A Squirrel Hill couple was surprised when a telephone caller announced that their cat had been found in McKees Rocks and taken to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society shelter on the North Side.
"Shocked" would be the better word to describe the reaction of Steffi Bruninghaus and her husband, Vincent Alevenc. Their cat, who appeared in their lives in 2007, had been lost for three years.
"One day the door was open and she walked into our house," Ms. Bruninghaus said. She was sweet and affectionate but very thin. They called her "Skinny Cat" and looked for her owner.
Neighbors said the brown tabby with the white nose, white belly and white paws had been a stray for a long time. Their veterinarian said Skinny Cat was about 3 years old and was spayed.
Although Skinny Cat was happy in the house most of the time, the former stray always wanted to go outside at least some of the time.
"It was a life we could not change." Ms. Bruninghaus said.
Eighteen months after she walked into their house, Skinny Cat walked out and never came back.
"It was very heartbreaking," said Ms Bruninghaus, who intensively searched for three months. She put up fliers and went to the Animal Rescue League shelter in Larimer at least twice a week, looking at every cat brought in by Animal Control.
One day she leaned down to look at a brown tabby with a white nose and white paws. It wasn't Skinny Cat, but it stuck its paw through the cage "and grabbed my hair."
That cat was pregnant when she was abandoned in the streets of Wilkinsburg, shelter workers said. Her kittens were adopted, but she languished at the shelter for quite a while until Ms. Bruninghaus took her home. They named her "Kedi," and she is very happy to be a full-time indoor cat.
Now back to Skinny Cat. On Sept. 19 the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society called the Carnegie Mellon University office of Mr. Aleven, who is an associate professor of human-computer interaction. When they adopted Skinny Cat, they had had her microchipped. Now that number was coming up for a cat recently surrendered at the shelter.
Details are sketchy. The man who turned her in said he had her for about a week after getting her "from someone who couldn't keep her any longer," shelter staff said. The tabby is thin, but not skinny, and is in good shape except for a tiny well-healed tear in one ear that looks like it came from a cat fight.
Her owners arrived at the shelter immediately after the call. They were delighted to see her again. Was Skinny Cat happy at the reunion?
"It's really hard to tell with a cat," Ms. Bruninghaus said with a chuckle. But she purred when she got home.
"Her favorite spot was our guest room, and that's where she went right away."
Skinny Cat has not met Kedi yet. She's in temporary isolation in the guest room until her vet confirms that she is as healthy as she appears to be. The plan is to find a way to convince Skinny Cat that she's now an indoor cat.
"I will be the happiest person" if this tale "leads to more pets getting microchips," Ms. Bruninghaus said.
Microchips are $29 at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, and no appointments are needed. The price goes down, periodically, at this and other shelters, during special clinics. Veterinarians also microchip pets, implanting a rice-sized chip that contains owner identification that can be scanned by shelters, most vets and many police departments.
Postscript: When Ms. Bruninghaus was looking for Skinny Cat, she started feeding neighborhood strays because "It was possible our Skinny Cat was out there and needed help." Then she volunteered with Homeless Cat Management Team to trap, neuter, vaccinate and return the strays, while continuing to feed and supervise them.
Although her Skinny Cat came home, Ms. Bruninghaus is still helping cats that don't have homes.
In just two hours, 44 volunteers who love dogs picked up 395 pounds of glass from the streets and sidewalks of the South Side Flats last Saturday. In addition to broken glass, there were discarded bottles from beer and other beverages. All will be recycled.
Volunteers included students from Duquesne University and Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus. A poster campaign and the South Side Glass SweeP-UP event were organized by Kim Collins, owner and creative director at blue tomato design.
Ms. Collins has given away nearly 500 free posters with pictures of her Havanese puppy, Moggy, and five other dogs.
"Please clean up broken glass ... it hurts me," is on the posters, which can be ordered at http://southsidepups.com or at the "South Side - keep our pups safe" Facebook page.
In the spring there will be another SweeP-UP and a coaster campaign, Ms. Collins said. Owners of multiple bars have agreed to distribute thousands of bar coasters with the dog portraits and the broken glass slogan. Ms. Collins needs $1,000 to print the coasters. So far, $321 has been donated.
The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is offering low-cost vaccines today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Side shelter, 1101 Western Ave., 15233. Canine vaccines are $8 for rabies and $13 for DHPP or DHLPP. Feline vaccines are $8 for rabies and $13 for FVRCP.
Octoberfest takes on a canine twist when DogtoberFEST returns for the third year. It's set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Saturday at the SouthSide Works, in the parking lot next to McCormick & Schmick's restaurant.
The event is free. Dogs are welcome if they are dog-friendly, people-friendly and up to date on vaccinations. The host is the Coalition to Adopt, Rehome and Match Abandoned Animals. Robinson Animal Hospital is the lead event sponsor.
The Pooch Pride Parade Costume Contest starts at 11 a.m. A $5 entry fee puts dogs in the running for $500 in prizes for most creative costume, best homemade costume and dog-owner lookalikes.
There will be adoptable dogs from local shelters and rescue groups, live music, homemade food, vendors, training demonstrations, and Ask-A-Vet and Ask-A-Trainer booths.
For more information, visit www.carmaa-petadoption.com or call 412-780-4983.
A haunted house is an annual fund-raiser for the Beaver County Humane Society. This year it's called "Beastly" and it's located near Sears at the Beaver Valley Mall in Center Township. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-10 and free for toddlers under 2 years old.
The dates are Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28 and Halloween. The hours are Fridays 6-9 p.m., Saturdays 1-9 p.m., Sundays 1-5 p.m. and Halloween 6-9 p.m.
For further information, go to www.shopbeavervalley.com or call 724-775-5801.The shelter is currently collecting used books, music and DVDs. They'll be sold on Oct. 21, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Center Stage wedding and party hall in Monaca.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. First Published September 29, 2012 4:00 AM