FLORIDA – When Sparky the cat disappeared without any kind of a trace about six years ago from his Tampa-area home, John Bogush and his family assumed he must have become prey for a coyote or bobcat.
Something happened to Sparky all right, but it wasn’t death.
Somehow or another, the gray-and-white guy ended up in Levy County. He was recently found in Inglis and taken to the Levy County Animal Shelter.
And this week he was reunited with the Bogush family, all thanks to a microchip and some University of Florida students.
“We had an unexpected surprise after six years,” stated Bogush, a city of Tampa firefighter, adding that when he got the call, “I about fell over … I was flabbergasted.”
Sparky is now about 12 years old. The Bogush family: John, wife Jennifer and daughter Sophia, 15 — got him as a kitten.
The entire family lives in a somewhat rural area. Sparky was an indoor/outdoor cat who would enjoy time outside but always came back inside after a few hours.
One day, though, he simply didn’t. The family tried desperately to find him, but with no luck.
“We do have some coyotes and bobcats in the neighborhood. After searching for him for a couple of weeks, we made the assumption he might have fallen prey to one of the wild animals,” Bogush stated. “Anytime his name would come up — he was quite the personality — when we were talking with people about pets, the conversation always ended kind of sullenly.”
The family still had Jake the golden retriever and eventually got a new cat and named him Charlie.
This past Monday, UF veterinarian Kelly Harrison and students in the veterinary community outreach program were tending to animals at the Levy County shelter. After working on a bunch of dogs, they came to a cat who was last on the list for care.
“To me, he stood out. He looked older than most of the cats in the facility, but in general, he looked in pretty good shape,” Harrison stated. “He was a friendly cat and in pretty good spirits.”
He had not, however, been previously scanned for a microchip. The students waved the wand and thus, discovered that Sparky had been chipped. The microchip company provided three numbers affiliated with the chip.
Harrison immediately began calling the numbers and struck out on the first two. The third call was the charm!
Bogush was just on the way out of the house as the answering machine picked up the call. He listened for few seconds, heard a little something about a gray-and-white cat, and then rushed to take the call.
“They asked if we were interested to come and pick him up and I said most definitely. My wife was at work. I told her, ‘We didn’t win the lottery and nothing bad happened, but are you sitting down?’ I figured I would be driving up the next day by myself … but when my wife and daughter came home they both said no way. We all drove up there together,” Bogush explained. “We believe he recognized us right off the bat. He was kind of in the back of the cage. I put my hand on the cage and he stood straight up and walked up and rubbed against my hand. He was completely relaxed.”
Once home, Sparky also remembered the area of the house with the food and water bowls and made a beeline through a couple of rooms just to get to the bowls.
The reunion with Jake was jammed packed with nose-to-nose sniffs and Sparky rubbing against Jake’s legs Sparky, after a few days of adjustment, is getting along with Charlie.
Harrison also explained the reunion shows the value of microchipping a pet. Sometimes the information on the chip just doesn’t pan out — telephone numbers are no longer valid, no other contact information is available.
But when it does work out, it’s a thrill, Harrison admitted.
“It’s always exciting when you make that connection because that is the whole idea of the chips. I was impressed and really excited that (the Bogushes) wanted to make the trip and were able do it so quickly,” Harrison stated. “I’m a huge advocate of microchips and when you have a story like this it just reinforces how powerful they are in reconnecting pets and people.”