December 7, 2009, was a fateful day for Sharla Sharkey.
It was the last day she saw her cat, Kingston.
Sharkey had a friend in town visiting for his birthday, and during that visit, Kingston took it upon himself to go outside and explore his surroundings.
Hes an indoor-outdoor cat, but he would always come back, Sharkey said.
But this time he didn’t return.
Sharkey put up signs. She called Florida Keys SPCA. In short, she did everything she could think of to get the cat back.
She believed Kingston would be quickly found: after all, he had a microchip and was wearing a collar with a tag that had her phone number on it.
As the days stretched into weeks, months, and even a year, her hopes dwindled.
Four hundred miles away, in West Bradenton, Florida, Mike Duncan noticed a cat roaming around his apartment complex.
He seemed like somebodys pet, said Duncan. He was really friendly. He wasnt skittish like a stray cat.
Concerned for the cat’s safety, Duncan coaxed him into a cardboard box and brought him to the Humane Society of Manatee County.
Humane Society staff examined the cat and scanned him for a microchip, said Hildy Russell, the organization’s director of finance and communication.
They contacted the microchip registry and got a phone number that they hoped would lead to the cat’s owner.
Last Tuesday, Sharkey’s phone rang. When she answered, a humane society staffer told her, “We have your cat. Someone turned him in.”
I was more in shock than anything, said Sharkey. “Suddenly I started crying.”
As soon as she could, Sharkey got in her car and made the 400-mile trip to pick up her 5-year-old cat. On Saturday, they were reunited.
When I saw him, I was bawling my eyes out and shaking. Im still not understanding how it all happened, said Sharkey.
Kingston recognized her right away. There were more tears.
He’s a lot thinner than he was the last time she saw him, Sharkey said.
Russell added that the cat was suffering from a flea allergy and some old and new wounds. But Kingston will be fine with some vet care and TLC.
How Kingston got to Bradenton is still a mystery. Sharkey said she has friends in Bradenton. Could the cat have hitched a ride with one of those friends?
Only Kingston knows, and he’s not telling.