You know the old cliché about letting the cat out of the bag? Take Robert Carter’s word for it when he tells you it’s not something you’d want to try at home.
The Fort Worth, Texas, man told TODAY’s Al Roker on Friday about how he learned the hard way last week when he mistakenly picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. Inside was 10-month-old Gracie Mae, who had curled up in her owner’s suitcase in Florida and ended up going on the ride of her life.
After being tossed in the car, dumped on a baggage belt, X-rayed by the TSA, piled in a cargo hold, flown 1,300 miles from her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., dumped on a conveyor belt, taken for a ride on a carousel, and tossed into another car, Gracie Mae wasn’t in the best frame of mind when Carter opened the suitcase at his home.
“She looks cute now, but she was all teeth and fangs at that point,” said Carter, who admitted, “I screamed like a little girl” when Gracie Mae erupted from the suitcase.
That was last Friday night. At about the same time, Kelly Levy was crying like a grown woman after having turned her house upside down searching for her Gracie Mae. She had taken her husband, Seth Levy, to the airport for a business trip, and returned home expecting to find Gracie Mae waiting for her.
“When I come home, Gracie’s always on the bottom of the staircase, and she wasn’t there,” she told Roker as she and her husband cuddled Gracie Mae in the TODAY Show studio. “But she just got spayed on Monday, so I thought maybe she was up in bed, and I went upstairs, but she wasn’t there and my two-hour search began.”
Meanwhile, her husband was flying to Dallas, unaware that he had packed his 10-month-old pet in his suitcase. His bag happened to be identical to Carter’s bag and both arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth at about the same time. Carter grabbed Levy’s bag, and Levy went to his hotel thinking his bag had been lost.
“I picked up my two bags and one of them was mine and one of them wasn’t,” Carter said. “I opened up the bag and realized these aren’t my clothes, so I gotta go back to the airport. I go to close the bag, and Gracie Mae jumps out.”
Good night, kitty
It was Friday night and Gracie wasn’t interested in making acquaintances right then. She flew under the bed and seemed intent on staying there, so Carter turned in, figuring he could deal with her in the morning.
He had thought about keeping the cat and even had a name picked out — “Suitcase.” But when he finally coaxed Gracie out of hiding, he discovered a tag on her collar that listed the Levys’ phone number.
Kelly Levy had already papered the neighborhood with “Lost Cat” signs, and, with her father’s help, had removed bathroom tiles and cabinetry in her frantic search for her pet. That’s when her phone rang.
“Hi, you're not going to believe this, but I am calling from Fort Worth, Texas, and I accidentally picked up your husband's luggage. And when I opened the luggage, a cat jumped out,” Carter told her.
Kelly Levy immediately text-messaged her husband, who was in a seminar, to tell him, “The cat’s in Dallas.” He and Carter made contact, Carter bought a pet carrier and they met at the airport on Sunday, when Seth Levy flew home with his cat — this time paying the $80 fare for more comfortable accommodations.
The Levys were left to ponder how a cat could go through airport security and baggage scans and not be discovered.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Seth Levy said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.