This story is by Nancy H. Pressley and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
SHELTER STORY 2022
“You will not believe this,” a staff member told the Adoption Manager.
“Try me. I’ve probably seen everything, but what is it now?” the Manager replied.
“A customer came to see the bonded pair of cats we posted. When I escorted her to the kennel, we found only one of the pair, Sophie. I thought it was possible someone had removed Bruce temporarily, so I checked with everyone on duty, including the veterinary staff.”
“Let’s do an organized reconnaissance to see if Bruce got out and is loose somewhere in the cat room.”
“What should I tell the customer?”
“Tell her she can visit with Sophie or wait in the lobby if she prefers.”
Following the half-hour search, the Adoption Manager informed the waiting customer that we would continue our search for Bruce. She was invited to adopt Sophie and be notified when Bruce reappeared.
“We are not in the habit of losing animals. All staff should be on the watch for Bruce, a gray striped male feline who has gone AWOL,” came the intercom announcement.
The shelter manager decided to spend a few moments reviewing the security tapes and discovered something very unusual. Approximately one hour before the would-be adopter of the bonded pair arrived at the shelter, a theft occurred.
A male visitor wearing a black raincoat entered the cat room to check out the available options. He stopped at the kennel holding Sophie and Bruce and considered the information about this pair on the card hanging outside the cage, “Bonded – Should be adopted together.”
Momentarily frozen in place, he opened the kennel door, picked up Bruce, placed him under his coat, and walked calmly down the hall to the exit door of the shelter. He did not stop in the lobby. He did not speak to any of the shelter staff.
When the word circulated about this peculiar theft, speculation began. Why would a visitor feel the need to steal an adult cat when cats are available for a reduced fee, practically free? Why an adult cat instead of an adorable kitten? Why didn’t he take both Sophie and Bruce? Why Bruce?
Animal shelter staff routinely deal with a stressful environment. Public expectations often exceed the reality of resources. Coping with life and death and the responsibility of care for helpless animals is a constant challenge. Emotions are frequently frayed.
Solving this crime mystery was a welcome distraction from the daily onslaught.
“Could it be that he recently lost a cat who looked exactly like Bruce?”
“Maybe, he had surrendered Bruce and was dealing with guilt, so he returned and took him home.”
“Perhaps he had promised his daughter a pet for her birthday and did not plan ahead. It was Birthday Eve, and he panicked.”
Sophie was still in the kennel she had shared with Bruce. Sophie knew everything. If anyone took the time to listen, Sophie could solve the mystery.
As the mysterious cat theft story was retold to family and friends, it grew, as stories are destined to do.
Three weeks following the ‘Great January Cat Swipe,’ a visitor arrived at the shelter. She asked if Sophie, the cat, was still in residence. She asked for an opportunity to meet with Sophie privately. Although this was a bizarre way to request a pre-adoption visit; however, the shelter staff is rarely surprised by public demands.
A staff member politely escorted the visitor to a meeting room, where she introduced her to Sophie. “I’ll leave you two alone for a while. Let me know if you have questions or need anything.”
The visitor had not revealed that she possessed a rare talent for communication with cats. She was, in fact, known in feline fancier circles as a Cat Whisperer.
“Hello Sophie, I am pleased to meet you. My name is Lydia.”
“Meow,” Sophie responded and rubbed against Lydia’s leg.
“Sophie, I can understand you if you will trust me.”
“Meow, Purr-r-r,” Sophie added, jumping up on the meeting room bench.
“Can you tell me what happened the day Bruce was taken from your shared kennel?”
“Taken? It was more like an escape.” Sophie said, baring her claws.
“Go on, Sophie. I’m listening.”
“It was a Tuesday. The human traffic was heavy, so we were feeling optimistic. I spent the morning cleaning my ears and feet to make a good impression. Bruce just lay there like he always does, expecting someone to care for all his needs.”
“You sound resentful, Sophie. I thought you two were a bonded pair.”
“Yeah, that’s what the shelter humans said. Since I was the only one who would put up with him in my kennel, they thought this was the way to get rid of both of us at one time.”
“So, continue. What happened?”
“A lovely young man passed through our room and paused to look at us. I purred sweetly and handed him my soft paw. Bruce noticed that the man was reading the kennel card and pushed me aside to position himself directly in front of the human.
“Oh, I guess he was trying to emphasize that you should be adopted as a pair, right?”
“Not Bruce. Bruce was anything but a team player. He wanted this human for himself.”
“How do you know that?”
“Bruce has one talent. Bruce is not affectionate. Bruce is not playful. Bruce is not humorous. Bruce is not loyal. The one talent Bruce has honed to perfection is the ability to manipulate humans. He fooled the shelter staff. He fooled me for a brief time. He was now intent on fooling this human.”
“Please explain, Sophie. What did Bruce do?”
“His first step was to obtain the human’s undivided attention. He accomplished this by using his hypnotizing stare. Once he felt certain of having hooked the human, he moved on to step two.”
“How many steps are there, Sophie?”
“There were three: hook the prey, present the plan, embolden the captive to carry out the plan.”
“What was the plan?”
“Bruce convinced the human that we were not a package deal and that it would be much easier to escape with one cat than two.”
“Why did it need to be done as a theft? The customer could have just explained that he only wanted one cat. I’m sure the staff would understand.”
“Bruce had been in the shelter long enough to realize he was not on the A-List. He did not want to take the chance that the staff would offer the prospect other options. Bruce felt that it was in his interest to avoid any questions. So, he explained to the human that it would be an uncomplicated process of leaving the shelter without further conversation or red tape.”
“Did this human speak CAT?”
“Not as well as you do, Lydia. However, he was in a trance-like state under Bruce’s evil influence.”
“That leaves step three, right? ”
“Yes, dear Lydia. Now Bruce had to explain how easy it would be to hide him inside the raincoat and make a break for it.”
“You heard and saw it all, Sophie. Please continue.”
“I heard Bruce say the following to the human.”
“You are a lucky man to find such an intelligent cat. You will go down in local lore as the FAMOUS FELINE FILCHER.
“Think how difficult it would be to try this with a dog. Those rowdy bags of fleas would give it away in ten seconds with their tails wagging, bouncing around, and barking and drooling. You would not have a 10% chance of making it to the hall without interception”.
“So effective was Bruce in his fabrication that the human was beginning to feel like the Sundance Kid to Butch Cassiday, the cat version. He could see himself as a rebel with a cause.
Sophie asked Lydia, “What are you planning to do with this information?”
“It is a remarkable story that I would love to share with the staff, but I doubt anyone would believe me. The humans are content with the various versions they have concocted or the fun of an ongoing Mystery.”
“It was nice to meet you, Lydia. Most people don’t take the time to listen.”
“How would you like to go home with me, Sophie? We could have many more wonderful conversations.”
That is how the shelter succeeded in placing two cats—another victory for animal welfare.