Woman thought her cat was lost in the tornado

06/16/2007 1:01 AM

01/24/2008 5:15 PM

Diann Rogers knew there was no way Bebe could have survived. She had called and called for her 9-year-old cat to come home the evening of May 4. The Rogerses lived across from the John Deere dealership in Greensburg. Bebe loved to sneak over and catch catnaps in the tractor cabs.

As the TV warned a tornado was approaching, Rogers grew more insistent. "Bebe did not want to come home," she said.

Finally, Rogers coaxed Bebe to her, locked her in the garage and headed for the basement.

When she and her husband, David, emerged afterward, their house was gone.

So was their garage.

And so was Bebe.

They looked for their cat. They even took pictures out to the animal shelter. "She wasn't there," Rogers said. "We accepted she's gone."

As the days and weeks went by, Rogers and her husband dug through debris. They found a house they could rent temporarily in Pratt.

Then, Thursday, she was doing laundry at a Pratt laundromat.

So was Carman Simon, program consultant for the Kansas Animal Health Department, who is working at the Pratt County Humane Society.

The two women started talking while the clothes swished in the machines.

Simon talked about how she and others are still looking for animals that have been traumatized and disoriented by the storm.

The United Animal Nations, a group from Sacramento, Calif., that offers an emergency animal rescue service, has deployed more than 40 volunteers from across the nation to Greensburg.

The organizations are trapping pets and taking them to a Pratt veterinary clinic. Owners can reclaim them by contacting the Pratt County Humane Society.

So far, 115 pets have been recovered since the Greensburg tornado: 94 cats and 21 dogs. Half the dogs but only a handful of cats have been claimed by their owners.

Animal rescuers have trapped more than 30 cats in just the past week, 22 of them thought to be pets.

The cats are scared and disoriented, but they are coming out from under debris because they are so hungry, Simon said.

"It's obvious many of them have families because they are so friendly," she said. "They just don't know how to forage."

The Greensburg pets will be held until July 15. If they are still unclaimed by July 16, they can be adopted by any Greensburg resident. Beginning July 18, any Kansan willing to drive to Pratt can adopt an unclaimed pet.

Simon said some owners haven't bothered looking for their pets, thinking there was no way they could have survived. Or maybe, they think there is no way to keep their pet while they live in temporary housing.

She says it's worth asking again and exploring possibilities.

Thursday at the laundromat, Simon couldn't resist asking Rogers about her cat, Bebe.

What did it look like?

Did it have any distinguishing characteristics?

Simon said she couldn't help but think about a gray Manx-mix cat they had trapped that day -- one with an attitude.

"When cats are without their people or things, they have that horrible growl of a cry that asks, 'Where is everybody?' That cat was saying, 'I am in a trap. Where's my people? Somebody has got some explaining to do.' "

Rogers decided to see whether the cat could be Bebe. She went to the shelter.

As soon as she opened the door, she heard a familiar meow.

"I looked in and Bebe said 'Hello!' I said 'Oh, my God.'

"My husband kept saying, 'That's not her'. And I told him, 'Well, she's so dirty from the insulation and she's lost a lot of weight. She's been gone for six weeks.' "

It was Bebe, all right.

Now, Rogers goes to see Bebe every day. They are moving to El Dorado in a few weeks, and won't have their home ready for her until then.

"I've called everybody to tell them that Bebe is alive," Rogers said. "Oh, my gosh, it's like I just had a baby."

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