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Whither Thou Goest, My Blinky?

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We've been a bit spun-out over the past number of days. We have lost one of our family. We're both really torn up. We've not been getting any signal from Blinky's tracking radio since she didn't come home and we've taken to widening the search area every day by truck, using the Radio Direction Finder to see if she is just out of range. Nothing. No idea what happened to her. She just vanished. Canvassing vets and shelters, sending emailed missing posters to the other properties up here and down in the valley has taken a lot out of Joy. We're even contacting ham radio guys to see if, with their more capable and sensitive apparatus, that they might be able to pick up her transmitter.

A few days ago, Joy got a weak ghost signal from Blnky's transmitter; just at dusk while taking her daily evening drive with the RDF to further widen the search radius. Came home honking the horn, all excited and out of breath. Could barely talk. We went out and tracked it by going through a neighbor's property and through their fence into the uncut brush in order to triangulate in the opposite direction from where Joy got the ghost. I got a weak signal and climbed about half way down into the steep canyon before running out of light; forcing us to give up. Did begin to get a more directional signal down there but it was bouncing in the deep canyon. I'd get a vector west into a big Manzanita, go south a bit to triangulate again and the signal would be coming from southwest. Perhaps she's moving. That's a good sign. She never comes when it starts to get dark. Always is good about holing up to be safe at night. Stubborn about it, in fact. Her Mom taught her well. Went back up to the big bush and it was back to coming from it, so reflections are the issue until I could get closer. Maybe she's not moving.

blinky-canyon

We went out the next morning before the sun got too high and started where we left off. Signal was still there, coming from the same location. Not good news. If she isn't in it, all we'll retrieve is the collar. If she is, after five days, chances aren't good. Took about an hour to get from where I quit the evening before farther down into the canyon. 250 feet vertical drop. 45 degree and greater slope, heavy overgrowth up to 8 feet high, very dense at times. Finally got down to a rock wash that is only about 3 feet wide and boulder filled. Signal was bouncing all over, so the vector kept changing. Had to climb out a couple of times to check and then descend again and move up the wash. Finally was able to set the distance sensitivity on medium to get a better bead on the location.

blinky-collar

The collar was laying in the wash next to a large rock. Braided nylon webbing separated but the breakaway was still clasped. The separation is essentially straight across, with little shredding. No blood was immediately evident but there are dark stains on the collar that are suspicious, no fur around. Were some bones from other small animals embedded in the dirt wall of the wash. Long nose like a possum or fox. A leg bone and a vertebra were up the hill a bit. All bleached, so not her. Went farther up the wash, looking as far up the sides as I could to see if I could find her but, nothing. Finally got to within ten yards of a large boulder wall and stopped. The brush was extremely dense, as you would imagine if there is a small waterfall there in winter, so didn't try to get through it. Poison oak was scattered throughout it, so wouldn't be a comfortable time later. Although, when craning up to see if I could spot her, I determined that if I did see her, I would indeed go through it to retrieve her. Nothing.

Blinky Search Map

I recorded my path with a GPS tracker, chronicling this ordeal. We'll update with whatever the outcome may be. We're still holding hope that she broke free and escaped when whatever chomped through her collar. She went on a walkabout some time ago and was gone for four days. admiral-stretched-outAdmiral Akbar went on a walkabout for ten days and returned, so having hope is better than not. We learned later on that he actually survived somehow in this area for a year before we finally captured him (It's a trap!), which is remarkable, seeing as how he's cow-spotted black and white. Usually, white cats don't last long out here.

When you perform rescue missions as we do, the lives you save become all the more precious. Bringing them back from the brink, whether through medical attention or providing shelter from predators or saving them from abandonment, forges a far stronger bond than going to a pet shop. You have a vested interest in their welfare. They become your family, as if they were your own offspring. When you lose one, it hurts all the more because you cared all the more.

Joy, and I are holding onto hope as much as we can, but it's looking more and more like Blinky was attacked. The straight across cut of the webbed collar strap and dark stains on it really point to that which may have been a horrible death. Tears still suddenly overwhelm (just like now) when the rational and scientific side of the brain takes stock on the odds. At least we have a few strands of her fur that are around the tiny bolt that holds the transmitter to the collar and a lot of photographs and, of course, fond memories. She was the most beautiful of the Marbled Bengals; a real sweetheart, and we were possibly going to breed her. If only she had come in when Joy called. If only we hadn't let her out that one last time. If only... What if...

We still call to her every night in case she might be nearby. We leave the porch lights on dimly to guide her home. It gives us hope.

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