Relentless Seattle team finds missing feline
12/16/2011 9:02:44 AM
A four-legged Alaska Airlines passenger who had escaped his pet carrier was found recently safe, sound and a little bit greasy after a two-day search at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Wenty, a grey and white male cat, was traveling with its owner on Friday, Dec. 2, from Tucson, Ariz., to Seattle, but when his owner claimed the pet carrier, the cat was not in it.
No one saw Wenty escape, according to Michelle King, Alaska Airlines' manager on duty at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The pet carrier's rear clips appeared loose so the cat likely went out the back. The door was secured shut with tape.
King and Alaska Airlines' supervisors Ben Brennan and Marisol De Los Santos searched the bagwell, ramp, the aircraft and baggage carts, put up posters in the airport, and contacted Rhonda Talbot Lohr, Alaska Airlines' customer service supervisor in Tucson, who did the same.
"There were so many employees involved in the search," King said. "Many employees even stayed after their shifts to keep looking." Alaska Airlines Duty Manager Jason Schwab and airline Supervisors Mitchell Anderson, Mike Chalich, Steven Boedigheimer, Meranda Richardson, Dean Potter and Clint Gauthier joined the hunt for Wenty.
With no luck 24 hours later, Alaska employees reached out to Federal Way, Wash.-based Missing Pet Partnership (MPP), a nonprofit organization specializing in locating lost pets. MPP arrived Sunday with a search dog, noise amplification devices, wildlife cameras and humane traps, and Alaska employees escorted them onto the ramp to hunt for Wenty.
"The support of Alaska Airlines was incredible," said Kat Albrecht, a former police officer and founder of Missing Pet Partnership."They bent over backwards to help, giving our volunteers and our search dog access to every inch that needed to be searched. When I asked one of the employees [De Los Santos] if we could get into the plane that Wenty escaped from, I fully expected that the answer would be ‘no.' I was shocked and amazed that she immediately got on her cell phone and worked to make that happen."
It was just after midnight that Chet Kobashigawa, a ramp lead with Alaska Airlines' partner vendor Menzies Aviation, spotted Wenty's white paws under a baggage carousel after seeing the posters. He called in CSAs Carolee Benson and Lana Litzner, who had to call in Port of Seattle maintenance to help remove part of the carousel to free the terrified tabby from his hiding place.
Wenty, a little dirty but otherwise unharmed, was then fed tuna that Benson purchased from a vending machine, and Anderson took him to the vet to ensure he was OK. They also arranged for a taxi to bring Wenty's very happy owner to the airport to claim him.
Wenty has his own Facebook page, "Wenty the cat is lost at SeaTac Airport," with fans who have reposted his story on other social media sites. Many comments commend Alaska Airlines and its employees' thorough work to recover the cat, for instance: "Thank you Alaska Airlines! For realizing a pet is someone's child! It is refreshing to see a corporation finally doing the right thing."
"Thankfully, there are companies that have compassion, with employees like these who are willing to bend over backwards to do the right thing," Albrecht said. "Thank you Alaska Airlines for being one of those companies."