03 February 2007

amazing, happy-ending story

Cat who disappeared after Dec. 31 Missouri accident found

BETHANY, Mo. (AP) -- A regional effort to find a cat who became lost when its caretakers died in a car accident more than a month ago has come to a happy ending.

Frankie the cat, a lilac-point Siamese male, was found Wednesday, hungry but healthy near the site of an accident that killed his keepers, Dale and Forrest Weber, on New Year's Eve.

Making the story even happier, Frankie's owner, Ben Miller, the Webers' grandson, got word his cat had been recovered less than a week before he was scheduled to return to duty in Iraq.

Plans were being made Friday to fly Frankie home to Miller in Oconto, Wis. Miller's mother, Jackie Miller, said she is preparing a "welcome-home party for the cat" before her son heads back to Iraq on Thursday.

The Webers were on their way home to Wisconsin when they were killed in a three-car crash on Interstate 35 north of Bethany. Frankie escaped from a broken carrier, and no one was aware that a cat was involved until the Webers's family called law enforcement a couple of days after the crash.

That call prompted media stories, which led to search parties from as far away as Kansas City. Frankie posters were plastered around Bethany and several sightings kept hope alive that the cat might be found.

That's what happened Wednesday, when Bill Pierce saw Frankie sitting under the I-35 overpass about 50 yards from the accident site.

Pierce, who lives less than two miles from the site, said he slammed on his brakes, got out of his vehicle, crouched down and called Frankie by name. The cat came right to him.

"He was just sitting there acting kind of cold and bewildered-looking," Pierce said. "He was glad to see somebody, I think. He was crawling on my shoulders and everything else."

Pierce took Frankie home, where the cat gorged on two cans of tuna and a can of pet food.

"You can count every rib on him," said Pierce's wife, Teresa. "It's amazing that he's still alive."

Ben Miller, who took an extended leave from Iraq after his grandparents' funeral, said he had mostly given up hope that Frankie would be found. He said he was astonished by the effort Bethany residents made to find his cat.

"To do that for a complete stranger and under the circumstances," he said, "it's probably the best thing that's happened to me since I've been back."