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The world awaits word on George

  • Melinda Merman and Frank Walburg were recently reunited with their cat, George, who went missing in 1995.

Frank Walburg regretted breaking off again from our conversation about his long, long-lost cat, but his phone wouldn't stop ringing.

"That was the Bonnie Hunt Show," he said Wednesday as we resumed our follow-up on George, the cat whose microchip brought him home after a marathon absence of 13? years.

Since the story of George's return ran on Tuesday, the "Today Show" has offered to fly Frank and his wife, Melinda Merlin, and George to New York for a live national TV appearance. By Wednesday afternoon, the couple had fielded 24 requests for media interviews.

Cat returns after 13 years

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Most they politely declined because George, while improving, is still weak, ill and dreadfully thin. Frank said George perked up noticeably after a vet diagnosed a parasitic infection and started him on medicine Tuesday.

As wondrous as it is that George is back home after so long -- he apparently was kept all those years by a woman on Santa Rosa Avenue who called him Puka -- Frank said the real story is the cheap, tiny technology that made his return possible.

"A microchip brought us back together again," he said.

Microchips for pets were a new technology when Frank and Melinda had a rice-grain-sized chip implanted in the skin of George and three sibling kittens in 1992. Vets and shelters have scanners that detect the chips and read the identifying information imbedded in them.

After the owner of a Santa Rosa Avenue mobile home park trapped an emaciated old cat last week, a staffer at the Sonoma County animal shelter scanned him.

The employee found an old AVID (American Veterinary Identification Devices) chip in the cat's skin and traced it to Santa Rosa's Northtown Animal Hospital. A staffer there found the chip that was placed 16 years ago in a cat owned by Frank and Melinda, and phoned them.

"This is a monstrously lucky set of occurrences," Frank said. Had his weak, starving old cat not had a chip in him when he arrived at the shelter last week, "he would have been euthanized within a day, maybe two."


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