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Destination: Cruising

The Case of the Black Cat Who Was Lost at Sea

October 18, 1998|EILEEN WENZEL

My husband, Mel, and I are real estate agents. We get our continuing education credits on various cruise ships that hold real estate seminars. And three years ago we cruised down to Acapulco for a seminar, then flew back to L.A.

Besides enjoying traveling, I am a cat fancier to the extreme. I have a cat at home called Coco, and I collect cat items of all kinds.

I am also very fond of a beanbag cat I call Blackie (named after the first cat I had as a child in England). I take Blackie everywhere with me, to and from work, out and about. Before we left for that Acapulco cruise, I was even looking for an evening purse big enough to hold Blackie (who is about 11 inches long and stands erect).

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Frankly, people who know me do not find this behavior toward Blackie peculiar or insane. And since we have no biological children, it all seems normal to me.

Here's where our nightmare began: Returning home from Acapulco, we were on the plane when Mel asked to me, "Did you pack Blackie?"

"Of course not. You did," I said.

"No, I did not," he said.

At this point I did not panic since my husband's hobby is tormenting me.

"Knock it off," I said. "Is she in the carry-on bag?"

Then, in a blinding revelation, I realized that we had left Blackie on board the cruise ship.

The very next morning I called the cruise ship's office and spoke to some Australian bloke called Barry, who later contacted the ship. He said Blackie the cat was safe on board, but the ship was now in the Panama Canal. He assured me that three weeks later the ship would be in port nearby, and I could go to his office in Long Beach and pick her up.

The three weeks passed. I called Barry, but he had forgotten all about Blackie due to some cruise line problem in San Diego. Besides, Barry was not taking this whole Blackie thing seriously.

He then said he would have Blackie shipped to my home from Puerto Vallarta, the ship's next stop. Days passed, and needless to say no package arrived. So I called again, and to my horror Barry (the Aussie bloke who turned out to be a Kiwi bloke) was in bloody blasted New Zealand. I had now been chasing Blackie all over the world for six weeks.

Nobody else in the cruise line office knew anything about Blackie. I was very angry. It might seem kind of foolish trying to get Blackie back, but I was mad. She could have been a diamond ring I had lost. Then would the cruise line people be so cavalier?

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So I played my last trump card. I spoke to a supervisor and told her that a priceless antique toy from my grandmother's childhood had been left on board the ship. This brought action.

She phoned the ship and found my cat, which was immediately placed in the ship's vault. Blackie, now on her third cruise, was in Cartagena, Colombia. She would be back in three weeks.

So I called the shipping office again in two weeks to check, and Barry was back on duty. He asked, "Are you the one who has had this whole office in an uproar over a stuffed dog?"

"It's a stuffed cat, you moron, and you broke your promise!"

"OK," he said, "the ship comes in this Saturday, and I will meet you in San Pedro at 9 a.m. at Berth 93."

Flushed with anticipation, we rushed down to the port. Barry was nowhere to be found. I tried to get on board the ship, but was escorted out by two customs officers who were obviously drunk with power.

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By 11 a.m., I had hunted down some ship's officers amid hordes of passengers. The notorious Barry, who as luck would have it was about 7 feet tall, was milling about. I kept poking around, and when I thought I had found him in the crowd, I ran after him breathlessly. "Are you Barry?" I asked.

He said he was.

"Have you got my cat? Please, please."

He opened his briefcase, and there, in all her disheveled glory, was Blackie the cat.

I thanked Barry profusely, handed him four cans of Foster's lager and ran off with Blackie in hand.

Blackie was back home again!

By the way, Blackie still goes everywhere with me, but I'm ever so careful now. I had an ID collar made, with my phone number, and put it around her neck offering a big reward in case she ever gets lost again.

Wenzel lives in Manhattan Beach.

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