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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

'Miracle' ending to missing cat saga


ROXBURY, NJ -- Nikki and James Durkin's agonizing nearly four-month search for their beloved cat, lost in July following an accident on Route 80, has ended happily.

The 8-year-old feline was found Nov. 9 by employees at the former Hercules gunpowder plant, search volunteer Georgiana Farnsworth of Landing said Monday.

The cat, Raphael, was one of a pair of male domestic shorthairs that were lost July 24 after an accident on Route 80.

The first cat, Gabriel, was found by Hercules employees in late August. Then, about three weeks ago, workers there spotted another cat that matched the description of the missing Raphael, Farnsworth said.

On Nov. 9, Farnsworth and five other volunteers arrived at Hercules to identify the found cat. They said it was a match and sent a picture, captured by a camera phone, to Nikki Durkin for positive identification. On Friday, Nikki and James Durkin returned to Morris to be reunited with Raphael.

"It's a miracle," Farnsworth said. "That's the only way to describe it." Evidently, Raphael went through a lot while lost.

"He lost half his body weight and was covered in ticks,"Farnsworth said. "He had scabby things on him because of the ticks, and pieces of fur were actually missing from around the neck area." Hercules workers cared for Raphael the night he was found, Farnsworth said. Raphael was taken to Community Animal Hospital in Morris Plains, where veterinarian Rebecca Lorig tended to him, Farnsworth said.

Nikki and James Durkin returned to Ithaca Saturday with Raphael. The Durkins could not be reached Monday.
The ordeal began July 24, when they were traveling on Route 80 en route to New York City from Ithaca, N.Y. James Durkin reportedly swerved to avoid a car that cut in front of them. Their Chevy Trailblazer veered off the highway and into woods near the Howard Boulevard exit. The pet carriers holding Raphael and Gabriel broke open, and the cats bolted through one of the windows.


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