Where would the kids' movie industry be without the "lost pets try to find their way home" genre? But, of course, the only reason the grossly unlikely plots of Homeward Bound and Finding Nemo could occur is because the animals in those movies have human intelligence, and because little kids won't buy tickets to watch movies about lost animals getting run over on the highway.
But, as we so often like to point out, real life requires even more suspension of disbelief than any Pixar movie.
#6. Dixie the Cat Returns Home After Nine Years
Dixie the ginger cat had already lived a long and happy life by 1999, when she turned 15, which is about 76 in cat years. Like all 76-year-olds, Dixie was quite content just sitting around eating dry food and mewling at neighborhood children all day, until one day she inexplicably disappeared, which is also something that geriatrics tend to do from time to time.
"If anyone needs me, I'll be catching rats over at the Sizzler."
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, Dixie's owner, Gilly Delaney, came to accept the sad truth. Her elderly kitty was certainly clawing ribbons out of God's couch by now.
So of course Mrs. Delaney was overjoyed when an RSPCA officer found her cat alive and well and delivered her home safe again. Cool story, right? No? Well, we forgot to mention that they found the cat nine years later.
"I don't remember a goddamned thing. Catnip's a helluva drug."
Yep, that means she lived in the wild until she was 24. That number doesn't even appear on the cat/human age chart -- in our years, it's like 130 or something. To put that into perspective, the life expectancy of cats is around 13 years, so Dixie was already on borrowed time when she ran away. And it's not like living on the streets gives cats magical rejuvenating powers -- wild cats only typically live to around 8. That means Dixie lived longer than your typical house cat and your typical feral cat combined.
And then there's the fact that even young, healthy cats tend to gravitate toward oncoming cars like they're made of electromagnets, so Dixie's survival story would already have been amazing even if she had only been a year old when she ran away. Once she got back, her owners claimed that her personality hadn't changed a bit, which is what you'd expect from a cat that is secretly a transfigured wizard.
"Hogwarts needed a long-term substitute and I needed a pension bump."
#5. Yosuke the Parrot Returns Home by Telling People His Address
There are pros and cons to choosing a parrot to be your pet. On one hand, they are possibly the smartest animals short of primates. On the other hand, they are possibly the smartest animals short of primates. The Nakamura family of Japan discovered the downside to trying to keep a genius behind bars when Yosuke, their African Grey parrot, MacGyvered his way out of his cage and fled to the skies. And unlike your loyal dog, an escaped bird ain't never comin' back.
Throwing rocks at it won't help, either.
Yet it seems that Yosuke never intended to stay away forever. After doing an aerial tour of Japan and probably getting up to some avian mischief that would make a delightful kids' movie if only someone had been there to document it, the bird wound up in the custody of animal control. They for some reason handed him over to the police (maybe his "mischief" involved killing a few homeless dudes, who knows).
While at the police station, Yosuke refused to talk to the fuzz, adhering to the old parrot adage of "Snitches get stitches," until the cops handed him over to the local vet. When the people at the animal clinic got him, Yosuke suddenly got quite chatty. He actually began to entertain the vets by singing popular children's songs, and after a couple of days, he took a dramatic pause and said, "I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura." Before the veterinarian's monocle could hit the floor, Yosuke proceeded to give the exact address of his owners' home, down to the street number.
"And if you tell any of this to the cops, I swear to God it'll end in eye-pecking."
Much to the surprise of the vet, the address turned out to be real, and Yosuke was reunited with the Nakamuras. Now, you might say the parrot was just doing what it was trained to do, randomly repeating words that were to it just more meaningless sounds. But African Grey parrots have in fact been found to actually understand the words they're saying and use them in the correct context at times. So, it's conceivable that, after tasting horrible, horrible freedom, Yosuke just decided that it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. And also he was apparently too lazy to fly himself home.
Laziness is the surest sign of a highly evolved mind.
#4. Sophie the Dog Survives Four Months on a Desert Island
In November 2009, Jane and Dave Griffith took their dog, Sophie Tucker, on a boat trip around the Whitsunday Islands off the Australian coast. Tragically, Sophie fell overboard into the churning waters, teaching them a valuable lesson about boating with a pet species renowned for leaning out of moving vehicles.
Doggy survival instincts always take a back seat to interesting smells.
The Griffiths assumed that poor Sophie was lost after searching the shark-infested Australian waters for an hour. Unbeknownst to them, their dog had survived ... by swimming five nautical miles through the turbulent surf, and then living on an uninhabited island for four months without so much as a volleyball for company.
In order to pull off her Robinson Crusoe re-enactment, Sophie had to learn how to adapt her skills from hunting her former prey (the cylindrical meat byproduct that appeared in her bowl every morning) to surviving in the wilderness. She did this by eating wild baby goats, apparently nature's closest approximation to Alpo.
Sophie, seen here making Bear Grylls look like a wuss.
When park rangers eventually found her months later, word got back to the Griffiths, who returned to find her a cold and feral shell of her former self. But as soon as she heard her former owners' voices, she quickly reverted to a beloved family pet, albeit one with the thousand-yard stare typical of any survivor of the Australian wilderness.