After an Alaska Airlines flight from Tucson to Seattle last week, a cat owner named Ashley went to claim her cat Wenty, a grey and white tabby, only to be handed an empty pet carrier.
Ashley contacted Missing Pet Partnership, a Pet Detective Agency, on Saturday. Kat Albrecht, Jim Branson, MPP volunteer Bonnie Beltz, and MPP cat detection dog Karma responded quickly, assembling a search team and developing a search strategy.
Using everything from Karma’s nose, high power spotlights, a search camera, an amplified listening device, and digital wildlife cameras, MPP conducted a detailed “area search.” Alaska Airlines gave the team unrestricted access to the baggage area and the tarmac area.
In brilliant contrast to the way in which American Airlines dragged its feet and prohibited access to airport areas in the search for Jack the Cat, Alaska Air provided unfettered access to a Pet Detective Agency searching for Wenty.
The logistics rivaled that of a Bourne novel. Four areas needed to be searched: the Tucson Airport where Wenty was loaded in his carrier aboard an Alaska Airlines flight, the plane on which he traveled, the tarmac at the SeaTac Airport, and SeaTac’s baggage area. No baggage handlers witnessed the cat’s escape on Friday night.
Kat’s an expert on “displaced cat behaviors” and knew that Wenty was a “catatonic/xenophobic” cat who would be hiding in silence. At the moment he escaped, Kat felt it was most likely that Wenty would have bolted and darted beneath something, looking for concealment and protection.
The first search lasted over three hours. Karma showed slight interest at one of the Alaskan Airlines baggage conveyors, but MPP felt that it was likely residual scent of a cat, not strong enough to suggest that a cat was hiding beneath it. Alaska Airlines was willing to disassemble the conveyor belt if needed, but MPP felt the alert was not strong enough to warrant that action.
MPP’s volunteers, accompanied by the Alaskan Airlines supervisor, were allowed access to any and every potential hiding place. Kat writes on her blog:
We asked if we could see what the interior cargo pit of an airplane looks like and they walked us right up to a plane that had pulled up to a gate and baggage was being unloaded. We asked if they could find the same plane that Wenty escaped from and the Alaskan Airlines employee got on her cell phone. Within five minutes we were told this: Wenty’s plane had already flown to Mexico, San Diego, and was due to return to SeaTac later that night. It would have a one hour layover before flying off to Anchorage. We asked if we could get into the cargo pit of the plane to see if there was anyway Wenty had escaped into the belly of the plane. They not only granted that permission, but told us that they’d work to find a replacement plane for the Anchorage flight so MPP could have unlimited time and access to search the plane for Wenty.
Their ability to conduct an exhaustive search of the plane helped identify one place that Wenty was not. That meant he was either at the Tucson airport, the SeaTac tarmac, or the SeaTac baggage area. Alaskan Air employees helped MPP set traps and digital wildlife cameras. They also got the word out to ALL airport employees that Wenty was lost. Arrangements were made for a pet detective and search dog conduct a search of the Tucson Airport the next day.
The Tucson search was called off when Wenty was found around 1 am. A United Airlines employee spotted a telltale pair of white paws poking out from beneath a United baggage carousel. The United worker dropped to the floor and was able to grab Wenty. A call to Alaska Airlines made a quick reunion possible. Wenty went to the vet for a checkup and was given a clean (albeit a bit greasy) bill of health.
Support Missing Pet Partnership
If you’d like to make a donation to support Missing Pet Partnership’s work, they would gladly accept your help! They need: Seattle area volunteers, humane traps, wildlife cameras, and regular donations to help MPP pay our monthly bills (last month MPP was in the red by over $800.00).
To donate money or equipment, go to the MPP web site (www.missingpetpartnership.org).
More Photos at King5.com.