PARADISE BAY — For those who have missing pets, Paradise Bay resident Jennifer Meeker has three simple words of advice: Never give up.
She and her family are celebrating a reunion with their pet cat, Diego, a 2 ½-year-old tabby mix who disappeared Feb. 17 and returned out of nowhere earlier this month after his owner carpeted the area with posters and searched assiduously for him for three months.
Diego came back to their West Alder Street driveway gate with a small scar on his head. He was thinner than he had been.
“I picked him up and knew it was Diego,” Meeker said. “I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe he made it home.
“He conquered so much to get home.”
His journey home was more than 4 miles from Helm Street north of Port Ludlow Bay, south to the Meekers home about 3 miles north of Hood Canal Bridge, off Paradise Bay Road.
Diego was sleeping under wood in the back of Meeker’s husband’s pickup truck on that February day when he drove to a Helm Street job site, unaware that the cat was hiding in the truck bed.
When Ray Meeker started unloading the truck, a frightened Diego bolted from the vehicle and quickly vanished like only a silent-moving feline can do.
That’s when Jennifer Meeker, who rescues pet bunnies and other animals, launched headlong into a campaign to find Diego, knocking on doors from Port Ludlow southward and putting up 150 posters with Diego’s picture on them everywhere she could.
While she feared the worst — coyote attacks and other dangerous encounters — Meeker said she spent six hours going house to house in Port Ludlow neighborhood where Diego was lost.
“I talked to everyone,” she said.
She went to the Jefferson County Animal Shelter in Port Townsend and even as far south as Silverdale to put up posters where Port Ludlow residents and others often shop.
She also posted a notice on the website Craigslist.
“Every single day for three solid weeks I spent combing the streets,” she said, enlisting the help of her daughter Haylee, 4, and son, Taylor, 6.
She talked to people in Chimacum.
“I am very passionate about animals,” she said. “To give up on a pet to me is like giving up on a child.”
Her relentless search continued to the point that people would recognize her and ask about the search for Diego.
She was phoned periodically from people in the area, including people at Port Ludlow Golf Course, who thought they spotted the wayward cat.
“Once I got a call from someone who found a stray cat that looked just like Diego,” she said, adding she used a cat trap to catch the cat, but found out it was a female.
She ended up adopting the cat, Dora, who is now living with Diego and the Meekers’ two other felines.
Meeker celebrated the week by putting up balloons and signs proclaiming, “Diego is Home,” to announce the good news.