Junior and Chloe. (Photo courtesy Kathy Zilkie)

Junior and Chloe. (Photo courtesy Kathy Zilkie)

Qualicum Beach resident goes fishing for a wayward kitty with ham as the bait

COLUMN: Reader shares the tale of ‘Junior’

Seems like more than one cat came back.

Recently, I shared a tale of my former wandering minstrel Bandit, our beloved, raggedy old kitty who was reunited with our family after many months away. Many thanks to the readers who subsequently offered their own thoughts and stories; I could read them for hours.

One those those tales was from Linda Zilkie of Qualicum Beach, who has kindly given her permission for me to share her story with all of you (below).

‘The ham that got him home’

While sitting in my car waiting for my morning dentist appointment, I picked up my PQB News I’d brought along and began thumbing through the local news when I saw your sweet picture of Bandit and the title in bold above his little face. I began reading and immediately connected with your article. Never expecting to see your invitation for readers to share their ‘pet came back’ stories, I thought, maybe I’ll tell my Ham’s.

It began the morning of Jan. 15, 2018, after losing our beloved male cat PT to cancer six months previous. We headed out early to catch the 7 a.m. ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay and drove non-stop to Kelowna SPCA, to meet and adopt our eight-month-old PT body-double whom the SPCA staff had named ‘Ricky’.

(He was rescued from a Kelowna trailer park was named after one of the characters in the TV show Trailer Park Boys. Along the way, we passed the restaurant Ricky’s and knew we were on the right path.

We couldn’t wait to make him feel comfortable in our bedroom with his own blanky, food, water and litter. It would be a few days before slowly introducing him to our other female cat, Heimer.

READ MORE: Wolf: The cat came back… then left again for his latest epic adventure

Days went by and everything was going well, the two cats were getting to know one another and we were trying to come up with another name for Ricky. We finally decided on ‘Junior’ as he was a junior-sized version of PT.

We were a family of four, two humans in love with two cats, and vice-versa.

Late spring was upon us and the sun was warm, so one afternoon, we slowly opened the front door to see how he would respond to the outdoors. Heimer and all of our other cats had been daytime outdoor with supervision cats. Never a problem. But as soon as Junior smelled that fresh air, he bolted to a pile of logs on our property not far from the front door. I couldn’t see him. My heart pounding, I walked softly up to the log pile calling ‘Junior! Junior!’ Nothing.

As I got closer and peeked in the logs, he saw me and bolted again into the forest of our property. I called, I shook crunchies, I walked our property, calling and shaking, even Heimer came with me on the daily/hourly searches.

The days were made up of informing neighbours, putting up signs, calling and shaking with Heimer in tow. At night, I slept by the front door, awaking often to dash outside in my bare feet after seeing glimpses of Junior in the shadows. Calling and begging him to answer me.

Finally he did. After viewing hours upon hours of security camera footage each morning, I could see he was hanging around at night. When I would call, he would give me a mournful meow back from the darkness of the trees. We knew he must be getting hungry.

It was Day 7 when he showed himself for the first time during the day but he wouldn’t let me get close. Every step I took towards him, he’d take seven steps the other way, but we knew this moment was our chance to coax him in, but with what? I harshly whispered to my husband to go cut up some of that nice ham we put on our sandwiches. “Get the ham!” He did one better, in man-speed, he MacGyvered a quick fishing rod with a long string that we could tie the ham pieces on to and fling it in the direction of our poor trailer park boy. Remarkably, it didn’t take long for the hungry, homeless wannabe to take the bait. He could smell the ham, he could see it moving like a toy mouse and the gap between us was slowly closing in.

Suddenly, with divine speed and accuracy like I’ve never had, I performed a body lunge towards him, grabbing him with all I had, wrestling on the ground with an eight-pound man cat, string and ham pieces everywhere, and hollering to husband (who had gone inside to grab another beer): “Open the door! Open the door! I’ve got him!”

I get to my feet and head for the door with Junior kicking and scratching in obvious panic of an impending lifetime of being in lockdown.

Sadly, Heimer passed away due to cancer but we knew there was another kitty out there needing a home, so we adopted Chloe from Parksville Bosley’s and she, and the now-big Junior, have been best buddies ever since. Plus, we built a lovely cat condo connected to the house for their safe, outdoor leisure.

And now, whenever we make that ham sandwich, there’s always a few pieces in it for Junior and I tell him, “this is the ham that got you home.”

•••

Wonderful tale well-told, Linda. Keep those stories coming, folks.

PQB News/VI Free Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email at philip.wolf@blackpress.ca, by phone at 250-905-0029 or on Twitter @philipwolf13.

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