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Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Denali", Grey/White, DSH, Sacramento

Denali is an indoor/outdoor 12 year old neutered male grey with white DSH. He is not wearing a collar, but he has a microchip. He was last seen sometime in the afternoon on Monday, and would typically hang out nearby and on the private road behind his home. There were no sightings or calls about Denali. When Denali did not return within 24 hours, they did start to look for him, but did not consider it to be an emergency. After missing for 48 they did feel that something was seriously wrong. I was called by Denali's person on Friday, and I arrived the next morning.

We found a track leading from the back private road straight out to the street and then made a left  down the street. This continued for many, many blocks straight down the street without any deviation left or right. At this point I mentioned to Denali's person that it looked like to me that Denali had been picked up. He did confirm that transient people were known in the area, especially more since the city shut down a nearby large tent city about six months prior.

Their trash is picked on Monday, but across the street, the trash is picked up on Tuesday, and Denali's person said she has seen transient people on the private road behind their home. I believe that Denali was picked up sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. And we do believe that this person is on a bicycle, probably a mountain bike type of bike. We have also seen some transients using an attachments to their bikes similar to the "carts" used for adults to attach their bikes to haul children behind their bikes. The person we are looking for may have this attached to their bike, which would make it easier to carry Denali in a carrier. And we do believe it is a male because some of the place did not feel safe for a woman to be.

The track continued through parking garages, dumpsters and then made straight shots out of the downtown area to a far distant area of the city. After seeing the search by the end of the third day, it was very obvious to both of us that this person made a beeline out of the area because he knew he possibly had somebody's cat and did not want to be detected.

One of the most fascinating parts of the day was the deviation off of Stockton and into a neighborhood. Both of us could not figure out why this person was here. We asked somebody when the recycling was picked up and they said several days before. By the time we got back to Stockton Blvd, it was obvious to both of us that this person was a scavenger and just looking to pick up anything on the road, and maybe look into cans that might be close to the sidewalk, but not necessarily out on the curb waiting for pick up. This set the tone for the rest of the search because we were constantly trying to figure out how to find this person, and we were taken through their life. In doing this, we also saw other people doing the same things. We would see a person walking down the street with a cart of recycling loose in the basket and then we would see them later with more recycling in the cart and then going directly to dumpsters.

We also discovered why this person went to this far southern part of Sacramento and how easily this person could blend into the area without anybody bothering him. It is a very wide, flat and easy to move around. The economy is depressed with a lot of abandoned homes, empty stores and unemployed people. I saw an entire shopping center that only had a small handful of stores open. When following this person, he went to many of these areas, weaving back and forth, rather than going back to the downtown area where he would be much more visible and harassed. We initially thought he would go back to the downtown area, but found out after three days of tracking him, that he showed no intention of returning.

I have tracked many animals that were picked up by transient people, but I have never followed them for three days and up to eight to ten hours in a day. I truly got to see a small chunk of not only this person's life, but of many others like them. It appears that this person spends a lot of time alone, so it makes sense that they would enjoy the company of a nice cat like Denali.

So this first day is from their home near downtown Sacramento and then out of that area and then directly south to the far south end of Sacramento on the way to Elk Grove, where Denali's person said the economy is very poor and there are a lot of abandoned homes.

Day #1:

View Denali in a larger map

Total Distance: 31.44 km (19.5 mi)
Total Time: 6:24:35
Moving Time: 4:04:57
Average Pace: 12.23 min/km (19.7 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 7.79 min/km (12.5 min/mi)
Min Pace: 5.13 min/km (8.3 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -47 m (-154 ft)
Max Elevation: -5 m (-17 ft)
Elevation Gain: 1166 m (3824 ft)
Max Grade: 12 %
Min Grade: -1 %
Recorded: Sat Sep 18 12:52:39 PDT 2010

This map is a little unclear because  there is a big loop. We started at the top push pin and from there we went down Stockton to the push pin at the recycling center and then into the third push pin where we found a very obvious homeless camp. There were tents and bicycles and lots of trash, but we found no people or animals. These maps of Day #2 were very obvious to us that he had no intention of going back to the downtown area. The track was just wandering around to sleeping and resting areas and to food and recycling. There was no direction or purpose, just killing time and picking up recycling and/or garbage.

Day #2: (due to a battery switch, the day is split into two)
Track #1:

View Denali 2.1 in a larger map

Total Distance: 23.14 km (14.4 mi)
Total Time: 5:47:55
Moving Time: 3:24:50
Average Pace: 15.04 min/km (24.2 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 8.85 min/km (14.2 min/mi)
Min Pace: 4.76 min/km (7.7 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -34 m (-112 ft)
Max Elevation: -5 m (-16 ft)
Elevation Gain: 847 m (2778 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Mon Sep 20 09:47:02 PDT 2010

On this track we had a little hope that he might be heading back to the downtown area. This map contains the shopping center that was largely abandoned and vacant, which would be a great draw for a transient. This track also contains a very scary neighborhood near the end that was clearly a type of "project" area, but it was made worse because it was totally enclosed and fenced. There was a large rolling gate at the entrance that, per maintenance, broke down and removed just the previous night. 

