by Lois Gard & Leanne Loy
In mid-August, Jeani Donnay, took her cats, Tom and Jerry to the St. Joseph Vet Clinic for routine shots and a checkup. She had them in a crate (much to their displeasure) in the car with her granddaughters, Addie and Emmie. In the transfer out of the car and into the clinic, Jerry escaped. Addie, who thought she was helping, had opened the crate door to remove Jerry and carry him inside. He took off like a shot and was soon out of sight. Donnay ran after him but alas, Jerry was just too fast.
Donnay reassured the girls she would find him. She went home and started making posters, plastering them on every telephone pole she could find. She drove stakes into the ground for more signs, put a larger one at Kleinfelter Park, and posted them in the grocery and hardware stores. Donnay knocked on doors and even gave folks phone numbers to call in case they spotted him.
Jerry’s face, with his distinctive markings (a smudge on his nose that looks like he poked his face in soot), appeared all over town. On the advice of the vet clinic, Donnay bought a live trap and set it at the back of the clinic with cat food and water. She drove to St. Joseph from her house near Rockville and checked it every morning and every night. Almost immediately there were “sightings” of the elusive cat.
Jerry was spotted sitting on a woodpile at the edge of a wooded backyard of a home bordering Highway 75. The owner kept him in sight until Donnay could get there. She was able to approach him within 25 feet, but the terrified cat again bolted and ran. And so it went, week after week after week.
More sightings occurred and the people of St. Joseph kept calling. The two little boys at a lemonade stand who spotted Jerry running across the street, the man with Parkinson’s who drove around daily on his golf cart until the weather got cold, a little family on Minnesota Street who let Donnay put the live trap in their backyard (and then the help of their neighbor whose cats she accidentally trapped), the farmer who kept an eye out for him and helped her get two opossums out of the trap, the 80-year-old lady out raking leaves who loaned her a second live trap, the woman out for a walk with her dog who spotted Jerry running along in the ditch. And of course, Donnay and her family members kept looking as well.
As summer turned to fall and fall turned to winter, Jerry’s survival skills kept him alive, but the adults started to lose hope of ever getting him home.
But Addie and Emmie never lost hope. Addie said prayers, lots of them. As Christmas approached, she and Emmie wrote to Santa about Jerry asking for his safe return.
Finally, months after his disappearance, there was a woman who followed a wild hunch that Jerry could have gotten a ride in a GMC Yukon engine compartment to Cold Spring. Donnay received a phone call from a woman who had seen Jerry’s picture on a poster at Coborn’s and remembered that smudge on his nose. She and a friend had had dinner and drinks in St. Joseph that evening. When the friend got to his home in Cold Spring, he discovered a cat had crawled into the engine compartment of his vehicle, probably for warmth. Could it be Jerry?
Donnay grabbed the live trap and went to Cold Spring, thinking after four months, catching him might still be a challenge. She pulled into the yard, stood by her car and called out. Jerry appeared from under a neighbor’s porch and ran straight to her. The four-month vacation must have been enough for him.
Jerry is now home and rolling on his back for belly rubs as usual. He is thin but has an amazing, thick coat. He and his brother, Tom, are once again eating out of the same bowl and sleeping snuggly in the heated cat house in the garage. They both even sat up on the windowsill watching Donnay wrap Christmas gifts.
What makes this story all the more heartwarming is the sweet coincidence of Jerry’s return. Addie and Emmie are not sure if their prayers were answered or if Santa heard their request, but they are pretty sure their Papa was also responsible. Jerry’s choice of vehicle to warm up under and hitch a ride in was a GMC Yukon. GMC is the only make of vehicle Papa would drive.
“This cat has connected me to so many wonderful people in the community,” Donnay said. “I’m still getting text messages saying how happy everyone is that Jerry has been found.”
Jerry recently visited the vet to make up for the appointment he evaded back in August. And the granddaughters were right there by his side, making sure he stayed in his crate this time.
Donnay wants to thank the residents of St. Joseph for coming to Jerry’s aid. “It’s because of them he’s home safe with us again,” she said.
Jerry’s little adventure brought together a community in a special way and made for one incredible Christmas miracle.