A few weeks ago I went to a dinner party and three of the four of us are devoted pet owners. If you’re a pet owner, you know you go the extra mile or even across the the country as Bob Berzok did to find his cat. The fourth person, a non pet owner, just rolled her eyes a lot. I won’t mention names.
Here’s a heartwarming story of Rommie and his romp in Louisville and how the kindness of strangers and the dedication of pet owners made for a happy ending.
Bob & Linda Berzok said they still exchange holiday cards with the people who helped find Rommie. It’s amazing what animal lovers will do for each other.
Sunday, November 26, 2006 The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky
Feline, couple reunited after scary adventure in Louisville
By Katya Cengel, Feature Writer
This year, Linda and Robert Berzok’s Christmas card will feature a picture of their 13-year-old cat Rommie, and words about their Louisville miracle.
Thanks to the generosity and caring of strangers, the Berzoks’ longhaired gray, white and black cat is home again in Arizona after an unplanned adventure.
The Berzoks were driving from their summer home in upstate New York to their winter place in Arizona on Nov. 1 when they stopped in Louisville for the night.
As they opened the car door at the Extended Stay America hotel on Dutchmans Lane, Rommie leaped out.
The cat, rescued from the streets 13 years earlier, always had been nervous. She had to be kept away from children, dogs and even guests. It took 10 years before she would jump onto Robert Berzok’s lap.
“It brought out all the nurturing in us to take care of her,” said Linda Berzok, a 63-year-old writer and food historian.
Toothless, clawless and extremely timid, Rommie’s fate weighed heavily on the Berzoks, who for the past five years have been making the drive from New York to Arizona and back with Rommie.
“She’s like a character in our lives,” Linda Berzok said. For 30 minutes, their “little girl” hid under cars and bushes around the parking lot. Then she disappeared.
After more than four hours of searching, the Berzoks went to bed. But Robert Berzok, a 62-year-old retired communications director, didn’t do much sleeping. Every few hours he would get up, get dressed and search.
In the morning they searched again. They spent another night in Louisville and the next day they placed an advertisement in The Courier-Journal and made a few fliers.
Then, filled with dread, they continued home.
Once in Arizona, they placed a new advertisement in the newspaper, this time with a photo of Rommie, and made more detailed fliers, which they sent to several Louisville organizations, including Alley Cat Advocates, which spays and neuters stray cats.
Vicki Litton, a retired BellSouth worker from St. Matthews, called the Berzoks and told them about a cat she had found. Robert Berzok asked if it had teeth. Litton said it did. It wasn’t Rommie.
Several more Louisvillians called the Berzoks with supposed sightings.
Then, more than a week after Rommie had gone missing, Pat Cundiff called to tell them about a cat she had spotted matching Rommie’s description.
Robert Berzok flew to Louisville that night.
At the Extended Stay, people called to offer suggestions and support. Cheryl Jewell, a volunteer with Alley Cat, worked nearby and kept an eye out for the cat.
Berzok posted 400 fliers and photos of Rommie in the neighborhood. But after almost a week, there still was no Rommie. Berzok was paying his hotel bill when he heard that a woman searching nearby had heard a cat’s cry.
Litton had spotted a culvert and decided to drop a little cat food in front.
That’s when she heard a hiss.
She closed off the culvert with cat carriers. Berzok showed up unsure whether it was his cat. Litton thought it was and called her husband, Gary, who brought poles to try to poke the cat toward a carrier.
But it wouldn’t budge.
Jane Harper, of Alley Cat, and her husband showed up. Jewell snuck away from work and managed to secure some cat traps. For four hours they tried to coax and prod the cat out.
As he got a better look, Berzok became convinced that the cat probably was Rommie.
Next on the scene was Capt. Ann Camp with Metro Animal Services. She brought another pole. Cat food and sardines were placed near the traps.
Berzok got down on the muddy ground and edged closer to the cat, which slowly edged closer to him. When it was about 2 feet away he grabbed it.
Rommie emerged — muddy, scrawny and scared, but well.
Berzok began to cry, then Litton, then the rest.
“It was sweet; it was just the best feeling in the world,” Litton said.
Berzok and Rommie stayed in the hotel that night free, thanks to the general manager, Robert Flores.
Alley Cat provided Rommie with a new brush and carrier. The next morning she took her first flight. Not wanting to risk any other mishaps, Robert Berzok bought Rommie her own ticket so she could sit with the passengers. He’s also instituted a strict car policy.
“She can have the run of the car,” he said. “But before any door is opened, she must be in a carrier cage.”