2016 sucked. Hoping to make 2017 just a little bit better, Mousebreath is going to publish a feel-good feline story once a week in a new feature: Good News Tewsday.
As a native Californian, I reach for the parka anytime it gets below about 50 degrees (so long as hot flashes don’t get in the way.) So I’m still shivering from this amazing Canadian Railway rescue story, and tearing up over the happy ending to a real-life Incredible Journey.
In December, Edmonton Train Conductor Brad Slater was inspecting the engines on a train in Wainwright when he heard an eerie animal sound coming from underneath one of the train cars.
It’s Canada, the middle of winter, and the undercarriage is packed with snow and ice.
“I got to the second engine and I heard the saddest cat cry. And I’m looking around and I’m like, ‘What?’ I’m shining my light and I see these eyes… There’s a cat,” he said.
He spotted the tabby above the wheels on a steel platform covered with ice and snow.
Slater convinced the train’s engineer to let him bring the feline inside the train and wrapped him in one of his T-shirts to warm him up. He gently peeled the ice off the cat, fed him some beef jerky he had brought to work and gave him some water. The cat snuggled up against him all the way to Edmonton.
He took the half-frozen tabby home with him, bathed and fed him and took him to the vet for a checkup the next morning. He named the cat Q199 after the train under which he was found.
The cat had ridden the train from at least as far as Saskatoon to Wainright (a distance of about 200 miles) ..at sixty miles an hour and a temp of minus 39 (not counting windchill).
“If I didn’t find him, he wouldn’t have made it to Irma, which was the next stop,” said Slater.
“His heart is good, his lungs are good,” Slater said in an interview with Global News. “For him to survive what he went through, he’s got to have one hell of a good heart.”
Slater fell in love with the cat (he’s a Cat Guy with three of his own), but did the right thing and attempted to find his owner.
Which he did!
A couple from Melville, Sask., contacted him when they heard the story. They believe their cat, Tiger, hopped underneath the train in Melville. The couple are retired CN employees and the cat used to hang around the CN yard before the wife took him home in 2012 to be a companion animal to her husband, who was battling cancer at the time.
“As soon as I heard that, I broke down,” Slater says.
Photos of the couple’s missing Tiger were a match, right down to its white back leg and lots of white under the neck and chest.
A few days later the cat’s owner, Lynn Hahn, arrived in Edmonton and was reunited. Hanh said Tiger had been missing since Nov. 25.
“I even said to the husband the day before I got a hold of Brad, ‘I better put the cat bed away because it doesn’t seem like the cat is coming back,’” she said.
She took her Tiger home on Saturday, on a similar–but warmer–journey he took to Edmonton.
“I come on the VIA to pick him up and he’s going to go back home on the train again,” she said.
Tiger’s days as a train-hopping hobo may be over. “Ah still haffn’t warmed up all the way, eh,” Tiger told Mousebreath. “Ah thinks I mite be takin da bus frum now on.”
Compassionate Action Award
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) honored Brad Slater with a Compassionate Action Award for his lifesaving actions.
“Brad Slater did everything that he could to save this animal’s life,” Lisa Lange, PETA’s senior vice president, said. “PETA hopes his compassion will remind others that every life is precious and inspire them to act to help any animal in need.”
Slater said he was honored when he woke up to the news from PETA.
“Pretty honored. Pretty warm inside. I didn’t save the cat to receive or get an award or anything. I just did it because it was the right thing to do,” he said.
“If anything can come of this maybe people will read this story, they hear this story and maybe next time someone walks by a dog outside in the winter or even an animal in a warm car in the summertime, people will take action and help these animals out because they can’t talk.”
After the Reunion…
Slater said he had mixed emotions about the reunion, because he had become quite attached to his “train cat.” He said it’s been a tough few days without Q but he’s already planning a trip to Melville next summer to visit.
“We’re going to keep in contact. She’s going to send me pictures and videos. Uncle Brad is going to be around forever.”
As the train pulled away on the journey home, Slater tweeted, “Just went and saw my little buddy off. #Q199 #FriendsForLife”
Here’s the video (grab a hankie):