I was settling in to watch the evening news and glanced at the camera that monitors our front door. A dark cat was on the porch, drinking from the heated water dish. It wasn't the fluffy red cat that regularly patrols our lot. Could it be Max? Could it?
I crept downstairs to peek out the window, trying not to make any sound lest I send the cat running off before I had a chance to get a good look at him. Leaning over the sink, I could see gray tabby stripes. The next thing I knew, I was throwing open the door and calling his name--"Max! Max! Kitty kitty..."
He made a move as if to jump off the porch until it sank in that I was calling his name, then he turned and came to me. I gathered him up in my arms and took a quick inventory--he was thin but not critically so, and his red collar had slipped to around his chest. It was tight--too tight to unfasten--and later when I had cut it off of him, I could see it had rubbed his fur into clumps around it and there was a patch of dried blood where it had cut into his skin at some point.
Oh my poor Max... I am sure it was a relief when I snipped it off of him, but by then I had transported him to the back room and he was so torn between confusion and joy that he probably didn't notice.
Anyway, I have him settled in the big cage in the shop--familiar to him from the days he spent there last year--with food and water and a bed and litter box all his own. He ate a can of Friskies and drank half the water, then settled in to appreciate warmth and safety.
I slept so well last night--without the half-waking and the worries about where Max was and if he was warm and fed. Finally I knew the answers to those worries.