A cat, lost since last summer, was reunited with her family yesterday in Langley.
It’s one of those furry tail endings that LAPS has become synonymous for, confirmed Jayne Nelson, executive director of the Langley Animal Protection Society.
But this story had a few bizarre twists and turns along the way.
Nikko is a ginger cat that went missing at a rest stop near Hope back in June 2017.
She and her family, Irene and Brian Wade, were moving from Alberta to their new home on the Vancouver Island.
Nikko never liked car rides at the best of times, Irene said. On this long road trip, she was “truly terrified,” huddled in a corner of her cat kennel – unwilling to eat, drink, and barely sleep during the two-day convoy from Calgary to Bowser.
Feeling guilty that the cat was so traumatized, Irene decided to use a recently gifted harness and leash to let Nikko out of the kennel to explore an inviting grassy knoll at the rest stop.
Suddenly, a deafening blast of noise came from passing semis and other vehicles on the adjacent freeway. The cat wiggled free of its harness “faster than you could blink,” and escaped into the woods nearby, recounted Irene.
The couple and their entourage searched for hours around the rest stop and the dense bushes that ran alongside the highway. But to no avail.
“I was just frantic,” Irene said, noting that many area residents, as well as passersby who stopped at the rest stop during the next few hours, tried to help.
“We tried for hours to get her,” Irene told the Langley Advance. “We couldn’t find her.”
Heartbroken and defeated, they reluctantly pushed on with their journey, but Irene wasn’t willing to give up.
She reached out online to several organizations and eventually connected with an animal rescue group in Hope. Several of its members continued the search and reported back.
“I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that all these people – total strangers – would do this,” said a grateful Irene.
Turned out an orange cat was spotted in the evenings around the rest stop over the next several weeks. But all attempts to catch her failed, and two trips back by Irene and Brian proved futile.
“We gave up,” she said, admitting she was “heartbroken.”
Turned out that some five months after Nikko went missing, with winter embracing the mountain pass community, the cat was discovered skinny and matted outside Hope.
Dropped off at Langley shelter
She was scooped up and subsequently dropped off to LAPS’ Patti Dale Animal Shelter in Aldergrove on Dec. 2, Nelson said.
And during a routine exam, it was discovered Nikko (not knowing their name the shelter staff had since renamed her Marigold) had a heart murmur.
“She was diagnosed by one of our community vet partners – through ultrasound – as having HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy),” Nelson explained.
Because of the progressive heart disease – which can be managed but not cured – LAPS adoption counsellor Amy Parker was “even more determined” to try to find the cat’s owner.
If she couldn’t find her family, Parker sought to at least the clinic where she was tattooed, so they could determine her age (vets thought due to the condition of her teeth that she was likely two to five years old), learn of any other pre-existing health issues, and determine the best course of treatment to manage her disease.
“By doing some extra sleuthing, Amy ‘struck gold’ and managed to track her tattoo to a clinic in Alberta,” Nelson elaborated.
Turns out Marigold’s real name was Nikko, and that she was about 14 years old.
But moreover, Parker learned the identity of her owners. Connecting with the cat’s family, LAPS staff were overjoyed to learn that the Wades were “thrilled” and shocked by the news that Nikko was alive and well, Nelson said.
They learned of the Nikko’s whereabouts on Tuesday and made a trip back to the mainland the very next day to retrieve her.
Now, a Langley animal shelter playing a key role in uniting an Alberta cat with its family on Vancouver Island is an odd set of circumstances, to be sure, Nelson said.
But Nikko’s story has a further twist, Nelson explained.
Turns out the Wades were also a little perplexed by the notification. They thought they had already been reunited with Nikko.
Two orange tabbies
A couple from Belgium were travelling through Hope, heading to catch their flight at the Vancouver International Airport, when the found a small, disheveled orange tabby at the rest stop.
This was literally one month after Nikko went missing.
In a hurry to catch their plane, the couple could do nothing more than drop the cat off at the narby Hope visitor centre.
Since many people in town had known of the Wade’s quest to reunite with their cat, it didn’t take much effort to find them and share the good news of Nikko’s discovery.
The cat was in rough shape, tattered, and much lighter in weight and colour than when last they’d seen her.
“I was just thinking it’s because of the trauma,” said Irene. But she admitted to being “over the moon” about the reunion.
“She did look awful,” Irene said, noting she was pale and that the tattoo in her ear had faded to little more than spots.
Since bringing her home in July, however, Nikko had settled well into their new home. She’d become much more affectionate and much less skiddish than ever before, but she was “just fine” and Irene was “absolutely convinced” they had their furry baby back.
At least Irene thought it was Nikko until they received a call “out of the blue the other night” telling them of the discovery of the real Nikko.
“We had the wrong cat?”
They did, indeed.
It turned out the cat they retrieved in July was not the kitten they’d adopted from a prairie farmer 14 years ago for their young daughter.
In fact, it was an “imposter.”
Who would have thought that two orange tabbies would go missing and ultimately be rescued around the same time at the same freeway rest stop on the outskirts of Hope, Irene figured.
“I just can’t believe it,” Irene shared. “I’ve been online with friends all day sharing Nikko’s story. And, like me, they’re flabbergasted by the news.”
So now, Nikko 1 (a.k.a. Marigold) and Nikko 2 (a.k.a. the imposter) are both settling into their new life together with the Wades.
There’s still a lot of hissing and posturing, and the two cat’s haven’t been quick to bond, but Irene holds out hope they will.
For now, she’s just content to have them both safe at home. But she will likely reach out to some of her new friends in Hope – those with the rescue group – to see if anyone else missing an orange tabby.
She’s kind of hoping there isn’t, having grown attached to the imposter, as well.
Happy to help reunite
“We are always excited to see a cat go back home with their owners, but this one was especially remarkable,” said Nelson.
“What a great story and example of the importance of permanent ID like a tattoo or microchip. Three cheers for Marigold (Nikko) and her family,” Nelson said.
This is the second time in the as many months that LAPS helped reunite a pet with an owner from out of town – and originally out of province.
Readers might recall the story of Frankie, a three-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier that went missing in Alberta and ended up in care at Langley’s Patti Dale Animal Shelter.
Frankie went missing while being cared for by a family friend in Alberta last July.
Five months later, again thanks to more “super shelter staff sleuthing” by LAPS, he was reunited with Ashley Power and her family in Spruce Grove, Alta. just before Christmas.
Read: Dog found wandering in Langley headed to his Alberta family
It was revealed through Facebook after their reunion that the 1,100 kilometres of separation could be explained. A woman discovered the dog in Cold Lake about five days after he went missing. He was beaten and scratched up, and apparently alone, so she decided to take him along to her new home in Abbotsford.
He was later picked up and brought into care at LAPS, and eventually reunited.
“We love happy endings!” Nelson concluded.
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