There are many brown-and-gray tabby cats in the world, but only one Tiger Samson.
And if he could talk, he'd have quite a tale to tell.
Tiger, a nearly 2-year-old tomcat belonging to the Samson family of Palo Alto, embarked on a weeks-long adventure when he escaped from Palo Alto's Classic Pet Grooming on Arastradero Road in early August -- where he was to stay while his human family was on vacation in Hawaii.
When Mark Samson and his kids, Emma and Craig, ages 10 and 6, returned to pick up Tiger, along with their other cat, 18-year-old Sam, they were presented with one who looked similar to Tiger.
But the Samson children immediately insisted he was definitely not their beloved pet. Besides, he was growling at the family.
At first, Samson said the owner of Classic Pet Grooming insisted it was indeed their cat, but eventually admitted that Tiger had escaped his kennel and disappeared shortly after arriving.
The impostor cat turned out to belong to a neighbor. He was found in the yard to which the real Tiger had escaped and was presumed to be the right cat, she said.
"We had hardly seen Tiger because he had been in his carrier and then escaped so quickly," she said of the mistaken identity.
"He squeezed through an opening in the ceiling that we didn't even know existed," the owner said. The opening has now been sealed off to prevent any future escapes.
"I'm not stupid. We know our own cat," Samson said. "But after 'fessing up that Tiger had escaped, the owner was very apologetic and waived the boarding fee."
She also put up lost-cat posters in the area, which the Samsons faithfully checked on and reposted for weeks following their return.
"After 21 days of heartache, tears and several false leads," Samson said a Mr. Sakazaki of Los Altos called the Samsons with good news.
Sakazaki, a fellow cat lover, had recognized Tiger from the posters, taken a photo with his iPhone to compare to the cat he'd seen hanging around his neighborhood and tracked down the Samsons. A short trip to Los Altos later, with Sakazaki leading the way and Samson's wife, Sharon, and children calling Tiger's name, the wayward feline was joyfully reunited with his family and is now back home.
Sakazaki has earned the Samsons' gratitude -- and a $200 reward, which Samson said may be paid by Classic Pet Grooming.
"When I raised the issue of the reward with Mr. Sakazaki, he stated that he wasn't interested in money for a reward; he didn't do it for that. He did it because he loves his own cat and considers a cat as part of a family, and the loss of a cat is such a big deal to him and his own family that he wanted to help Tiger get back home," Samson said.
"Although in reality this (reward) does not come close to reflecting the benefit we received. It is merely a token of our appreciation."
"No one would blame Mr. Sakazaki for walking by a picture of a missing cat. And no one would think the less of him for not taking time to snap a picture of a missing-cat poster so he would have it in case he crossed paths on one of his daily walks," Samson said.
"He's a hero."