Track #2:

View Denali 2.2 in a larger map

Total Distance: 12.05 km (7.5 mi)
Total Time: 2:10:10
Moving Time: 1:36:17
Average Pace: 10.80 min/km (17.4 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 7.99 min/km (12.9 min/mi)
Min Pace: 5.13 min/km (8.3 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -43 m (-141 ft)
Max Elevation: 6 m (20 ft)
Elevation Gain: 439 m (1441 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Mon Sep 20 15:47:04 PDT 2010

This is a photo I took with my Android that we found as we were following the track. It did fit the type of bike (with all the bags and mountain bike in good shape) that might have Denali. We did find the owner of the bike, a woman, but she said she had not seen Denali. The temperature was high that day, so a cat could not survive outside in those bags, but it was the same type of bike and/or person that we might be following. 

This day was very interesting. Take a look at the track on Power Inn Road where it goes in and out of several businesses on courts and streets. All of these businesses had totally fenced in yards and most were heavy construction. Somehow this person just walked onto the property either in the day or night (with closed gates and high fences) and walked around, sleeping and relaxing and picking up trash. It was totally amazing that this person had such full access even though the employees of these places swore up and down their yards were locked and secure at night and that they did not allow any "homeless" onto the property. How did this person get on and why did nobody care?

Day #3:
Track #1:

View Denali 3.1 in a larger map

Total Distance: 23.85 km (14.8 mi)
Total Time: 5:42:53
Moving Time: 3:27:49
Average Pace: 14.38 min/km (23.1 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 8.71 min/km (14.0 min/mi)
Min Pace: 5.52 min/km (8.9 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -38 m (-125 ft)
Max Elevation: 3 m (10 ft)
Elevation Gain: 857 m (2811 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Tue Sep 21 10:34:01 PDT 2010

This track just dashed hopes that this person might be returning to the downtown area. It was straight south back to the southern part of Sacramento where the past two days were. It was very difficult to follow. Denali's person said that in the beginning of the day he felt somewhat hopeful that this person might return to the downtown area, but by the end of the day, he decided to stop the search and continue on his own. It was almost 5:30 PM, and it was getting cold and dark and overcast. 

Track #2:

View Denali 3.2 in a larger map

Total Distance: 4.75 km (2.9 mi)
Total Time: 1:00:54
Moving Time: 46:02
Average Pace: 12.83 min/km (20.6 min/mi)
Average Moving Pace: 9.70 min/km (15.6 min/mi)
Min Pace: 6.67 min/km (10.7 min/mi)
Min Elevation: -30 m (-100 ft)
Max Elevation: -8 m (-27 ft)
Elevation Gain: 164 m (537 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Tue Sep 21 16:20:52 PDT 2010

There was another strange twist to this case. After the search of the second day, I received a text message from Denali's person that a neighbor of his came to this door that evening and swore that Denali had died on her doorstep the same night that he disappeared, about a week prior. The story I got from Denali's person, which he admitted was kind of sketchy from this elderly woman (in her 70's), was that a cat who she thought was Denali was found alive on her doorstep late a night (she only remembers that it was already dark). She had heard a noise outside and went to check and found this injured cat on her doorstep. She did not know that Denali was missing at this time, so she didn't think it was him at that point. Even though the cat was still alive, but severely injured, she went to bed and came out the next morning to find a dead cat on her doorstep. She told her husband and her gardener, who happen to be there. 

She told Denali's person that she thought she called Animal Control to pick it up, but nobody came all day. By the end of the day, it was still there. By the next morning it was gone, so she thought that they picked it up. Denali's person called AC, but there was no record of them picking up a cat at that address or even receiving a call to come out. My guess is that her husband or the gardener, in their effort to prevent further stress to her, removed the body and put it in a dumpster. 

Denali's person questioned me whether we were actually following Denali's track if this neighbor saw Denali dead on her doorstep. I said that the neighbor was mistaken, even though the cat she saw she honestly thought was Denali, but it was a cat that looked similar. Denali's person said to me that their neighborhood had a lot of loose roaming cats. And they had already received possible sightings of Denali, all which proved to be not him. I said that this woman, in her honest distress and lack of light and confusion, saw another cat that looked similar to Denali. I said that we were following Denali's track 100%. I am not sure whether he believed me, since he continued to question me on this subject on the third day of the search. 

Honestly, I believe this is a possible attempt to find closure to the loss of their cat. This is a very common response to deal with their grief. I think it is easier to think he is deceased instead of thinking he is being held beyond his choice with a transient traveling all over the place.