The cat in the ad comes back

Staff photos by

Lynn DeLaney

Saunders

Persistence pays off in the case of a West Bremerton couple who spend hundreds of dollars and untold hours of their time trying to track down their missing cat, Norman.

HAPPY MELODY:

Melody Pugh of Bremerton welcomes

Norman the family cat home after 95 days on the run. “Oh, thank heaven for 7-11,” has become the house motto for Melody and GaryPugh after their 3-year old Manx cat turned up on July 11.   

Staff photos by Lynn DeLaney

Saunders

By Travis Baker

Sun Staff

When you see two “kitty urns” atop Melody Pugh’s TV cabinet, holding the ashes of two of her cats that died of old age, you can imagine what she’d be willing to do for one that’s still alive.

Well, maybe you can’t. But read on.

Norman , Melody and Gary Pugh’s 3-1/2 year old Manx cat, bolted from the car on its way to the veterinarian at Sixth and Callow on April 2.

In the ensuing three months, Melody has become sort of a folk hero and the friend of many in a wide area of West Bremerton as the mounted a relentless effort to track down the flighty feline.

She printed 1,620 leaflets and distributed them personally to homes wherever she thought Norman might be spotted.

She paid between $4 and $7 each for 87 full-color, laminated 11-inch by 17-inch posters which she mounted on poles throughout West Bremerton . Thirty-six were replacements for ones that disappeared.

She bought a $400 phone with a digital message capacity to take all the phone calls that her posters, leaflets and personal visits were generating. She took 646 calls in a three-month period.

She bought a $900 video camera she positioned to record an alley or back yard, returning every two hours to put in a new tape.

She bought small packages of cat good she left with people willing to put it out in hopes of attracting little Norman.

She viewed the disinterred remains of a cat that had been found dead. The family that buried it had seen one of her posters.

She would respond in an instant to reports that her cat had been seen, often during hours of darkness.

But somehow, Norman remained just a frightened leap ahead of the Pughs. Some of the close calls were maddening.

In the first week of May, a family at 13 th and Cambrian was turning in for the night and heard a meow. Onto the bed jumped a Manx cat which apparently had come in through a door left open in the afternoon heat.

The couple laughed and put the cat outside. It was reluctant to leave, but when one of Pugh’s fliers came into their hands a few days later, Norman was nowhere to be found.

Elaine Nix at Rainbow Vacuum had been feeding strays behind her store on Callow Avenue . Norman was one of them. But the day she and the staff learned who Norman was and waited to capture him was also the day Norman stopped coming.

A boy named David at 17 th and Rainier called in May and said, “I had your cat in my arms, but a car made a loud noise and I couldn’t hold him.”

Melody said they were sure Norman ’s eyes reflected in their headlights one May night at 19 th and Taft. She and her husband happened to be following up a lead, but in Gary ’s haste to get out of the car, he slammed the door and the can ran into the brush.

Norman sightings were reported along First Street to Arvon Avenue, then begain coming from the other side of Callow as far west as Cambrian. If sighting reports are reliable, the cat apparently roamed to the north and east, turning up at 19 th and Thompson near Bremerton High School , then onto the beach at Port Washington Narrows .

The Pughs followed the recommendation of David Sparks, who runs a pet-finding service called the Consolidated Lost Pet Line at (360) 698-0255. He told them persistence is the key.

The laminated posters were his idea. It can take six months to find a lost pet, he told them, and unprotected posters won’t last that long. People looking for lost pets tend to talk with one another. Three times, said Melody Pugh, images caught by her video camera helped other pet owners find their lost animals.

Finally, last Saturday, all the fruitless responses were rewarded. A paper carrier for The Sun, aware of the lengthening search, called at 7 a.m. and said she’d seen Norman go into a hole in a building near First and Rainier .

The Pughs hurried there and Gary called Norman ’s name. “The (meow) that cat let out was big enough to reach heaven,” said Melody. “Within 30 seconds, he had Norman in his arms. And Norman wet on him.”

That’s a normal response in such a situation, said Sparks .

Today Norman weighs six pounds, half of what he weighed before. He’s pretty sedate and his hind legs don’t work too well. But he’s home and happy.

“ Norman is home. Thank U Bremerton” reads the marquee at Rainbow Vacuum. People have been honking in happy reaction, said Melody.

The cat was gone 95 days, from April 2 to July 11.

Reach Travis Baker at

(360) 792-9205 or

tbaker@thesunlink.com.

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