- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2000

When Jonathan and Patty Marks' cat Domino didn't return to their McLean, Va., home after Hurricane Floyd blew over last September, they immediately searched the neighborhood. Within days, they hung up posters. A few weeks later, they went to an animal psychic. After six months, they had given up hope.

So when Domino was spotted Sunday night near a creek 2 and 1/2 miles from his home, the Markses believed it was a bit miraculous.

"It's truly amazing," recalled Mrs. Marks, as she sat in her living room Wednesday night. "It's a miracle, really."

For the last six months, the Markses did everything they could to find their beloved Domino, who never came home the morning after the hurricane hit.

"He usually would help himself to my cereal every morning, but this time he was nowhere to be found," Mr. Marks recalled. "I got very worried."

For the next three weeks, they called animal shelters and even highway departments to ask whether any cats had been killed on major roadways.

They called the Feline Foundation, a cat rescue group in the District of Columbia, about their cat's disappearance and talked to volunteers, including Laura Goodman, who ultimately found their four-footed family member.

They also paid a California company $600 to send out postcards with Domino's picture and a description of his physical features to every home within a one-mile radius. Then they walked throughout their neighborhood, with a small bag of cat food in hand, calling out Domino's name.

"It was devastating," Mr. Marks, a Foreign Service officer, explained. "It felt like one of the family was missing."

In October, they turned to an animal psychic, who told them over a telephone reading, that Domino "knew he was lost, but he was having fun and was not ready to come home yet," Mr. Marks said.

"Before we were going to write him off, we thought to give it a shot," Mrs. Marks explained. "It was at least comforting to know he was able to care for himself in a way and that he was alive."

"It kept our hopes up, I think," Jeremy, 15, interjected.

Every morning before work, Mr. Marks drove around his neighborhood, calling out Domino's name and peeking into every culvert hoping to find his cat.

But as months passed and seasons changed, the Markses slowly began losing faith in ever finding Domino, the white and yellow-eyed tomcat they adopted from an animal shelter in Annandale, Va., six years before.

Even Jake, the family's 6-year-old dog, missed his best friend and roommate. His ears would perk up whenever he heard a cat meow on television, Mr. Marks said.

"The two had grown up together and traveled together in a belly of a plane," Mrs. Marks said. The two pets met when the Markses bought Jake as a puppy when they moved to Budapest six years ago.

In January, the family decided to adopt another cat, which remains unnamed, to somehow fill the void that Domino left behind.

"You kind of have a tentative relationship with the new cat," Mr. Marks pointed out. "Domino wasn't really gone in our hearts."

"It was a sacrilege to even compare the new kitty to our Domino," Mrs. Marks added.

The family continued to put up new posters, and on a regular basis talked to volunteers at the Feline Foundation, who the Markses say never gave up.

"They were our rock through this," Mr. Marks said. "Every one of them kept telling us chances were he was still alive and he was all right."

They were right.

On Sunday, Ms. Goodman called and told them that she found a cat that strongly resembled Domino hunkered down at a creek bed off Eldorado Street near Dolley Madison Boulevard. She saw the white cat sitting by the creek while driving on an exit ramp from Route 267 on her way to McLean that evening. The spot was about 2 and 1/2 miles from the Markses' home on Bargo Court.

"In my heart I knew that was Domino," Ms. Goodman remembered.

It took about 45 minutes for Ms. Goodman and her friend to catch the cat that looked like Domino after it took off running. Then, Ms. Goodman called the Markses with the news.

"I was skeptical because we've had false alarms before," Mr. Marks recalled. "I was excited but I didn't want to be let down again."

When Ms. Goodman brought the cat to the Markses, it took the family about 10 minutes to accept it as Domino. They took family photo albums out to compare the two cats and their physical features. But once the cat crawled into Jeremy's lap and started purring, that's when the Markses became certain the feline was theirs.

But it didn't take Jake long to recognize his long-lost companion.

"The moment Laura brought in the carrier that night, Jake began running around the house, with his tail wagging a million miles an hour," Mr. Marks said, looking at Jake sitting beside him on the floor. "He was overjoyed. Clearly it was someone he knew."

Ms. Goodman, a government lawyer, believes Domino survived the last six months by hiding in a drainpipe from the cold and snow and feeding on birds and mice he hunted down nearby.

Mr. Marks said the 12-pound Domino didn't even lose that much weight. "He looked very well," Mr. Marks said.

Since the reunion, the family has curbed Domino's wanderlust, to avoid another six-month ordeal searching for their kitty. From now on, Domino will be an indoor cat, kept indoors at all times. "We are pretty darn reluctant to let him out and go through this again," Mr. Marks added.

The day after Domino came home, the Markses took him to the veterinarian, who inserted into the scruff of its neck a microchip that would emit the cat's identification number if it's brought to an animal shelter or veterinary office.

Domino has no complaints about the changes to his lifestyle. Since he came home, he's been eating his favorite snacks cream cheese and cheddar and catching up on much-needed sleep.

Jake is happy, too. He chases Domino around the house and the two rub against each other when they get a chance. As for the new kitty, he has a new brother to look up to.

"It truly feels like our family has been reunited," Mr. Marks said. "I always thought Domino and I would grow old together. It's amazing that we got this second chance."

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