Written by Anna-Mare Louw
Professional photography by Kym Clayton Photography
Lienka loves to travel. Having bought a farm in Namaqualand, Northern Cape, in 2016, we often travel up and down between there and our house in Durbanville, Western Cape. And Lienka, my beloved Ragdoll cat, travels with us without any problems; she’s even travelled with us as far as Swakopmund, Namibia, a couple of times.
I lost control of the car
On Saturday, the 18th of August 2018, Lienka and I were on our way back from Durbanville to the farm. At around 18h00, we arrived at the dirt road turn-off towards Soebatsfontein leading to the farm. As I turned off, Lienka came out from under the car seat and I reassured her that we were almost home.
The road is extremely bad – completely corrugated, plus the worst potholes imaginable – so we always drive carefully. Five kilometres after the turn-off, I somehow lost control of my car. We swirled across the road and hit the side of the road, crashed into a massive rock and were airborne for a few metres. The car overturned and we roll-stopped on the roof against a couple of bushes.
For a while, all went blank. When I dragged my eyes open, I realised we were upside down. I crawled out through the front window, blood streaming from my head and covering the left side of my face. I immediately began stumbling around, calling and screaming for Lienka, but to no avail. She’d fled the scene.
It was getting dark
Night was falling, and out on the farms of the Namaqualand it really is pitch-dark at night – and there’d be no traffic for hours. I decided to walk back to the farm I’d just passed some two kilometres back. The family kindly helped me retrieve my personal belongings and called my husband.
But Lienka was still nowhere to be seen. We left food and water with her blanket in the vehicle – in case she returned during the night – and we headed to our farm, 35km further.
The following morning, at 07h00, we were back at the scene, cleaning up, retrieving the vehicle and calling, searching for Lienka. Nothing – and she’d not come back during the night either.
My baby was gone.
We still had to go to the nearest hospital, which was in Springbok – 60km away – as my head wound was still bleeding. Late afternoon, as we returned from Springbok, we again stopped at the scene, searching and calling for Lienka – but still nothing. Close to the scene were people working on the farm fence. We asked them for help in searching for Lienka, for which I promised a healthy cash reward. All the farmers and their workers were informed and asked to help.
Over the following two weeks, I returned frequently to look for her. I even had a picnic one morning at a deserted farmhouse not far from the scene, hoping to entice her by calling, and crocheting to remind her of home, waving her favourite wet food in the air… yet still nothing.
Returning to Cape Town
We then had to return to Cape Town as our daughter had gone into labour; I stayed for the month to help her, but my husband returned to the farm and, as his time permitted it, went searching for Lienka. Nobody had seen a glimpse of her.
While in Cape Town I called the Dog Rescue Unit, wondering if they could track her, but they only do human scent – yet another dead end. I contacted Radio Namaqualand, asking to broadcast the story in the hope that perhaps tourists had picked her up as it was the middle of the flower season. The owners of the deserted farm visited once a month and I called them, hoping that just maybe Lienka was there. A farmer's wife even took her sheepdog to try and find a scent and follow it. Nothing. The area is vast and not very populated; the chances of finding a small cat were slim.
I decided to try Facebook – maybe, just maybe. Compassionate, sympathetic and heart-warming people responded, praying for Lienka’s safe return. Through this, two ladies contacted me and put me in touch with two other ladies who, through meditation, are able to make contact with distressed or lost animals. Evening after evening, I mentally called in the direction of the scene for Lienka.
Calling for Lienka
A month later I was back at the farm. Every evening I went to the scene and called for Lienka. I took my grandson’s drone with me, but before I could use it, on Sunday the 7th of October 2018, we again drove past the deserted farmhouse.
All of a sudden, my husband stopped. He’d seen something white, which was unusual in that dusty landscape. As he reversed, I saw Lienka running from an outbuilding to the house. At last there was something!
Can you imagine my instant hysteria? I scrambled over a wall and ran up to the house. I got there, calling, looking around – nothing! Where could she be? I cried hysterically.
After this meltdown I decided to just be quiet for a moment, and – lo and behold – I heard an awful growl coming from a semi in/outside braai room. With persistent calling from me, Lienka eventually peeped out from under a wooden door on the far side of the room. It took her a couple of minutes to realise that it was me calling. She slowly slunk to the damaged door, trying to touch me. My heart sank when she skittered back to the far side again. But then she quickly turned around and reached with her paws underneath the door – a gap of about 10cm. I grabbed her and just pulled her out from under the door and into my arms. We immediately put her under my shirt and returned to the car. It had been almost two months in the wilderness since we’d lost her.
Safe and sound
Lienka was covered in ticks, was very weak and extremely thin; her voice was hoarse from calling us. We drove straight home and gave her food and water; she ate like there was no tomorrow. That afternoon and the next day she was still very weak, but it wasn’t long before she began to gain strength.
After a thorough vet check and proper vet food, my Lienka baby is recovering well. I never, ever doubted for one second that she wouldn’t be returned to us. With my full belief in an awesome God, I knew that it would just be a matter of time. And now, as my husband said after we prayed and thanked God for returning Lienka to us, we are full circle again. Lienka is home.
Watch Lienka’s pure happiness at eating her first meal subsequent to her being found after fleeing our accident scene and going missing for 50 days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGUjki-X6T0