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Video: Cat found on NYC street, going home to Colorado

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updated 9/14/2011 8:29:53 PM ET 2011-09-15T00:29:53

A calico cat named Willow, who disappeared from a home near the Rocky Mountains five years ago, was found Wednesday on a Manhattan street and will soon be returned to a family in which two of the three kids and one of the two dogs may remember her.

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How she got to New York, more than 1,600 miles away, and the kind of life she lived in the city are mysteries.

But thanks to a microchip implanted when she was a kitten, Willow will be reunited in Colorado with her owners, who had long ago given up hope.

Is their lost dog a lost cause? Internet cries: No!

"To be honest, there are tons of coyotes around here, and owls," said Jamie Squires, of Boulder. "She was just a little thing, five and a half pounds. We put out the 'Lost Cat' posters and the Craigslist thing, but we actually thought she'd been eaten by coyotes."

Image: Willow the calico cat
Bebeto Matthews  /  AP
Willow, a 6-year-old calico cat who went missing from her Colorado home during a renovation five years ago, sits in a cage at her temporary home on Wednesday in New York's Animal Care and Control (ACC) facility.

Squires and her husband, Chris, were "shocked and astounded" when they got a call Wednesday from Animal Care & Control, which runs New York City's animal rescue and shelter system.

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Willow had been found on East 20th Street by a man who took her to a shelter.

Vote: How long should you search for a pet before giving up? (on this page)

"My husband said, 'Don't say anything to the kids yet. We have to make sure,'" Squires said. "But then we saw the picture, and it was Willow. It's been so long."

ACC Executive Director Julie Bank said a scanner found the microchip that led to the Squires family.

Video: Cat found on NYC street, going home to Colorado (on this page)

"All our pets are microchipped," Squires said. "If I could microchip my kids, I would."

The children are 17, 10 and 3 years old, so the older two remember Willow, Squires said. As for the 3-year-old, "She saw the photo and said, 'She's a pretty cat.'"

Image: Willow the calico cat
Bebeto Matthews  /  AP
Willow was found as a stray in Manhattan. She had been tagged with an identification microchip and will soon be reunited with her owners.

The Squireses also have a yellow Labrador named Roscoe, who knew Willow, and an English mastiff named Zoe.

"We had another dog back then, too, and I remember that Willow would lie with them as they all waited to be fed," Squires said. "She thought she was a dog."

Squires said Willow escaped in late 2006 or early 2007 when contractors left a door open during a home renovation.

The cat came back: 13 true ‘tails’ of survival

Since then, the family had moved about 10 miles from Broomfield to Boulder, but it kept its address current with the microchip company.

Bank recommended that all pet owners use microchips.

She said Willow, who now weighs 7 pounds, is healthy and well-mannered and probably has not spent her life on the mean streets of Manhattan. But there are no clues about her trip east or anything else in the five years she's been missing.

Squires seemed a bit worried about a possible New York state of mind.

Missing Arkansas dog found after 7 years

"I don't know what kind of life she's had, so I don't know what her personality will be like," she said. When Willow disappeared, she said, "She was a really cool cat, really sweet."

The ACC and the Squireses were trying to arrange for transportation back to Colorado and health certificates and said it might be two weeks before the reunion. Willow may spend some time with a foster family in New York.

"The kids can't wait to see her," Squires said. "And we still have her little Christmas stocking."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vote: How long should you search for a pet before giving up?

Explainer: True ‘tails’ of animal survival

  • It's tough out there for a...

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    A cat who went missing for nine years. A beagle who went missing for five. An enormous, affable hog who survived a serious truck accident on the way to the sausage plant — thereby avoiding the fate of being turned into sausage.


    These and other amazing tails — er, tales — of survival are contained right here in this slideshow. Some feature reunions with long-lost family members thanks to the miracle of microchips. Others spotlight the acts of kind-hearted humans. All of them will make you smile.

  • A dog's four-year, 1,100-mile journey

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    A missing Missouri dog is found four years later and four states away.
    Who knows exactly where Mickey the Boston terrier went, what he ate, how he traveled and who he met during his four long years away from home? Well, Mickey does — but he's keeping his secrets to himself.

    The pup disappeared from his backyard in Kansas City, Mo. — and about four years later in 2007, his owners were stunned to receive a phone call from an animal shelter 1,100 miles away in Billings, Mont., saying that Mickey had been found and identified with the help of a microchip. Mickey's family said their dog no longer knew his name when he came home, and his teeth bore signs of wear and tear — but other than that, he was fine, and they were thrilled to have him back in their lives.

