Spice, the errant kitty who disappeared from her Albuquerque home and mysteriously reappeared five days later in Portland, Maine, some 2,300 miles away, was flown back to Albuquerque on Thursday in what was a happy ending.
The 6-month-old celebrity feline arrived fashionably late at the city’s Animal Welfare Department eastside shelter, accompanied by her assistant, Patsy Murphy, who serves as the executive director of the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.
The two breezed through the shelter’s front door and were greeted by “Welcome Home” balloons and a Christmas stocking adorned with the name “Spice” pinned to a poster.
Immediately, a passel of paparazzi, reporters and TV photographers descended upon them, lobbing hairball questions in an attempt to get the scoop: “Why did you leave? How did you make it to Portland? Who was the non-neutered alley cat you were last seen with? What do you know about the latest spate of cat burglaries?”
Feigning to be catatonic, a silent Spice clawed deeper into her luxury carrier. “Cat got your tongue?” intoned a suspicious Barbara Bruin, director of the Animal Welfare Department.
The saga of Spice began on Halloween when the medium-hair, gray-and-white kitten vanished from her Albuquerque home. Five days later, handyman Robert Watterson noticed movement from inside a duffle bag that someone dropped off on a stoop outside a Portland, Maine, thrift shop.
Watterson opened the bag and out popped Spice. He removed the feline to the safety of his own home, thereby averting what could have been a catastrophe.
Watterson later took Spice to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, where, as part of the intake and evaluation process, workers found the identification microchip embedded between Spice’s shoulders, Murphy said. Shelter workers subsequently learned Spice was from Albuquerque — a 35-hour car drive from Portland.
They contacted Spice’s owner, who was grateful the animal was found, but declined to speak with reporters as per the Feline Witness Protection Program. Although not present when Spice arrived at the shelter, the owner was expected to pick her up later in the day.
Spice, however, has not been so media shy. Her story was picked up by newspapers and TV stations throughout Maine and the surrounding areas, and media wire services sent the story around the world.
“She was a little big deal,” Murphy said. “We got calls from all over from people who wanted to pay to reunite the cat and her family. Calls came from New York, California, Texas, New Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, China and Germany.”
Ultimately, the travel and related costs for Spice and Murphy were paid for by Jon Ayers, president and CEO of Idexx Laboratories, a firm in Maine that manufactures animal disease diagnostic equipment. Southwest Airlines donated the carrier in which Spice made the early morning flight.
Thus ends the cathartic story of Spice, who mysteriously catapulted from New Mexico to Maine, only to land on her feet back where she started.