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By Jay Thorwaldson

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About this blog: I was editor of the Palo Alto Weekly from June 2000 to January 2011, capping a more than 50-year career in journalism and writing since Los Gatos High School, where I was editor of the student newspaper and president of the speech...  (More)

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Who else has a 'The Cat Came Back' story?

Uploaded: Sep 9, 2010
Amid the hustle of modern high-tech, high-speed life it's always great to pause for a story about a cat -- or sometimes a dog -- that gets lost or left behind and somehow gets reunited with its owners.

The story this week of "Tiger," the escapee from a pet-boarding place who was reunited with his family is such a story.

Another story is pending about a kitten who showed up at her child's school one day and meowed outside the classroom door. I'm not sure that's technically a "cat came back" story, though, remarkable as it is.

But the Tiger story got me to thinking about two things.

The first is an ancient cassette recording of an elderly relative-in-law, Perry Blackburn, a longtime railroad engineer in the Midwest, who sang into an early recording device the old song with the refrain, "The cat came back. We thought he was a goner. The cat came back the very next day."

His high, scratchy voice is haunting, as is his enthusiasm for the song, stanza after stanza.

The second is an experience I had as a freshman in college, at the time dating a young woman, Nancy, later destined to become my wife. When someone offered me an orange-tabby kitten I gave it to her. She named it Tigger.

But after a week or two, alas, the kitten disappeared from her east Los Gatos home. No sign or word from the searches and posters we put up. A couple of weeks went by.

One evening I pulled into the driveway of my home several miles to the west, at the base of the Santa Cruz mountains. My bloodhound, Annie Oakley, came bounding out to meet me. But she was more agitated than usual, especially for a bloodhound, which are known for not being terribly animated.

She ran ahead, then back, then ahead, as I walked toward the house, up the side-door steps and into my ground-floor room -- a wing attached to the rear of the house. I always left the door open so Annie could go in and out during the day. She slept in a large, overstuffed chair behind my desk/study area.

She stopped at the door and looked up, with a extra-worried look on her usually worried-looking face. Inside, lying calmly and comfortably in Annie's big chair, was a half-grown orange tabby that looked a lot like Tigger. It was friendly and made itself at home.

OK, I'll take this one to Nancy, I decided, thinking it was a different cat -- which I did the next day.

"This is Tigger," she declared. I asked how she knew. The original Tigger had a pale spot about the size of a silver dollar in the middle of its back. This cat had the same pale spot. It was the same cat.

Somehow, I figured, this lost kitten wandered four or five miles and picked up my scent as it passed through my home neighborhood. Then it confronted this big slobbery dog and walked right into my house and room, and even took over Annie's big chair.

Tigger stayed with us many years, and finally wound up with our family in Menlo Park -- where he rests in a grave under a Japanese plum tree. Great cat.

So that's my "cat came back" story, from decades ago.

Do you have one? Share it here.


Comments

Posted by McGrude, a resident of ,
on Sep 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm

10 years ago we lived in Redwood City for a couple years. One winter there was a fairly heavy thunderstorm. Our cat, Sherwood, disappeared that night. We had a cat door in the back door so she could come and go as she pleased, but she didn't show up all day, or night or for the next seven days. We scoured the neighborhood looking for her. We were very sad. About week later, at 6 in the morning we hear her meows in the kitchen. She was dirty, thirsty, hungry and a bit thinner, but fortunately uninjured. I still wonder where she was for that whole week.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of ,
on Sep 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm

These are great stories! Thanks for sharing them. I have a dog came back story:

Growing up in Menlo, my dad had found a young Malamute mix on Highway 101, with a broken rope around its neck. He became one of our beloved dogs. However, the poor guy had extreme separation anxiety & often climbed our 6 foot fence & escaped. He often went to SRI or the Veteran's Hospital in Menlo. At both places, he was always found coddled, fed & retrieved by us after people called us, as he had a dog tag. If our parents were at work, we'd ride our bikes to the places, bring a leash & ride home w/him. This was one dog in great physical shape!

Well, it got so bad my parents rehomed him w/nice people up in La Honda. They had a lot of property and were around a lot, so as sad as we were we truly thought the dog would be happier & have plenty of room to roam.

A couple of weeks after he was rehomed, we received a call from Palo Alto Animal Services. Apparently, the dog had been found & turned in - around the corner from our house. The poor guy made his way all the way down from the hills of La Honda to Menlo, in the Willows. He was found on near Univ. Ave. We happily went to pick him up, or at least us kids were happy. I think my parents knew that life wouldn't be easy with this smart, handsome but high strung canine.

We kept him after that, enduring the separation anxiety. As it turns out, he actually had epilepsy and that contributed greatly to his anxiety level & the need to wander - to escape from his own head. It's a fairly common malady in northern breeds.

We ended up having him for many years and was a beloved by us all.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Sep 9, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I remember that song. The protagonist was trying to get rid of his cat.


Posted by Jay Thorwaldson, a resident of ,
on Sep 9, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Walter's right. Each stanza was about a different way this guy was trying to off his cat. ... BUT ... "the cat came back! ..." It was a laugh line from days when the main function of a cat was to chase mice in the barn.


Posted by Andy Daniel, a resident of ,
on Sep 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

This is more of a "The Cat Went Back" story. In 1989 I moved from Cambrian to Almaden in San Jose. The move was only about a mile by road, even less "as the cat flies" as we joked. One of our two cats returned every morning to the old neighborhood, where my old neighbors would phone me that our cat was back, and I would drive over to pick it up. After a week, I simply started stopping by on my way home from work, calling out the cat's name, and he would jump into my car, much like a dog, and I would drive him home. We joking called this "catpooling". After about a month our cat stopped retuning to his old home.


