Robin Wiesneth, 50, spent Tuesday arranging a flight back home to Florida and coming to terms with the fact that she hadn’t found her cat, Tucker, in the weeks following a serious wreck on the Kenai Spur Highway, in which two people lost their lives. Instead of boarding a plane home on Wednesday, however, she found herself still in Alaska, relaxing with her longtime pet after a series of unlikely events led to their reunion.
Wiesneth had been vacationing in Alaska in a motorhome with her husband, Charles, since May. They had been on the Kenai Peninsula for a number of weeks before being involved in fatal two-vehicle collision near mile 2 of the Kenai Spur Highway on Aug. 5. While Wiesneth and her husband walked away with minor injuries, two people in a pickup truck that crossed over into the opposite lane were killed.
Wiesneth’s cat also went missing. When an extensive search of the motorhome in the hours following the accident turned up negative results, it was presumed the cat had escaped to either side of the highway and was lost.
“When it first happened, we really did consider that he was in the (motor) coach,” Wiesneth said.
In the weeks since, Wiesneth has dedicated her time to searching for the family pet while her husband arranged to have their belongings shipped back to Florida. They had already booked their flight home when Wiesneth got a call Tuesday from an anonymous worker at Buddy’s Garage in Soldotna, where the motorhome was towed, who had seen a cat matching Tucker’s black and white description hiding behind some large containers. After a few hours of calling and tempting the cat with food, he was back in Wiesneth’s arms — a little dirty, but otherwise completely healthy.
Wiesneth now suspects the cat had been in the motorhome the whole time, and somehow was not found during the original search.
“He was hidden so well that the fire crews and the emergency crews couldn’t find him,” she said. “When we called his name (at the garage), a cat meowed. Charles got down with a flashlight and he said he saw one paw, and it looked liked Tucker’s paw.”
Wiesneth canceled her Wednesday flight to remain in Alaska and take the cat to the vet to make sure he was not injured or sick. She plans to join her husband in Florida on Saturday.
Wiesneth did not find her pet on her own. She said she received help from several people and organizations in the Kenai Peninsula community. One local woman who introduced herself to Wiesneth early on was Kita Wilcher, and the pair teamed up for the better part of two weeks in an effort to find the cat.
“She and I became the unofficial pet detectives,” Wiesneth said.
Wilcher, who lives close enough to the scene of the accident that she could hear the sirens from her house, said she heard Wiesneth on the bike path near the highway calling for the cat, and rushed to offer her help.
“I just felt terrible for her because she’s from a different state,” Wilcher said. “It was the fact that she didn’t know anybody in this town, and that she’d been through this terrible crash and she had lost her cat.”
The two women made flyers and a large sign that was placed along the highway, went door to door, contacted local shelters and veterinarians, and even set up a wildlife camera in the hopes of catching sight of the cat.
“We did all sorts of things together,” Wilcher said. “We walked miles together — in rain, in sun.”
Wiesneth said the outpouring of help has not stopped since the cat was found on Tuesday. She had planned to spend a few days taking down the large sign and numerous flyers, only to start receiving calls from residents who have already begun doing the work for her.
Wiesneth said Soldotna has become special to her despite being the scene of a devastating accident, and plans to vacation in the area again in the future.
“I can’t say nice enough things about the people,” she said. “I’ve tried to tell them how grateful I am.”
Wilcher said Wiesneth has “become a good friend” through the process of searching for Tucker. She emphasized that Tucker’s reappearance is a positive thing to come out of a larger, tragic incident.
“They’re definitely touched by the accident as well,” she said. “They are both great people, and I’m glad that the people on the Kenai Peninsula opened their arms and really offered her (Wiesneth) help in any way that they could.”
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.