When a starving stray cat went in search of food, he hit the jackpot. More than food, he found a family.
But then, he got lost.
The generosity of strangers kept him alive and eventually helped reunite the cat with a group that had adopted him.
Adrienne Reeves was washing buses at the school district's garage about a month ago, when a skinny, black and gray tomcat wandered in.
"It was just the most pitiful thing," Reeves said. "He was just screaming, he was so hungry."
Reeves took the cat inside, warmed him and fed him.
"That's all it took," said Jim Baptist, school district transportation director. "Now he knows where it's warm and where there's food."
Move over Bulldogs
The stray became the dep--artment's mascot and was dubbed "Eight-way," after the eight-way light system on a school bus.
Bus drivers cleaned out a small room in the garage that became his and covered a table with blankets for a bed. Now, a plastic fish dangles from the door to keep Eight-way amused, and Baptist put night-lights throughout the garage to help the cat find his way.
But weeks after being adopted by the department, Eight-way disappeared.
"We were devastated," Reeves said. "We missed him when he was gone."
She said bus drivers were accustomed to Eight-way waiting for them each morning when they arrived at work.
Reeves spent days looking for the cat, calling his name as she drove the district's activity van. She also called the city's animal control officer and the animal shelter -- to no avail.
Reeves said she got her hopes up when she heard there was a black and gray cat at the animal shelter.
But she said she could tell immediately the cat didn't have Eight-way's large paws or distinctive stripes.
The cat made his way to the North Kum & Go, where manager Laurie Foster began caring for him. She set up a box and filled it with food and blankets.
"Basically, that's all I did," she said. "I would hope anyone would have done the same thing."
On Nov. 19, Tracy Sheldon stopped at Kum & Go to cash her father's lottery ticket and buy a new one. She was greeted at the door by the friendly cat. Sheldon used her father's lottery winnings to buy him food, but couldn't get him off her mind.
"I was just sick thinking of him," she said.
She returned to the store that night, picked him up and took him home.
She called a Humane Society of Moffat County member, who took the cat to the animal shelter the next day.
"People need to know how much it helps to take an animal to the shelter," Sheldon said. "People are afraid to; they think the animal will be put down, but that gives them a chance to be adopted or reunited with their owners."
Big Greek cat
In Eight-way's case, the move helped reunite him with his adopted family. Shelter staff members identified Eight-way by the red collar Reeves had bought him, and they called her to say he had been turned in.
Reeves took him back to the bus garage. He hasn't strayed far since.
"I feel sorry for whoever let him go," Reeves said. "He's so beautiful. People tell me I should stop feeding him so much, but I tell them 'I'm Greek. When you're Greek, you've got to eat.'"
She has started an office collection to have Eight-way neutered, but she said it's slow going.
But that may change. Sheldon, who's working on the cat's behalf, has talked to the Humane Society about getting Eight-way neutered through the organization's discount program and has solicited financial help from the Animal Assistance League.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or email@example.com.