ROCKLAND — One scared and hungry kitty is now in the process of reuniting with his New York owner after being located in the South End of Rockland, Friday, Dec. 27.
The Rockland homeowner who alerted searchers to Buddy’s hiding place now grows teary-eyed at the kindness of everyone involved.
“This has made my Christmas...and my New Year,” said Ann Jennings. “It represents the best in us...All around this little cat.”
A month and two days prior, Buddy the cat and his owner, Kate, traveled to Maine from the Big Apple for a Thanksgiving at Kate’s parents’ new home. Neither Kate nor Buddy knew anything about the neighborhood.
For Buddy – now known as the feline with the $1,000 reward – the immersion into South End life came immediately. His chauffeur (Kate) parked the automobile. Buddy’s door opened. And between the few feet from car to house, Buddy leaped away, still inside his harness.
He became a poster feline for the neighborhood. Based on the reward offered, few neighbors doubted how much his family cared.
The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, one particular neighbor looked out her window to see a friendly set of pointy ears leisurely seated on her deck. She snapped a picture before the cat ran off.
Ann Jennings then made a phone call.
“I think your cat is under my shed,” she later recounted.
Within hours, people were at her door: A person who acted as local contact for Kate. Two others who drop their lives to help reunite missing felines with their humans.
A number of holes at the base of the shed made the sub-floor theory possible. And, so, the two men who search for cats blocked the holes as best they could before setting out a trap cage with Buddy’s favorite food inside. Food was also spread on the ground outside the trap to act as a lure.
One of the cat seekers twisted a manipulable camera down under the shed. The camera swept the dark space, resting on a pair of glowing eyes.
The people disappeared for the night with a plan to regroup in the morning.
Fortunately for Buddy, his indoor apartment life had been preceded by a life as a stray. Uninitiated as he was to Maine, he could still survive the December nights better than any newbie to the streets.
In the morning, Jennings looked out her window. A cat was eating the exterior nibblets. A large orange cat. Buddy isn’t orange.
Buddy also was well acquainted with the particular type of trap mounted for his capture. Through that type of trap, he had previously passed the threshold from street stray to indoor nester.
With his favorite foods available near the shed and also in a trap at a vacant house nearby; with a friend of Kate who’d traveled 7.5 hours from NYC with his niece the day before, for an overnight, to see if he could help (having even stopped and bought a cat carrier along the way); Buddy remained elusive.
His people posse remained determined. Rain fell; the empty traps were scrutinized. The friends from NYC lingered before their inevitable return drive that morning. Some questioned whether the feline seen on the porch the day before was the right one. And a camera was again pushed under the shed.
This time, the lens swept the room. No glowing eyes. No paws. No tail.
But still, hope.
“I’ve never seen such an amount of work and an amount of things that people are doing in order to help that cat,” said Jennings. “It’s truly almost an heroic venture and they are all doing it voluntarily.”
Out came the big guns. The cat seekers cleared away the furniture, yard tools, and recreational gear from the cluttered shed. Drills and electric saws went in.
Revving, tearing, hammering, pounding. And finally, light.
Buddy sprang from the freshly cut square halo in the shed’s floor, almost making another escape after biting the hand, superficially, of the first guy to knuckle on to him.
But, the shed door had been closed, preventing a true jail break.
He was placed in the arms of the local contact, who, according to Jennings, had been a part of the search, every step of the way.
“This is further evidence that people shouldn’t give up looking,” said one of the cat seekers.
The two new friends (Martin and Buddy) took to the car again, this time for a veterinary checkup.
All would have ended there. Except, it didn’t. Far from it.
In the morning, when Jennings allowed holes to be drilled into her shed, she cared only for the sake of the cat, and thought nothing of how the structure would ultimately be left. Yet, following Buddy’s re-uniting with human’s, the cat seekers did not hesitate.
They worked into the evening, not only patching the hole in the already-rotting floorboards, but added joists and secured that patch far sturdier than recent years have seen. Next came the re-entry of furniture – with an unsolicited guarantee of relocating the furniture in a less cluttered fashion unseen in that shed in years. And finally, they sent her pictures of Buddy’s continued adventure.
For Jennings: Long before her shed was unexpectedly upgraded, she’d determined that the $1,000 finders reward should be passed along to the humane society that contracted with Rockland.
By the end of the day, according to the cat seekers, Buddy’s owner was already on top of it, considering a bigger donation to the local animal shelter than the initial reward offering.
“The way this cat has brought out the best in people,” said Jennings. “The way people have brought out the best in each other. I’ve never seen anything like this. It has restored my faith in humanity.”
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org