  • Oh Fudge!

    Image: Ashlea Boon with Fudge the kitten
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    Ashlea Boon with Fudge the kitten.
    Attention, pet owners: Here’s a cautionary tale about leaving washing machine and dryer doors open. Ashlea Boon of Somerset, England left her dryer open in August 2010 — and Fudge, her tiny new kitten, hopped inside the machine and curled up on a soft duvet cover for a cat nap. Boon had no idea Fudge was in there when she switched the dryer on to give the bedding a refresher spin.

    Fudge spun with the blanket for a five-minute cycle. When Boon removed it from the dryer, she was horrified to see her tiny kitten collapse lifeless on the floor.

    “She was limp and wasn’t moving,” Boon said, according to the British newspaper the Daily Mail. “She was just dead when she came out. She was very limp and just lying on the floor. I was very shocked. It was horrible.”

    Boon, a nurse, rubbed Fudge’s belly in an effort to revive her, and she started breathing again. She then rushed Fudge to the vet, who feared the kitten had brain and vision damage. But after being treated for 24 hours and given steroids, Fudge bounced back. She’s doing just fine today.

    “It was really emotional and horrible,” Boon said. “I would warn anyone else with pets to be aware when leaving the tumble dryer door open.”

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    What may come as more of a surprise is that Tinker Bell flew completely out of the sight of her owners, Dorothy and Lavern Utley, who turned to a pet psychic for help. They said the psychic directed them to a wooded spot almost a mile away from the flea market — and, what do you know? There was Tinker Bell! After two days on her own, she was hungry and dirty but otherwise fine. Dorothy Utley said the little dog "just went wild" when she saw Utley.

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    Talk about planning ahead. The owners of an African grey parrot in Japan spent two years teaching the bird to recite his full name and address in case he ever got lost.

    And that's just what the parrot did in May 2008 when he escaped from his cage and had to be rescued from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. He spent a night at a police station, where he stayed quiet as a church mouse — but after he got transferred over to a veterinary hospital, he started chatting it up. "I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird announced to the vet, and he also spelled out his address and sang songs to the delight of the hospital staff. Because the address the bird provided was flawless, he was easily reunited with his family.

  • Kitty rescued from PVC pipe

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    The 6-week-old feline was wedged inside the pipe so tightly that Amado had to call firefighters for assistance. Two hours and a dollop of vegetable oil later, the kitty was free from the pipe and on her way to a nearby animal shelter, where she was treated for dehydration and a broken paw. The name given to her by her rescuers? Piper.

    Video: Trapped kitten rescued from pipe
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    Stephen B. Thornton / Arkansas D
    Picture this: An enormous, 800-pound hog is riding in a truck in Arkansas along with about 90 other pigs, unaware that he's bound for the slaughterhouse — (but maybe slightly suspicious). There's an accident on the journey, and the truck flips. About 60 of the pigs survive. This one escapes.

    Not only does he escape, but he survives on his own for an entire week before deciding to take a dip in LeAnn Baldy's swimming pool. Baldy was stunned when she happened to notice that her pool was overflowing in June 2009. She was even more surprised when she saw the immersed hog cooling off in the water and enjoying a drink.

    This "ham on the lam" was spared a second journey to the sausage plant because slaughterhouse officials had no idea what he had been eating during his week on his own.

  • Reunited after Hurricane Katrina

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    This is one of those stories that can make your heart hurt, even though it involves a happy reunion between a man and his dog. The drama began when Jessie Pullins had to evacuate New Orleans with his family in August 2005 as Hurricane Katrina approached. He figured he'd be gone a day — maybe two at most — so he left his Labrador-shepherd mix J.J. with a generous helping of food and water.

    Of course, Pullins was not able to return right away. J.J. ultimately got rescued and adopted by two sisters in California who cared for him deeply and wanted to keep him. After legal wrangling, the sisters returned J.J. to Pullins in 2009. The saga is detailed in "Mine," a PBS documentary about pet-ownership disputes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

  • 'Dead' pet cat returns... nine years later

    Fame Pictures
    Gilly Delaney of Birmingham, England never quite believed it when she was told in 1999 that her pet cat Dixie had been killed by an oncoming car. She always had a feeling the cat might return home — so much so that she nixed a move to Malta that she and her husband had been considering.

