This wasn't going to end happily. All signs pointed to another sad story of a lost pet never to be heard from again.
The posters were hung, search parties formed, Craigslist notified. All the neighbors were on the lookout for the little gray kitty that went on daily walks with its owner, seven other cats and two dogs.
But the hours and days passed. Someone saw a cat get hit by a car. Someone else watched a vulture snack on something furry.
"I was frantic," said Tracie Steger, owner of the lost cat, named Giggle-Blizzard.
Thanksgiving dinner was a rather solemn affair attended by the entire clan, save one.
• • •
Steger has spent a lot of time training her pets.
Every day, without leashes or restraints, she and her creatures stroll the neighborhood. They come to her when she calls. They roam the yard without supervision.
Steger said the neighbors think it's a little weird.
But things worked out pretty well until Nov. 15, when Steger called the crew inside for dinner.
Giggle-Blizzard, the brattiest, was missing.
Steger and her golden retriever, Margarita, went searching for hours in the dark.
They came home without her.
LOST KITTY signs were up the next day. Neighborhood kids handed out fliers. People walked the neighborhood, calling out the cat's name.
A little girl across the street told Steger she saw a car hit a cat and drive off. It had a gray coat. Steger winced.
Another day Steger saw whiskers between the teeth of a hungry vulture. She scared it off and saved a kitten that wasn't Giggle-Blizzard.
It was hard not to lose hope.
• • •
On Thanksgiving night, as everybody watched Margarita do tricks after dinner, they heard something yelping on the porch.
There was a bedraggled Giggle-Blizzard, for the first time in 11 days. His back legs were smashed. He had been hit by a car.
The doctors said he had walked around like that for almost a week. After two surgeries — and $3,000 in vet bills — Giggle-Blizzard now mopes about with Christmas-colored splints on his hind legs. He will have them on at least another month.
Steger can't stop telling his story. She put up a new message on Craigslist soon after the cat's miraculous return.
"If you've lost a pet — DO NOT GIVE UP!" she hollers into cyberspace. "If they know they are loved . . . it may be just enough to bring them home to you."