Demi went missing in Chestnut Hill. It was up to the kindness of strangers to help find her.

by Laura Palmer

When I walked into Staples on Germantown Avenue on a recent Saturday morning, I didn’t know if I would burst into tears or be overcome by the waves of nausea I was feeling. The eight-month-old kitten I was fostering had darted out the front door the day before, and I was beside myself. Compounding everything was the death of my 17-year-old cat, Fiona, four days earlier.

The pandemic brought the kitten into my life, so I’d named her “Demi.” She was jet black and so propelled with energy I considered naming her “Zoom.”

I knew my only chance of finding her was with a flyer. I had pictures on my phone and a description of her with a plea for help, but I wasn’t quite sure how to put the two together. I tried, failed, and asked for assistance. A woman tried to help but then had to do something else.

Still stuck, I heard a voice.

“What are you trying to do?” the man behind the counter said.

It was hard to get the words out. “I, I, I lost my kitten…” I said. “I’m trying to make a sign.”

“Send what you have to me. I’ll help you out.”

Moments later, he exclaimed, “Oh, she’s so cute!”

I almost lost it.

“Give me 10 minutes,” he said.

When I returned, he handed me the flyer it read “LOST KITTEN” in bright red letters and beneath it, “Please Help Find Demi” along with her charming picture and details about her disappearance and how to contact me.

The flyer was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Overwhelmed by the Staples employee’s kindness, tears finally came — tears for all that has been lost in our besieged and canceled world. A missing and vulnerable kitten, a Staple’s employee’s kindness, caught me when the defenses it takes to get through these days were down.

“When I make signs for cats, they’re always found,” he said, handing me some extra flyers. “All I ask is that you email me when you find her.”

“Sure, sure,” I said, thanking him profusely through my tears.

I made a quick stop Kilian’s for a staple gun and then, within the hour, flyers were on every telephone pole in the 200 blocks of West Gravers, Meade and Highland avenues.

A neighbor called. She’d seen Demi on Friday night in a driveway right behind where I live. I searched the area, shaking a box of kibble that afternoon. Many were out walking in the warm sunshine and promised to help when they saw the signs. As evening came, I made the rounds nearby once again, with a flashlight and plaintive plea, “Demi, Demi, Demi…” fully realizing she was too young to really know her name. But – she might recognize the shake of food.

My neighbor, Lori, with decades of cat rescuing experience, helped mastermind the search. She thought I had a good chance of finding her. She was worried only about the fox that also shares our neighborhood. Lori brought a trap over which she set up in my garden, well-positioned to lure Demi from several directions, and baited it with wt salmon and chicken-flavored wet cat food.

Shortly after 5 a.m. on Sunday, I went outside to check the trap. Something was inside, but it had a very pointy nose and a long, curly tail—a possum.

But in the darkness, I heard a plaintive “Meow. Meow. Meow.” Could it be? I followed the tiny sounds, shaking the kibble. “Demi? Demi?”

There she was! On my next-door neighbor’s porch. Skittish and scared. I tossed a handful of kibble in her direction. She seemed famished and came towards me, nibbling up the food. Another handful, and then, she jumped off the porch. I was sitting on the ground, trying not to scare her as I tossed kibble her way. She came closer, and then when she sniffed my running shoe, I scooped her up.

Demi was in my arms and safely home.

I emailed the staples employee the happy news.

“The flyers you make do get cats found.”

Kindness is neverwasted, but these days, it matters more than ever.

The Rev. Laura Palmer is a chaplain at CHOP and a priest associate at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Glenside. She lives in Chestnut Hill.

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