January 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Bit of luck, computer aid search for lost cat

Twist to happy ending includes gift of a dog
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Bill Jones and his cat, Jasmine, are reunited at home after she was missing for 10 days.
(Full-size photo)

If you believe the world is divided between dog-lovers and cat-lovers, meet Bill Jones.

Nine years ago a calico cat named Jasmine joined his family. “I’ve been an avowed cat-hater my whole life,” said Jones.

But his daughters loved Jasmine, and more importantly to Jones, his beloved hunting dog Skeeter took to the new addition.

“They became best friends,” Jones said. “They lounged around together – sunbathed together and had a kennel condo set up in the house.”

In fact, Jones said the cat has a lot of dog personality. “She comes when she’s called.”

When Skeeter died a few years ago, Jasmine mourned her friend and Jones took comfort in her furry feline presence. “She filled the hole after Skeeter died,” he said.

That’s why when Jasmine disappeared shortly before Thanksgiving Jones was desperate to find her. As an indoor/outdoor cat she had free reign to explore his 1  1/2-acre Mead property, yet she never ventured far. But one Sunday night she went out and didn’t come back.

Jasmine had been diagnosed with epilepsy and Jones speculated that a recent change in her medication disoriented her. He worried that coyotes had nabbed her.

Jones placed an ad on Craigslist and posted fliers in his neighborhood, offering a reward for the return of his cat. Days passed with no response.

He visited animal shelters, searching for Jasmine. What he heard from shelter workers wasn’t promising. Most told him that if she hadn’t returned in day or two the odds were she wouldn’t be coming home.

But still he searched. On a whim he decided to check SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., even though he lived in the county. He thought perhaps someone might have picked her up and taken her there. He said, “I just wanted to know what happened to her.”

Alas, no Jasmine. As he filled out a lost cat report he overheard a conversation between an older gentleman and shelter worker Alicia Finch.

The man had fallen in love with a Shih Tzu mix dog and inquired about the cost of adoption. Finch explained, “His dog had passed away and he’d been coming to the shelter for the past six months, looking for the perfect dog.”

As Jones listened, Finch told the man that since he was a senior, it would only cost $90 to take the dog home. “I’ll be back. I’ll come up with the money,” he said. “Don’t get rid of my buddy.”

That’s all it took for Jones. He took out his wallet and handed Finch his credit card. Jones recalled, “I said, ‘Merry Christmas’ and paid for the dog. Anyone would have done the same thing.”

Perhaps. But Finch said, “I was floored. That doesn’t happen very often. It made my day and the rest of my year!”

Overcome with emotion, the gentleman walked away to compose himself. Jones downplayed his generosity. “The guy just wanted that dog so badly.”

While he left without Jasmine, his spirits were buoyed by the encounter. With the holidays approaching, Jones hung on to the hope of a miracle.

And his hope was rewarded.

A few days before Thanksgiving he got a call from someone who’d seen his ad on Craigslist, and had been feeding a stray calico. “I sent him a picture of her from my cell phone,” said Jones. “He said, ‘By golly, I think we have her!’ ”

Jones and his family hustled to the home and there sat Jasmine. “She looked at me like, ‘Where the hell have you been!’ ” Jones said. “She gave me a really dirty look.”

Aside from losing a bit of weight, Jasmine was unharmed and full of attitude. She quickly settled back into her routine.

Apparently, all it takes is the right cat to change a dog-loving cat-hater into cat champion. “She’s as important to me as any dog,” Jones said. “It’s a great ending.”

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