Mary Tkadlec has been with Dan Dahl for about 11 years, but Gunna was there first.
Gunna is a 17-year-old long-haired tortie, queen of the house and dismissive domineer over the two other cats. Half of her face is chocolate brown and the other half is amber, with the divide between them running straight down the length of her snout. Her eyes are peridot. Her attitude is terrible.
Dahl has had Gunna since she was 2 years old, and when he and Tkadlec moved in together, she became Tkadlec’s problem, too. They used to have four cats, and ever since they had to put one of them down a few months ago, Gunna hasn’t stopped meowing loudly in Dahl’s general direction. “Talking to him,” Tkadlec calls it. “Bitching,” Dahl calls it.
“She’s kind of a bitch,” Tkadlec admits.
On March 14, the sun was shining, and Tkadlec let Gunna out of the house in their south Minneapolis neighborhood. Later that afternoon, Gunna was nowhere to be found.
This was no cause for alarm. Gunna sometimes stayed out overnight, had even huddled in a box in the yard rather than come in when it rained. But then a day passed with no sign of her. And then another. Tkadlec started to worry.
Gunna had never strayed for that long before. Tkadlec started walking the streets, half expecting her to turn up dead, but she never saw a trace of her.
Four or five days after Gunna’s disappearance, it was time to get some backup. They posted on Nextdoor.com and deputized the neighbors. They called the local Humane Society and the city. Nothing.
April rolled around, and so did a historic blizzard that buried the city in 14 inches of snow. The city became impassable, the temperatures punishing. As Tkadlec looked out at the hostile white expanse, she came to the seemingly inevitable conclusion that Gunna would never irritate her again.
“I kind of gave up hope,” she says.
Weeks passed. Winter loosened its grip. Finally, on April 26, when the weather had finally reached the point of pleasantness, as Tkadlec was returning home from a walk, she heard a noise.
She paused at the gate. There was a faint shimmering cadence from the wind chimes hanging in the backyard – perhaps that’s what she’d heard. But then she heard it again, and this time it was unmistakable.
“Gunna?” she called.
Out from the bushes came a mangy looking thing -- a skinny cat whose long fur had become a matted mess. It was Gunna, returned from some great unseen nowhere. She was a far, trembling cry from her normal imperious self, but unhurt. All she really wanted to do was barricade herself up in the bathroom and guzzle water, but she ate when Tkadlec gradually started giving her little bits of food.
Gunna’s personality came back gradually. In the next few days she’d start batting around her toys. She began talking to Dahl again -- or bitching at him, depending on your perspective. Tkadlec thinks she came back because she hadn’t finished making her point.
A week later, the vet was scratching her head. Gunna had lost about half her body weight, but she looked fine. They just couldn’t figure out where she’d been, or how she’d survived.
Not to mention that nobody in the neighborhood had spotted her. Tkadlec thinks maybe she got stuck in someone’s garage. But a cat can only go about two weeks without food as long as they have water. She had to have eaten something.
Tkadlec put a little blurb on Nextdoor letting everyone know Gunna had come home. It got a chain of nearly 50 responses. Everyone was thrilled by the news, and everyone had theories as to how she survived. One poster thought Gunna had built herself a little igloo and lived on snow and stray birds, which Tkadlec thought was cute but implausible.
“Well, maybe someone took her,” someone else wrote.
But Tkadlec didn’t buy that either.
“She’s a very pretty cat, but she’s annoying as hell,” she says.