Pookie the cat, who had been missing since Oct. 13, was found by owner Greg DiStefano with the aid of a helpful tipster who he said didn’t even want the $1,000 reward.
DiStefano, who also owns the Victor Cafe on Dickinson near 13th, said a woman who lives near 13th and Bigler called him several times over the past few weeks saying she had spotted Pookie. She sent him a picture of the cat more than two weeks ago, but the angle of the shot made it difficult to see whether it was really him.
DiStefano said he couldn’t rule it out, though. “I went to her back alley many times over last two weeks, sometimes 1 in the morning, 2 in the morning, shaking a bag of food and calling for the cat,” he said. “All the neighbors must have thought I was crazy.”
The woman got a clearer picture of the cat on Monday, “and I’m comparing every gray line, every whisker” on the computer, he said. “And wife comes up and says, ‘Oh my god, that’s him!’ ”
The next morning, DiStefano went to 13th and Bigler at 6 a.m. ready to do a stakeout. “About 6:30, my cat appears out of nowhere, jumps up on the fence, and I ran over. The closer I got I couldn’t believe it. He saw me and let out a big meow. … He jumped into my arms was just going crazy.”
DiStefano said Pookie was very dirty, a little beat up, with eyes were glazed over. He brought him to the vet yesterday and was praying for a full recovery.
He said that the woman who found Pookie tried to turn down the money, but he insisted that she take it. “I gave that lady the reward, even though she didn’t want it,” he said. “Maybe in some karmic way, she needed it, and so finding the cat was the way she got $1,000.” He also gave her a gift certificate to his restaurant. “She is a wonderful woman.”
DiStefano reiterated that he knows a lost cat isn’t the most pressing problem in the world. But this particular cat has been with his family since his wife found Pookie among a litter of kittens that was abandoned in a window well at his house seven years ago. Pookie was the only survivor, and they fed him with an eyedropper for months.
Pookie, who is neutered, started acting up about eight months ago after the family took in a stray with no teeth. But DiStefano said Pookie had never been outside longer than four or five hours before he disappeared. Somehow, he crossed Snyder and Oregon Avenues to get all the way down to Bigler. “I can’t imagine what he was thinking.”
DiStefano said he was overwhelmed with all offers for help and phone calls he received, even the tips that led nowhere.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “it just gives you hope.”