What I Learned About Mandeville, Looking for Brandon

Posted August 2019

June 26th at 1pm
While walking out of Mandeville Animal Hospital on 419 Girod Street, Brandon my cat was scared by the mailman. He jumped out of my daughter’s arms and ran into the woods across the street.

Brandon, since first found starving in a campground in Page, Arizona and rescued by my son, has truly added happiness to our home. We already had 3 dogs and added another cat Nelson a few months back. But Brandon was my buddy. We watched baseball together. He greeted me at the door every time I came home. Our family is heartbroken and we have done everything we can think of to find Brandon.

Day 7 of the Search
While this part of the story is still sad and I trust one day soon I will add the great reunion to it, today I focus not on the great ending but on what I have learned in the process.

For the last seven days and nights I have searched Old Mandeville. My body is ripped up from the thorns and has been eaten up by red bugs. I am sleep-deprived and frankly frustrated because I just don’t know what else to do. My hope in finding my friend is honestly diminishing, but my determination will not allow me to stop. So, to my new neighbors of Old Mandeville (I live in Fontainebleau subdivision) if you see a guy with a flashlight at 1am, no need to call the cops – it’s just me looking for Brandon.

Enough with the sad, back to the title: “What I Learned About Mandeville, Looking for Brandon.”

Old Mandeville is awesome. I’ve fallen in love with this place that I have lived near to but never really experienced. Mandeville is a community: a little Mayberry, a little New York, a little Key West, a little country, and lots more little bits, but most of all it’s a Louisiana treasure. This eclectic community of real people has filled my heart, left broken by losing Brandon.

There’s a young couple who walk around and pick up trash every morning. They aren’t paid, they are simply cleaning up “their home” (Old Mandeville) after the guests leave for the night. The retired Fire Chief Tassin started baiting the traps given to me by other cat-loving ladies. He has texted me daily with reports. He also bought a new trap to add to the effort.

Cayman Sinclair (Lakehouse) and John Burns (Lafitte Restaurant) have had their staff looking, along with others.

Even the area animals are working with me. I caught the same raccoon a few times and he just looks at me with these beautiful eyes like, “Not sure why you keep doing this but thanks for the meal!”

The second night missing I spotted what I thought was Brandon in a tree near where he was lost. And with the help of the local “cat ladies” they connected me with a retired guy from LSU in Baton Rouge that climbs trees to rescue cats. I called him at 9:30pm and he came the next morning at 8:30. It was a very difficult climb and Brandon wasn’t in the tree (likely I saw a raccoon). He refused to take money and has checked back since, worried about Brandon. His mission is to prevent suffering for cats and families. Meeting a guy like Randall really shows we have great people in our state.

Karen, my new neighbor (since I have been virtually living in the lot next door) posted on nextdoor for us (since we live on the west side of town) and has endlessly searched, put out food, and texted my wife Karen and I with sightings.

The list goes on and on. The hostess of the beach house, guy at the bike shop, the priest of OLOL, and many more I forget.

I’m running for Mayor of Mandeville, (ignore politics in this, it’s just part of the story) and I have attended city meetings the last few years. So I knew what Ren Clark – a P&Z Commissioner – looked like, but didn’t really know him. While driving I saw Ren and his wife Nancy riding bikes, so I yelled, “Hi, Ren Clark!” They stopped, a bit shocked not knowing who I was and how I knew Ren’s name. I explained about Brandon and they immediately offered to help. They have loaned my family bikes for the last week as we have looked. They have checked with me daily for updates on Brandon.

On the surface Ren and I are different. I’m an engineer and general contractor turned business developer, while Ren is a self-described “green tree-hugging environmentalist.” But we couldn’t be more the same: we both have a deep love for Mandeville, this priceless treasure we must all work to preserve.

What does that mean? I really don’t know, I’m only 7 days in and still focused on finding Brandon. But I do know, we must join to protect this community, in the same way this community has joined together to help find Brandon. The real treasure is neighbors looking out for each other and working together for the common good, not the single desire. We need to focus on words like we and our, forgetting “I” and “me”. We must find a way to teach guests to respect Old Mandeville like it’s their own home. We need to repurpose existing buildings into community partners who understand the history and help them fall in love and become added good neighbors.

