye, the southern Virginia psychic Sashi's owner consulted. (Because Nancye is worried about receiving crank calls, she asked that I not print her last name.)
Nancye, who also helps find lost items and offers advice on auspicious times to start businesses or make important decisions, said she's successful 75 percent of the time. She starts by creating an astrological chart that helps guide the clairvoyance she's had her whole life.
"I see it as an overview," she said of the images that materialize in her mind. "Kind of like you were flying above it and you see what [the lost pets] see. And in some instances you can pick up smells that they might be smelling. It's hard to explain to someone. . . . All of your senses become extremely acute, so you can try to see pictures, make out things so that you can give the owner some clues."
Here are the clues Nancye saw about Sashi: She saw, correctly, that the Siamese had a split ear. She saw that the cat was still alive and that she was under a porch with another cat, near something that was green plaid -- or maybe just green. She recommended that all porches in the area where Sashi disappeared be searched.
Said Heather: "Do you have any idea how big our area is? And it's all private property."
Heather scrutinized porches as she walked and drove the streets where she thought Sashi might be and even knocked on the door of a house that had green plaid on its porch. But when she heard a big dog barking inside, she figured it wouldn't be a place Sashi would roost.
Most of the action involving Sashi was from people who had seen the many posters her owners had put up and called to say they'd spotted her. There was false alarm after false alarm.
But then they received a fateful call. A boy had told his parents he'd seen a Siamese cat in front of their house. He thought it looked like the cat that was on a poster near his school.
"I had just jumped in the shower," Heather said. "I jumped out. I thought, 'I can't take this anymore. It's not going to be her.' "
Her husband was driving to work in Tysons. He turned around and met Heather at the house, which was in Northwest Washington, about two miles from where Sashi was lost.
As one of them walked up the street and one of them walked down it, they saw a Siamese cat.
"When I saw her, it was amazing," said Heather. "I bent down and she didn't run. She started purring instantly, and she kept butting her head against my arm. She was so skinny, if I hadn't seen the split ear I would not have been 100 percent sure it was her. But it was."
As upsetting as the experience was, Heather was encouraged at how supportive total strangers were. "When you think about it, even with the signs, even with people willing to call you, the odds of someone seeing the pet . . . in time before they've gone somewhere else, it's like a needle in a haystack. It was so incredible that these people went to the effort."
After three weeks on the run, Sashi was back home.
Lost Pet 101
How can you increase the odds that your dog or cat will be found if it's lost?
"The key message is collar and identification, even if you have a cat that doesn't go outside," said the Humane Society's Stephanie Shain. "A collar and tag is your pet's ticket home."
The Humane Society recommends the implantable identification chips, "but only as a backup form of ID," said Stephanie, "just because there's always the chance that the chip could be missed."
You should put up signs immediately and keep them updated.
"If it's been a couple of weeks that the animal has been gone, put up new signs that say 'Still Missing,' " said Stephanie.
Check in every two days with animal shelters. Send messages to neighborhood list-servs. Ask neighbors if they've seen your pet.
You can also do some of the things that pet detectives do:
Drive around looking for your dog, searching as wide an area as possible. Put out tuna fish at night to lure hiding cats into the open.
And don't give up. Some animals are found weeks or months later.
For more tips, check out the Humane Society's Web site -- www.hsus.org -- and click on "Pet Care."
It's easy to find me. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org, and 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.