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Jim Kenyon: Good Samaritan Does Good U-Turn for Missing Sharon Cat

This is terrible to admit, but when I see a poster tacked to a general store bulletin board about a “missing cat,” I tend to think the worst. Between speeding cars and prowling coyotes, I figure, the odds are better of a 16th seed winning March Madness than Fluffy making it home in one piece.

And on those occasions when Fluffy actually resurfaces, it’s hardly news in a country with 86 million cats. (That fun fact is courtesy of the American Pet Products Association’s website.)

So when Chris Tracy, of Sharon, called to tell me her “missing cat” story, I was a bit skeptical. But she sold me. So here goes:

The Tracys — Chris and Mike and their three children — adopted their beloved (Chris’ word, not mine) gray and white cat named CJ, the offspring of a friend’s barn cat, eight years ago. “She was pretty much an indoor cat,” said Chris. “When she went outside, she just laid on the deck or played in the backyard. She rarely left our property.”

Until venturing outside on the morning of Feb. 22, a Friday, and not returning by nightfall. The morning after she went missing, the Tracys searched the neighborhood, but found no trace of their only pet. They placed a missing cat sign on the bulletin board outside the Sharon Trading Post, which is just up the road from their house on Route 14.

Three days passed. Still no word on CJ’s whereabouts.

At 7:30 on the morning of Feb. 26, Jackie Chase, a 56-year-old medical transcriptionist from Strafford, was on her way to work. In Sharon, she pulled onto Interstate 89, where she spotted what she described as a ball of mud and fur next to the guardrail. She was uncertain whether the animal was still alive.

Chase, who works in Lebanon, kept driving. But a few miles down the highway, “my conscience got the better of me,” she said. “How can I ignore this injured animal?”

She pulled a U-turn (I hope the statute of limitations has kicked in) and high-tailed it for the Sharon Trading Post, less than a mile from the I-89 exit. She was in such a hurry, she didn’t bother to look at the bulletin board (who would in that situation?) on her way into the general store, where she grabbed a cardboard box.

Back on the interstate, Chase pulled over in the break-down lane, where she found the ball of mud and fur still next to the guardrail.

She placed the limp animal in the cardboard box on the front seat of her Jeep. From working in Lebanon, she knew about Upper Valley Veterinary Services on Slayton Hill Road.

Chase lugged the box inside, where veterinarian Stewart Ketcham and his staff sprang into action. Judging by the four dislocated bones in her rear left leg, it seemed likely CJ had been struck by a car. She was also suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. Blood tests indicated the cat’s liver had started to degenerate from a lack of nourishment, requiring the insertion of a feeding tube.

Ketcham gave the cat a “guarded prognosis.”

Since the cat had no microchip (apparently, they’re the rage, these days), CJ’s owner remained a mystery. It was a long shot, but Ketcham’s staff made calls to veterinarians in the Sharon-Bethel area. At Country Animal Hospital in Bethel, receptionist Kim Fink searched the office’s database. She looked for Country Animal Hospital clients with short-haired, gray and white, spayed, middle-aged cats. Fink found a dozen potential matches, and called them all, which in a country with 86 million cats seems to me to be going beyond the call of duty.

“That’s what we’re here for,” said Fink, 22, who wants to be a vet.

After hearing through her daughter, Shannon, that Country Animal Hospital had a possible lead on CJ’s whereabouts, Chris Tracy called Ketcham’s office and was given a description over the phone. The age and weight seemed off. The cat that Chase had rescued was missing some teeth, too.

False alarm, Tracy believed.

On the same day she dropped off the cat, Chase stayed in touch with the Ketcham’s staff. They asked whether Chase would adopt the cat, if she survived, which was still a big if. Chase and her husband Jim already have three cats and two dogs.

Given the cat’s condition and the inability to locate its owner, Ketcham told me that he had concluded there was only one option. “Everyone hates to do it, but we should probably euthanize her,” he concluded.

The procedure (I don’t know what else to call it) would take place after the vet closed at 5:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Tracy, who works in Lebanon, was still thinking about the conversation she had with the vet’s office earlier in the day. “It didn’t sound like our cat, but I just had to see for sure.”

She arrived at the clinic 15 or so minutes before closing and was shown the cat. “She was a mess, but I knew it was her,” Tracy said.

Talk about a death row reprieve.

I’m happy to report that CJ is on the mend. She’s home and no longer on a feeding tube. Her leg remains in a splint and will probably remain that way for another month or so.

“This cat used up more than a couple of her nine lives,” Ketcham said.

And here’s the kicker: After learning that CJ had escaped death row, Chase returned to the vet to check on her. She also insisted on paying for CJ’s initial care.

When I called her, Chase didn’t want a big deal made out of what she had done. “Cars were just zooming by this cat,” she said. “I needed to try.”

I guess that’s the definition of a Good Samaritan.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at Jim.Kenyon@valley.net.