George the Cat, Missing for 13 years, is Returned to His Family
George, in 1995
17-year-old George the cat has been reunited with his family after having been missing for thirteen years.
George was returned to Frank Walburg and his wife, Melinda Merman, last week after Sonoma County Animal Care and Control officers rescued him from a trailer park -- just three miles from their Santa Rosa, CA home -- at the request of the park's manager. Authorities scanned George and found an implanted microchip that enabled them to trace George back to the couple.
Within 20 minutes of getting the call, Walburg and Merman arrived at the shelter and saw a skinny cat that was about half of George's weight 13 years ago. But they recognized George's distinctive jowl and black nose.
Despite weighing a little more than 6 pounds with a skeletal frame, "There was no ambiguity that he was the same dude, no doubt about it," Walburg said. Sick with an upper respiratory infection and toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that's treatable with antibiotics, George isn't quite as feisty as he was back in 1995 when he went missing.
In the first months after George disappeared, Walburg and Merman did everything possible to try to locate him -- they posted flyers, visited the animal shelters, notified local vets and offered a $500 reward. As time passed, the couple's hope waned, but they never stopped thinking about him.
Last week, Walburg spoke to the woman who had George and learned that she had named him "Puka" and that he had shown up at her mobile home a couple of months after he disappeared in June 1995. George is saying how he got there, but Walburg says that George had a habit of jumping into cars.
George was the offspring of a feral cat, and was living with his three litter mates, Klaus, Ira and Grace with Walburg and Merman when he vanished. George's surviving sibling, Grace, has stopped by once in the past week to visit her long-lost brother but seemed to show more interest in his chicken feast than him.
George's prognosis is uncertain. He's nearly 17, and is struggling with health problems, but Walburg is hopeful. He feeds George chicken baby food mixed with chicken broth, and George has shown signs of rallying in recent days. His appetite is up and he's even had some playful moments ... when he's not asleep on a heating pad. Every day they carry him into the backyard -- which is planted with catnip -- for fresh air and sunshine. George is even displaying some of his old behavior, like jumping at flickering light on the wall the way he used to.
Walburg wrote on his blog, "The selfish part of me wants him back and healthy and ready to play again. I don't know if that's even possible, so I've found myself making small bargains with a God I've never believed in and want whatever is best (for) him."