Warning: this is a really long post. Spoiler alert: If you don’t like cats, don’t bother reading.
Shelby is a senior at Leavitt Area High School. After the pre-session consultation with her and her parents, I felt like I ‘got’ who she is and that I could create photos that suited her personality. Words that were used to describe her were ‘quiet, unique, low key, smart, caring’. Individuality was also mentioned a few times. And she loves her cats! I think I felt like I especially ‘got’ her because she reminded me of me at her age.
During the consultation Shelby asked me if she could bring one of her cats to be in some photos. I’ve had girls bring their cats before, but always for inside photos. Shelby wanted photos outside with the cat. I said okay, but the cat had to be in a harness and leash because I would hate to have the cat get lost in the woods.
This, by the way, is one of her favorite photos. Mine, too.
And she studies a lot, so we incorporated some books.
Here are some more of my favorites, that I think really suit the vibe I got from her:
We planned to do the cat photos last so Shelby wouldn’t get hair all over her clothes. The cat waited in the car and near the end mom brought it out. “Marble” was in a harness with a leash attached. I posed Shelby and as mom was bringing the cat to her, somehow the cat got out of her arms and took off into the woods, dragging the leash behind her. I live and work right in the middle of 70 acres of woods. We all took off after her, looking and calling and there was no trace. The woods are really thick, and soon it was starting to get dark. None of us were dressed for cat searching, and we were getting scratched and bloody from walking through thick and prickly brush. I brought out flashlights and we kept looking for quite awhile in the dark. But after no sign of her and no one in proper searching clothes or shoes, the search was called off for the night. We all felt awful. And we were all worried about Marble’s harness or leash getting stuck somewhere. I kept telling myself that she could squirm out of it if she really needed to. I kept thinking of her alone and scared (she was not an outdoor cat) and I didn’t sleep much that night. I put a radio out into the woods that night, playing loudly, to hopefully keep predators away.
The next morning my husband and I went out at dawn and started looking again. I started walking in a zig zag pattern through the woods in the area that she had run through the night before. I walked back and forth about 15 minutes and didn’t know where to look next. I was walking through some tall ferns and grass and all of a sudden I looked down and right in front of my feet I saw the blue leash stretched across my path. I held my breath and looked at the end of the leash. There was a cat! It was either sleeping or just trying to be invisible. I grabbed the leash and for a second or two I felt a thrill of victory and relief…until Marble immediately sprang to life and before I could grab her body she had flailed her way out of the harness and ran away. Well, at least we knew she was alive and she wasn’t stuck in the harness somewhere. I knew she wasn’t going to come to me so I just stood in the area she had run toward and hoped to spot her somewhere. We called Shelby’s moms and they were on their way. They thought Marble would come out of hiding once she heard their voices. No such luck. They searched most of the day and I procured a trap and contacted Maine Lost Cat Recovery (a volunteer organization) for some tips. Trapping seemed to be our best bet so Marble’s family bought 2 more traps that afternoon; we had 3 traps set up in various spots around where she was last seen. They were loaded with tuna and sardines and had worn articles of Shelby’s clothing in them. The MLCR folks told me that the traps should be checked EVERY HOUR. Yes, all night long. The family stayed and looked until about 9pm. Just after dark they caught a glimpse of her glowing eyes in the woods, then she ran off. They didn’t expect me to check the traps all night, but I set the alarm for every hour and my husband and I took turns going out to check. The traps were quite spread out, and quite far from the house, so it was a trek into the woods each time. There was no success night one.
The next day was Saturday and the family came back to look all day. I kept all my photo sessions away from the woods so we wouldn’t scare the cat. Jenna from Maine Lost Cat Recovery was nice enough to come (with a 4th trap) and give advice on trap placement and other tips. That night I went out at midnight and saw Marble walking around near my husband’s barn. When I shined the flashlight at her she looked for a second and then disappeared. I was optimistic that she was getting hungry and we’d find her in a trap soon. At 2am the traps were still empty but I saw her eyes, crouched in the woods on the opposite side of the barn. At least she was staying close. We decided that by checking the traps every hour, we weren’t giving her enough time to wander around in between, so we decided the next night we’d switch to every 2 hours.
The next day Shelby’s moms came back to search during the day and until dark. Jenna had told us that Marble was most likely hiding and sleeping during the day, but I do believe Marble stayed close because she could hear and smell her family in the woods each day, even if she was too scared to come to them. My husband left for several days so I was on my own for trap-checking. Sunday night there was no Marble sighting. It was the first night we hadn’t seen her at all and it made me really worried. As usual, no sign during the day on Monday. My nightly routine each night was to check the 4 traps and then check the barn. I had been leaving the small barn door open, hoping if she was too smart to go into a trap at least the relative warmth of the barn might attract her. 10pm, nothing. Midnight, nothing. I was getting really discouraged. This was the 2nd night in a row with no sightings. I feared the worst. 2am, I checked the traps and figured I might as well check the barn again. I shined my light into the barn and saw a flash of movement at the far end. I shut myself in really fast and turned on the light. All was quiet. My husband has 2 years of wood on pallets stacked along inside walls of the barn. I started crouching down and shining the light under the pallets. Nothing…nothing…nothing…CAT!!!! There she was, crouched under the back end of a pallet. I could hardly believe my eyes.
To make an already long story a little shorter, I couldn’t reach her and I didn’t want to let her out of my sight so I stayed out there from 2am till daylight. When Shelby’s mom came that morning, after much difficulty we managed to get her to a spot where we could get our hands on her. She must have been tired and weaker at that point because she hardly put up a struggle once I got my hands on her. I don’t know which one of us was more tired, Marble or me. I know her family REALLY appreciated all I did to get their cat back, but I really did it for Marble.
So that’s why this session is one I will never forget. A week later I went to their house to do photos of Shelby with her cats INSIDE.
Note: I will only photograph cats indoors from now on. 🙂
This is Marble. Mission accomplished.