Meow comes home for Christmas

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. C. Michaela Walrond
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Maybe it was the blustery winds of the quick-moving Nor'easter, or perhaps it was the lingering hope of a base family -- either way a Christmas miracle made its way to the door step of a Hanscom home Dec. 11.

But long before the winter storms made their way to New England, things changed for the Brooks family over the summer. With the month of August came a deployment, and Tech Sgt. Donnie Brooks, 66th Security Forces Squadron, was soon on his way to a year-long deployment in Korea. But he wasn't the only family member to leave home.

Within a week of the sergeant's deployment, the Brooks' small and curious cat, Meow, found an open window in their base house and escaped, only to find herself lost within the confines of the Hanscom community.

"We were pretty certain that she was gone. As soon as we realized she was missing, we went searching for her on base. We spent a couple of weeks looking for her, but couldn't find her anywhere," said Becky, Sergeant Brooks' wife.

Mrs. Brooks said that after a couple weeks had gone by, she and her two sons, Cody, 13, and Chris, 14, gave up hope of finding their black and white kitten.

"Since so much time had passed and no one had called, we assumed another family had taken her in or she had found her way off base," Mrs. Brooks said.

Meow, just barely a year and a half old, was given to the Brooks family last November by another base family who was PCSing from Hanscom.

Mrs. Brooks said that the kitten had always lived up to her name, constantly purring or meowing, as if carrying on a conversation. After Meow went missing, though, things were a little quieter, and even their dog, Jessie, noticed that something was different.

There was only a small glimmer of hope in finding their kitten, and it rested on a small microchip.

When Meow was first brought into the Brooks' home, they made a quick decision to have her taken to the base Veterinary Treatment Facility here and have her microchipped -- a simple procedure in which a microchip with a specific identification number is embedded under the animal's skin.

According to the Humane Society of the United States Web site, "Microchips provide an important extra level of protection in case your pet loses his or her collar and tags."

Since months had passed and there were no calls from the VTF, the Brooks family thought there was no hope in site for finding their feline friend -- until Dec. 11 when an unexpected call came in.

Army Sgt. Alicia Altman, Hanscom VTF noncommissioned officer in charge, called the Brooks' house with some surprising news.

"Meow wandered into the home of a family on Scott Circle and was brought to me for identification and scanning. Luckily, she had the chip and I was able to track down her family through the clinics files," Sergeant Altman said.

The Brooks family was shocked when they heard the news. "We call her our 'Christmas miracle kitty' because there is no way she would have survived the storm we had just a few days later," Mrs. Brooks said.

After getting the phone call, Mrs. Brooks and her son Cody immediately went over to the clinic to pick up Meow.

When they arrived they saw a very skinny, dirtier version of Meow, with a few scabs and scrapes. But under all the dirt, was the same cat that wandered away months before.

"Microchipping is really worth it -- especially when it brings your pet home," said Mrs. Brooks.

After bringing the kitten home, the Brooks said that Meow started eating a lot and continues to get stronger every day. And despite the separation time, Meow has already made herself at home, Mrs. Brooks said.

"She is always right with us in the house, and just seems so content to be home. She is still the same loving cat," Mrs. Brooks said.

Base personnel interested in microchipping their pets, should contact the Hanscom VTF at (781) 377-3266, which provides the service for a significantly lower cost than many local civilian facilities. "If you come here, the cost is $19, which includes the $17.50 registration fee. One of the local civilian clinics offers the exact same microchip for $128," said Sergeant Altman. "This is extremely important to active duty members who may PCS overseas, and as quarantine regulations become more and more complex, microchipping is the number one priority," the sergeant said. "Also, a large majority of installations require animals living on-base to be microchipped."

Pet owners should remember, however, that these precautions are only effective when lost cats are found and properly registered with the microchip company.

The Hanscom VTF, however, does not take in strays, Sergeant Altman said, because they do not have the proper facility available for that service. "We can scan any 'found' animal, but the animal cannot be left with us. It is up to the 'finding' family to decide if they want to maintain the pet or take it a shelter. Massachusetts law requires that strays be maintained in a facility for 10 days prior to adoption or euthanasia."