We don’t need more rules, we need more education of the spirit behind the rules we already have. I believe at heart most people want similar things. Working together rooted in kindness and community first, all pulling the same direction, ensuring this treasure – our home – is protected for future generations to fall in love with.

Brandon, thank you for all the joy you have brought into my life and for the future joy I hope and pray you bring to me once we are reunited. And thank you Old Mandeville for caring so much, so sincerely, about Brandon. Many would say it’s just a cat, but not you Old Mandeville, you saw a neighbor in need and joined together to help and for that I am forever in your debt.

Your new neighbor, Chad Bordelon

7/5/19 Update
I would be lying to say my hope is not being tested. My fear is Brandon has been driven in an unknown direction by fireworks. I spent my Fourth of July in Cassie’s (another new friend) carport near the trace behind Old Rail watching three traps til 2am with no luck. Cassie sent us a picture that really looks like Brandon. She has been great, helping me look in the middle of the night. As I sit sweating, being eaten alive while covered with Off! (I later found out it doesn’t work on gnats) the frustration of not knowing what to do consumes me. But I’m reminded of these once strangers turned lifelong new friends. We have a great community. I know Louisiana doesn’t score high on many good lists, but the people are just awesome.

7/7/19 Update
I learned today that fireman play softball to pass the time while being on call to protect us, and yes, they have also been looking around for Brandon.

I am convinced Brandon is the most popular cat in Mandeville. Wherever I go, I tell people about him and they have already been looking. From Saia’s where I buy the tuna fish for the traps to the lakefront. I have caught (and not hurt, btw) many cats, possums, racoons, even a turtle – but not Brandon.

Hurricane Barry Update
The search has truly been a family effort, led by my wife Karen and I. She made all the signs that we have moved, reposted and redone countless times. But this Hurricane and the water on the lakefront has complicated the search. The frustration of not understanding what to do next, coupled with the stress on our family is getting to me.

And I must leave town to bring my daughter Hannah to Houston for aptitude testing on Monday. Karen is staying to keep looking.

7/15/19 Update
Part of me feels like I am giving up. It’s been 19 days, I’m sleep-deprived, not working out, not working effectively, and just so down. I read that 80% of lost cats are found, which is encouraging, but few if any are lost 5 miles from home.

In Houston, just got an encouraging call. A guy heard a cat in the ceiling of his office in the old theater on Girod. My cop friend Fred and my daughter Nadia (the one Brandon ran from) checked it out. They couldn’t get the traps to fit in the ceiling, but the guy said he really felt after seeing the sign that it looked like Brandon.

I’m imaging the irony that Brandon could be in an old theater, since I repurposed an old theater into Fleur de Lis Event Center and I had been parking right behind the very same theater on Girod when I searched with a golf cart.

7/16/19 Update
I talked to Neal this morning (the guy in the office of old theater). He hasn’t heard the cat, and Nadia checked the traps they placed outside with no luck. Neal still really feels like it’s Brandon. I want to believe, but I have now struck out so many times it’s hard.

7/16/19 Afternoon Update
I am at iFLY Houston, a skydiving simulator. I was getting ready to “fly” after Hannah, when my daughter Nadia called to tell me that they found Brandon! Hannah was flying, and I sure am as well. I’m on cloud nine! Brandon was in the old theater building after all. Neal called Nadia just as she was leaving and they both heard him. She rushed in and heard him run across the ceiling tiles. She climbed on a chair, stuck her head in the ceiling and he came right to her, purring.

He is back home, and our family is complete. Nelson our other cat is overjoyed as well.

This next picture says it all, as observed by Ren Clark. “So that’s Brandon apologizing to Nadia and swearing that he has learned his lesson!”

Final report
I just brought Brandon back to the vet (where he initially ran off) for a checkup – in a carrier this time. Funny thing, he was terrified. I had to drag him out of the carrier, then he kept trying to push the closed door open to get back in. Once I got home, he came right out. It was like he was saying “I’m not sure what happened, but this terrible last 20 days started here and I don’t want to go back!” Other than dropping 25% of his weight (which he will get back) he is fine. And most of all happy to be home!

Again, I want to thank everyone who cared enough about my family to help. We look forward to the continued relationships we formed and the love we found from our neighbors in Old Mandeville.

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And please vote in the city election on Saturday, April 4, 2020.


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