Posted by Jay Thorwaldson, a resident of ,
on Sep 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Nice twist to an old tale, Andy.


Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Sep 14, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Thanks, Jay, for the great stories. In these times of overwhelmingly bad news, we need more of them.

I'm sure most people will remember Harley's big adventure. He was the cat from the Creme de Cafe in Midtown who was mistakenly shipped to Japan. Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of ,
on Sep 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

When I was living in Palo Alto in the 70's there was a very successful burglar who jogged through neighborhoods to check them out and then only stole the most expensive and portable items. For months he was never even seen coming or going. One day he burgled my home and stole some very nice wines and jewelry. He also stole one of my beloved and beautiful Abyssinian cats. The police officers who responded were appalled that he would steal a cat. Over time they tracked down a suspect living up on skyline The trap was set and they moved in to arrest him - but he fled out the back window. Using pictures of my cat, the police were able to verify with the kids in the neighborhood that he had my cat and had given it to his girl friend in Montara. He and my cat were then traced to his girl friend's house and he was arrested. He had numerous storage lockers filled with his loot and almost all of it was returned to its owners. The story was picked up by the New York Times with the headline "Cat catches burlar".


Posted by Thanks, Jay, a resident of ,
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:23 am

I was reunited with my cat after 3 months, thanks to the Weekly.

I moved to Palo Alto in the early 1990's from a South Bay city. I'd kept my cat indoors to acclimate, and only let her out briefly each day under a careful watch. On one of those occasions she decided to jump up on the backyard fence and go for a walk. There was little I could do as she headed south, above other backyards, out of reach.

She didn't come back that night, nor the following days. We searched daily for her, reported her missing at the animal shelters (and learned that Palo Alto was one of the few back then, and perhaps still, which didn't destroy cats after a short time), and put a free ad in the lost-found pets section of the Palo Alto Weekly. Days turned to weeks and months, and we slowly gave up hope of ever seeing her again. We figured she was headed south, back to her old home.

Three months later we got a call from a resident in a nearby neighborhood just south of us who said they'd found a stray that seemed to match our description in the PA Weekly ad. Sure enough, it was her - a thinner, bedraggled shadow of her old self. I was flabbergasted that the ad was still in print, 3 months later.

I am still grateful to the Weekly that those ads are free, and that they're not periodically trimmed and deleted. After 3 months, I'd forgotten that the ad was still running. A belated thank you to the Weekly for not prematurely removing it, and for reuniting us with our beloved cat.


Posted by Thanks, Jay, a resident of ,
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:24 am

I was reunited with my cat after 3 months, thanks to the Weekly.

I moved to Palo Alto in the early 1990's from a South Bay city. I'd kept my cat indoors to acclimate, and only let her out briefly each day under a careful watch. On one of those occasions she decided to jump up on the backyard fence and go for a walk. There was little I could do as she headed south, above other backyards, out of reach.

She didn't come back that night, nor the following days. We searched daily for her, reported her missing at the animal shelters (and learned that Palo Alto was one of the few back then, and perhaps still, which didn't destroy cats after a short time), and put a free ad in the lost-found pets section of the Palo Alto Weekly. Days turned to weeks and months, and we slowly gave up hope of ever seeing her again. We figured she was headed south, back to her old home.

Three months later we got a call from a resident in a nearby neighborhood just south of us who said they'd found a stray that seemed to match our description in the PA Weekly ad. Sure enough, it was her - a thinner, bedraggled shadow of her old self. I was flabbergasted that the ad was still in print, 3 months later.

I am still grateful to the Weekly that those ads are free, and that they're not periodically trimmed and deleted. After 3 months, I'd forgotten that the ad was still running. A belated thank you to the Weekly for not prematurely removing it, and for reuniting us with our beloved cat.


Posted by Hmmm - to Thanks Jay, a resident of ,
on Sep 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

What a happy ending to an otherwise heart-wrenching story! It sounds like your cat almost made it back to your neighborhood. Kudos for the finders for checking the ads.

When I see posters for missing pets I often wonder about the outcome. I really wish that the stray cats in my area were lost and reported and could be returned home. Unfortunately, they're all feral cats who live short, difficult lives.


Posted by Jocelyn Dong, a resident of ,
on Sep 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

In reference to the story Jay mentioned about the kitten who showed up at her owner's school, here are the details, as published in our Sept. 17 edition...

It might have been love. Or coincidence. Or maybe the cat had a particularly good sense of smell.

Whatever the means, one small, grey striped feline showed extreme pluckiness early this month after he wandered off from his Barron Park home and got lost. Three days later, he managed to find his owner -- not at her house but at her middle school.

Six-month-old Henry normally lives with the Maggioncalda family next to the Gunn High School campus. Lindsay Maggioncalda, a seventh-grader at Terman Middle School, was just starting her fourth-period science class Sept. 3 when her teacher remarked that a cat was outside in the hallway.

Lindsay went out to look. Could it be?

It was.

"When I saw him, I was really excited. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I am so lucky. He crossed Arastradero (Road) safely,'" Lindsay said, referring to the sometimes-busy four-lane thoroughfare that separates her neighborhood from Terman.

Henry was equally excited, running up to his owner for a hug-filled reunion.

Apparently, Henry had not been a good hunter during his three-day adventure.

"At brunch I fed him a sausage," Lindsay said. "He was really hungry."

After that, a few Good Samaritans came into play: First, a resource specialist agreed to let Henry stay in her classroom for the rest of the school day, and then a friend of the Maggioncaldas came to pick him up (Lindsay had an after-school meeting, and her family members weren't immediately available).

Lindsay doesn't quite know how Henry managed to find her, but she has a guess: "I think it was scent," she said, noting that he sleeps with her at night, rather than other family members.

Scent? Perhaps. Or maybe heaven sent.


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