By Phil Snyder, Executive Director of Suncoast Humane Society
Published in the Englewood Sun on January 24, 2016
It was the start of Clarissa's second day at one of Suncoast Humane Society's five satellite adoption locations, a large pet supply center in North Port. Although the gray tabby, 1-year-old female cat had been accustomed to the surroundings in the adoption cattery at the humane society, this new off-site stuff was a little confusing and unfamiliar.
You could say that instinct took over when the door to her cage/condo was opened for the morning cleaning, because she made a huge leap for freedom. She sprang out so quickly that only her tail could be seen making a sudden turn and bolting down the aisle between the cat food and kitty litter displays.
The store was not yet open for business, so hopefully Clarissa had chosen somewhere safely inside as her hiding spot. The two humane society volunteers on duty, along with store employees, started their search for the frantically frightened feline. They began searching the display shelves, behind every bag and every can of pet food, in and around the kitty litter pans, and throughout the dog and cat beds. So far, Clarissa's hiding place was known only to her.
As time went by, panic started to set in, with the thought that Clarissa may not be found. Reinforcements, including four more humane society volunteers, were summoned to join in on the search. Even the store assistant manager came in on her day off to help. The groups of rescuers were looking all over the store, crawling on the shelves, on top of the shelving units, even combing through everything in the back stockroom. They were rattling toys and shaking treat bags, anything that would entice Clarissa into making a showing. They even had someone stationed at the front door in case Clarissa tried to make a run for it.
Finally, four hours later, someone came up with an ingenious idea. A kindly individual in a motorized cart, who had been watching the proceedings, offered her small Yorkie-type dog, named Koby, to join in the hunt. Koby did have a service dog vest on, so it was worth a try. Together they went up and down each aisle with Koby's sniffer tuned in to cat mode. They covered most of the retail area, until finally they reached a section not more than 25 feet from where Clarissa had made her escape.
Suddenly Koby stopped, looked around, sniffed at the corner base of one of the product displays, and then started to do a dance of joy. Quickly the end of the unit was disassembled, and there was Clarissa, snuggling comfortably and looking as if she had known where she was all the time. Cheers and high-fives went up from the 25 or so volunteers, staffers and shoppers who had gathered to watch, as Clarissa was taken back to her kitty condo.
One of the spectators happened to be a young boy, who, after witnessing Clarissa's rescue, yelled to his grandma, "That's the cat we should adopt." And, guess what, they did. If I didn't known better, I would wonder if Clarissa actually planned her great escape just to attract the attention needed to find her forever home.