    And sure enough, in 2008, animal shelter workers showed up at the Delaneys' home — with Dixie! They had found the cat wandering less than half a mile away from the Delaneys' home, and they identified her because she had a microchip. The Delaneys were ecstatic. "Dixie's personality, behavior and little mannerisms have not changed at all," Gilly Delaney told the Daily Mail newspaper. "She is still a happy, contented cat who just wants to sit next to you on the sofa and have a fuss. She hasn't stopped purring since she came back through the door."

  • A 'flush' with death for tiny puppy

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    Kids do the darndest things. Especially 4-year-olds who are playing with itty-bitty puppies. Daniel Blair, 4, of Middlesex, England, decided to give his 1-week-old cocker spaniel puppy a bath in the toilet in June 2009 because the puppy was muddy. And then — oops! — Daniel flushed the toilet!

    Daniel's mother, Alison, told Britain's Daily Mirror that she was convinced the puppy had drowned. Not so, however. A drainage company used a special camera and found the wet, startled and very alive puppy about 20 yards from the house. Four hours later, the puppy was out and safe. "I'm so, so sorry, " Daniel told the Daily Mirror. "I won't do it again."

    Video: Puppy survives trip down the toilet
  • 'Please Rocco, come home'

    TODAY
    After the Villacis' beagle Rocco strayed from their yard in Queens, N.Y., in 2003, the whole family was devastated — but no one took it harder than little Natalie. The 5-year-old cried for extended periods, and she never parted with the dog's favorite toy, a stuffed cat.

    And then in 2008, more than five years after he had disappeared, he turned up 850 miles away at an animal-control office in Georgia. He was reunited with his family because of his microchip. "When my mom told me they found Rocco, I cried hysterically — just like I did when they told me he was lost," Natalie told the New York Post. "Every time I would see a dog on the street, I would say to my mom, 'Maybe Rocco will come back.' She would say that he probably isn't going to come back. I would say, 'I know, but maybe he will.'...At night, I would wish, 'Please Rocco, come home.' And now that wish came true."

  • Somebody help this poor doggie

    This is the story of an impossibly small Chihuahua and an impossibly large barbecue fork, and it is not for the faint of heart.

    It happened at a barbecue in London, Ky. Somehow a huge barbecue fork broke in two and went soaring through the air — and its 3-inch prongs lodged deep inside Smokey the dog's head. The 12-week-old puppy barked in pain, ran off and disappeared into a wooded area for two full days before his frantic owner, Hughie Wagers, managed to find him.


    A trip to the vet, Dr. Keaton Smith, revealed that the fork had impaled the dog's brain. Smokey was operated on immediately. During a TODAY interview, Wagers told Matt Lauer that his pooch "did wake up weird" from the surgery, but Smith expects Smokey's brain to recover completely since he's still a pup.

    Video: Chihuahua impaled by BBQ fork
  • Tossed turtle makes 670-mile journey

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    Ten-year-old Carley Helm thought it was OK to bring her new friend Neytiri, a coin-sized turtle, back with her on a flight from Atlanta to her home in Milwaukee. And so did AirTran Airways personnel — at first, that is.

    But, after Carley and her reptile friend were on board, flight attendants ordered the turtle off the plane. 

    The Helm kids set Neytiri in an airport trash bin, after calling their father William to come retrieve the animal. When he arrived, he wasn't able to find Neytiri. Turns out, another AirTran employee had already fished the turtle out of the trash, handed it off to a co-worker, who then took it home as a pet for their son.

    Jennifer Forbes, a cruelty caseworker for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, learned of the case and ran interference for the family. Eventually, Neytiri was retrieved and made the 670-mile journey to be reunited with the Helms.

    Video: Girl reunited with turtle tossed in airline flap
  • David, Brooke and Jake – together again

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    Whether you're rich or poor, famous or unknown, the heartbreak of losing a pet can be devastating — and the thrill of being reunited with that pet can be the best feeling in the world.

    Just ask celebrity couple David Charvet of ABC's "The Superstars" and Brooke Burke, the Season 7 champion on "Dancing with the Stars." They were distraught when their chocolate Labrador retriever Jake went missing for nine long months – until they got a shocker of a phone call informing them that Jake was fine and ready to be picked up.

    "Someone found Jake in our town, had no idea who his owner was (Jake had no collar) and gave him to a neighbor who took him in and cared for him," Burke wrote in her blog on ModernMom.com. "The man took Jake to a vet for a random check-up and for blood work. After telling the vet the story of how Jake came into his life, the vet decided to scan Jake. David had an identity chip put in Jake as a puppy. ...

    "Thank God for honest people who are selfless enough to do the right thing. I hope something wonderful happens to [Jake’s rescuer] ... for caring for Jake and letting him go."