Lucy, a well-rounded calico cat, lounges on the front seat of her ‘dad’s’ truck, looking sleepy and content.
Such was not the case a week earlier.
The first day of January was the worst of days for Greg, Lucy’s owner/ ‘dad’, who does not want his last name used as he’s leery of the attention and perhaps unwanted pity.
He explains he first laid eyes on Lucy 10-and-a-half years ago, when she was just five days old.
The mother cat had gone missing and his friend was left with four tiny kittens.
Greg volunteered to take them. He bought a syringe and baby formula and proceeded to raise them.
“I went camping and became momma cat. Do you know how many times they have to be fed, cleaned…?” he asks.
When they had grown sufficiently, three of the four were given to good homes. But he kept Lucy.
“She had a particular attitude so I kept her. She didn’t like other cats – she’s an alpha female.”
Big, fat and sassy is how he describes her.
Underneath the attitude, Lucy is a very loving cat. The two of them have covered a lot of ground together over the years; Greg estimates 30 to 40,000 kilometres.
“She likes to ride on the dash. You don’t often see a cat ride because it spooks them.”
“She’s like a little lap dog, she likes to follow me around,” he says fondly.
“We go camping,” and Lucy goes off on nearby adventures. “She likes to stagger in at four o’clock in the morning – ‘I’m home, Daddy,’” he quips.
Greg has lived in Salmon Arm for about 10 years. Like many people, he has been affected by the short supply of affordable housing available, particularly in the past couple of years.
On Jan. 1, Greg had parked his truck outside Starbucks and gone inside. He didn’t lock it because, up until then, he didn’t consider it necessary. When he came out, there was a note scribbled on his window in black felt pen. And inside the truck, no Lucy.
The writing told him if he wanted his cat back he would have to call such-and-such a number. It also proclaimed, “Not OK!”
He immediately called police.
“Lucy – she’s my child. Someone kidnapped my child. I don’t think the RCMP realized – I know you think it’s just a cat, but this is my child.”
He says they tried to contact the man who apparently lives in Vancouver, with no success.
Security footage showed he had entered Greg’s vehicle at 9:39 that morning.
Thanks to Salmon Arm’s size, Greg was asked by a friend about four days later if he’d given Lucy away. He said no, and asked where she’d seen her. The friend checked and Greg was told that the man who took Lucy was allergic to cats so he gave it to his mother, who lives in Salmon Arm.
Greg went to the address given and, sure enough, Lucy was sitting outside.
He took her home, but the reunion hasn’t been idyllic.
“She won’t leave the truck. Somehow she’s been traumatized,” he says. Greg, too, has been having trouble sleeping, worrying that the same thing could happen again, even with the doors locked.
“The longest she’s ever been out of my care is 24 hours, let alone four days.”
He says she has two kinds of cat food plus treats in the truck, along with water and a litter box behind the passenger seat. The day she was stolen the temperature was about – 8C, he remembers.
“These people from the Lower Mainland have no clue,” Greg says, expressing his hope that his message spreads that far. “To educate people is the big thing. He was a do-gooder and this is probably the first time he’s made a mistake. They don’t realize how dangerous it could have been.”
He says the man is fortunate he didn’t witness him stealing his cat.
“I’ve never hurt anybody in my entire life, I’ve been a protector and defender all my life, but this time I probably would have been violent. Anybody will flip out. When it comes to pets, they’re not pets anymore. They’re family.”
Greg knows what he’d like to see as retribution for the break and enter and theft. He would like the man to donate $500 to the Second Harvest food bank.
“The only thing people understand anymore is money, so I think 500 bucks would be fair.”