Lisa Rackliff of Wilton holds her cat Spanky on Feb. 16. The cat went missing Jan. 29 and had been at the local animal shelter since Feb. 1. They were reunited Feb. 13. Submitted photo

WILTON — When Lisa and Stanley Rackliff let their big orange and white tomcat out Friday evening, Jan. 29, they didn’t realize it might be the last time they ever saw Spanky.

Spanky went where he pleased, roaming the woods and fields around the Rackliff home, daughter Nikki Breton of Farmington said Feb. 16.

“He means a lot to my mom, he is her baby,” she said. “He snuggles her and talks to her and my dad when he wants attention. He is an extremely loyal and loving companion to my parents, so you can only imagine the river of emotions my mom was feeling when he didn’t return after that night.”

The next two weeks saw some of the coldest temperatures the region experienced all winter.

Lisa searched for the cat morning, noon and night, calling his name whenever she opened the door. Alas, no bright orange color was ever seen among the mounds of snow.

On Feb. 12, Breton and her daughter were at the Rackliffs. Lisa Rackliff and her granddaughter were watching a movie and playing in Lisa’s bedroom, Breton said.

“My dad whispered to me, ‘While your mother is in the other room and can’t hear us, look for a kitten for me.’ Looking at him sadly, I asked if he thought the cat was coming back,” Breton said. “He replied, ‘I don’t know.’

“Dad knew mom was sad, figured the cat was gone and a kitten might make her feel better,” she said.

Breton said she looked for kittens on Craigslist and nearby pet shops. With no luck there, she searched one last time for kittens in the area and the Franklin County Animal Shelter came up. Due to the pandemic, she was curious about prices.

Breton pulled up the web page, going immediately to “cats.”

“As soon as I scrolled down, there was an orange and white cat that looked somewhat like my mom’s cat,” she said. “Saddened, I looked at my dad and said, ‘Aww that looks just like him.'”

While Nikki Breton looked for a kitten to help her mother, Lisa Rackliff, of Wilton get over the loss of her cat, she found this post of a cat at the Franklin County Animal Shelter. It turns out the shelter cat, Fanta, was the missing cat. Submitted photo

Breton showed Stanley the picture of the cat the shelter named Fanta. He did a double take and told Breton not to tell Lisa in case it wasn’t her cat.

Breton called the shelter about 8:30 that night and left a message, then took a screenshot of their post to compare it with Lisa’s many pictures of Spanky. There were so many similarities that they were 110% positive it was the same cat.

Breton sent two emails to the shelter explaining the situation and planned to be there when it opened at noon Saturday. The shelter called her at 7:30 that morning to say Breton could come right over.

While on the phone, she was told after an animal has been at the shelter for 48 hours it becomes the shelter’s property. The cat had been neutered, microchipped, tested for diseases, given shots and treated for possible parasites.

The shelter had just posted Fanta’s picture, planned to put him up for adoption the next day and had received several inquiries. If Breton hadn’t made her search Friday night, he might have gone to a different home.

Because Fanta/Spanky had been at the shelter since Feb. 1, he had to be adopted back but Stanley qualified for a free senior adoption program.

Breton was told that a nearby neighbor had called about a noise under their home and the animal control officer caught Spanky and took him to the shelter.

Lisa was at work when Breton brought Spanky home. At first the plan was to wait and surprise her, Breton said, but instead a video and a Happy Valentine’s Day message was sent to Lisa. She was confused about it and Breton told her to call Stanley.

“OMG!!! Thank you sooooo much! I want to go home NOW!” Lisa messaged Breton afterward.

“I told my dad he gave my mom the best Valentine’s Day present,” Breton said. “He replied with ‘you did.’
We agreed it was a team effort.

“The smile on my mom’s face was worth everything,” she said.

In a phone interview, Lisa said she didn’t know what her family had been doing.

“It’s one of those real Homeward Bound things,” she said. “If Stan hadn’t said to look for a kitten, we never would have found him. Someone was looking over us.”

The Rackliffs got Spanky two years ago from a friend Lisa worked with at Barclaycard U.S.

“It was after my other cat I had had for nine years passed away,” she said. “Technically, he’s Stan’s cat. I had said I didn’t want any more cats, I can’t handle it but Spanky became my spoiled brat.

“He’s been following me everywhere, sleeping with me, hasn’t left my side once,” Lisa said. “He’s pretty content being home.”


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