Tuesday, Oct. 09 2012 6:28PM
75-year-old woman spends months searching for lost cat
By Russ Pulley
Cats have nine lives, they say, and Domino is on number seven or eight, it’s a little hard to say...
Domino roamed 151 days, lost in Lee’s Summit after a visit to the vet, until he was reunited with his devoted owner last week.
Iris Kelley, 75, endured summer heat and many sleepless hours trying to search for Domino. She faced despair when she was told his body was found. Suffered verbal abuse from a few onlookers.
She had joy when the black and white cat finally walked into a live trap about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 2.
Telling the story, Kelley wants to thank many people who helped or encouraged her. Businesses along Ralph Powell Road where she and her daughter left flyers. People who saw the cat and called. Clerks at stores where she’d go to get snacks who saw her so regularly they started asking about the cat.
Ralph, who riding his scooter in the neighborhood at Wilshire Hills apartments, saw the cat and let them know that was where it made its territory.
Mandy, who worked at the Wilshire at Lakewood, and befriended Kelley and talked with her many nights.
The Lee’s Summit police officer, Michael, who when off duty brought her cat food. He’d answered a call from someone complaining about Kelley’s searching.
“I don’t know all their names,” Kelley said. “People were just really great.”
Domino was born in 2003, his mother a feral cat living around Kelley’s Lake Lotawana home. That cat brought her three kittens to Kelley, who tamed them. Two disappeared, but Domino and Kelley, a widow, became fast friends.
Domino was an indoor and outdoor cat until 2007 when Kelley stopped letting him outside because he’d gotten a virus.
This year, when he again appeared to be getting thin, Heidi Winters, Kelley’s next-door neighbor and friend, offered to take Domino for a checkup at the animal hospital on Ralph Powell Road, which Winters and her husband own. When Winters arrived at the hospital and lifted out the pet carrier, Domino dashed away from the parking lot.
Kelley had failed to latch the pet carrier door. Clinic employees and Kelley searched for hours.
Kelley’s daughter distributed and posted flyers up and down Ralph Powell Road. Reports started coming in, the first sighting of Domino near the Comfort Inn on May 10. Kelley went there, saw Domino, but he wouldn’t go to her.
Then Domino was regularly seen near the Wilshire at Lakewood nursing home and Wilshire Apartments. Kelley got permission from the corporate office to go on the property to try and catch him.
Kelley soon understood Domino was making a den of a culvert and coming out mostly at night. She borrowed live traps from Lee’s Summit Animal Control, next bought her own.
Arriving before dark to set her traps baited with food she’d wait and watch, sometimes until 5 a.m. then pack up and go home.
She’d come back the following day. Much of the time her daughter sat with her.
A handful of apartment residents complained about her hanging around. They’d call police and confront her on the sidewalk. One woman, walking her dog, crossly told her to give up. “Your cat must not love you,” the woman said. “My dog would never run away, he loves me.” Her permission to be on apartment grounds was rescinded.
Police told her as long as she stayed on public right of way she could continue.
The manager of the nursing home let her on the property there, as it wasn’t bothering those residents. Sightings continued.
Kelley continued to get glimpses of Domino, or hear from others, but sometimes weeks would pass without any hint the cat was there. From May she missed only four days searching or setting the traps. She caught and released four raccoons.
Then came really discouraging news in August. Someone reported a dead black-and-white cat at Interstate 470 and Douglas.
Heidi Winters went to look. The body was bloated, stinking. She gamely took it back to the animal hospital to compare a good picture to the remains. Winters was convinced it was Domino.
Kelley told her daughter to recollect the food and water bowls and flyers.
She started grieving.
“I said to myself, I have got to get over this, it’s only a cat,” Kelley said.
Her daughter was skeptical. The body was too far from where they’d been seeing Domino. She left the flyers out, but didn’t tell her mother.
Kelley stayed home about a month, until in mid-September came another report about Domino lurking near the apartments. She returned to her campaign.
Winters said it was breaking her heart, observing her friend coming home after a long nights waiting, because she was positive Domino was dead.
“I swear to you that cat was resurrected” Winters joked. “If there is anything this can teach you, it’s faith and perseverance.”
Kelley said that as she waited, she believes God was sending little signs.
She’d see Domino’s Pizza deliveries to the hotel. Or a rainbow. Or see a cardinal, her favorite bird.
After staying all night, she’d drive home, saying to herself, “Maybe tomorrow.”
She quotes one of her favorite Bible verses: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
“I think God wants me to tell the story and give him the glory,” Kelley said.
It was on her wedding anniversary that Domino walked into the trap.
“I started crying and I couldn’t stop, it was like a dam broke,” Kelley said.
The cat was treated at the hospital for a tapeworm. When Kelley let Domino out at home, he hid under the furniture.
“I touched him, he rubbed against me and was immediately up in my lap,” Kelley said. “I thought he’d never love me again, but for a couple of days he couldn’t get enough of me.”