St. PAUL, Minn. — Greater love hath no cat for his master than to hang on for dear life to the undercarriage of a tractor-trailer for 400 miles to make sure there was a joyful reunion rather than a sad ending.
Much like human ride-alongs, a pet is a valued traveling companion.
Paul Robertson was in Ohio at a truck stop when Percy the feline jumped out of his truck while Robertson was asleep.
Robertson, a St. Paul resident, had laid down to try and sleep off a case of food poisoning.
When he awoke and couldn’t find Percy, he set out on a long search for his beloved companion, with guidance from Facebook friends.
But the time came when Robertson knew he had to leave Percy behind to meet a delivery deadline.
Robertson has detailed his cat saga in a series of Facebook posts that are making the rounds.
And then a miracle.
About 400 miles down the road, a stinky and very unhappy but otherwise generally OK Percy emerged from beneath the vehicle. The cat had apparently clung to the undercarriage the entire way.
(To tell you how smart and apparently observant Percy had been, the feline engaged a power window switch to facilitate his escape.)
Robertson said he woke up early February 24 in Eaton, Ohio, and saw that the electric window near Percy’s perch was open as Robertson had left the truck idling.
Robertson said on his Facebook page he knew the cat hadn’t been stolen but had managed to open the window, a stunt Percy had done before.
“I’ve been searching this rest area now ever since, calling his name and rattling his dry food bag,” Robertson wrote. “Nothing. I have no idea when he got out. He could be miles away. And there’s a storm coming. And I’m still weak and nauseous. So, I’m resting a bit before I go out looking again.
Robertson posted a map of his location, which allowed Facebook friends to provide guidance in the search, along with moral support. One person even started a GoFundMe crowdsourcing campaign to raise money.
“Thanks for all the good love and good tips everyone,” Robertson wrote. “You are awesome.”
By nightfall, though, Percy had yet to materialize as the weather began to deteriorate.
“Cold, windy, snow starting to blow sideways,” Robertson wrote. “Percy hates weather like this. I wish he’d come back. 2 hrs 15 min til I go.”
The heartbroken trucker reluctantly had to resume his journey.
“I’ve had to leave without him,” he wrote. “I feel like the worst cat dad ever.”
His next 400 miles or so were grueling, with snow and rain hampering his visibility, and “crappy old dirt roads [with] potholes, puddles, you name it” to make things worse.
Then, at one of his scheduled stops in Shoals, Indiana, while walking in the darkness, he got the surprise of his life.
“As I turned back from the shed to the truck I stopped and couldn’t believe my eyes,” Robertson wrote. “Because who should emerge from underneath the truck but … Percy!!!
“He was cold and miserable and a bit wide-eyed,” Robertson wrote. “He stinks like 400 miles of bad road and old truck … but somehow this amazing animal rode with me all day today hanging onto the undercarriage! Those of you who said ‘He probably hasn’t gone far’ were definitely right. Those of you who said he’d come back home, you were right too! Last night when I was searching … in the rain he was probably snug under the truck the whole time!! He just didn’t want to come out when I searched there just about every hour. The little creep!!
“But I don’t care. I scooped him up and we were soon back together in the truck, cuddling and hugging and purring and happy as can be. He’s now sitting in the driver’s seat, probably warm for the first time in 40 hours, belly full, snoozing peacefully. Although he reeks like an old tire I haven’t the heart to bathe him right now. Let the poor guy rest.”
After Percy’s story hit the media over the weekend, Robertson summed up his feelings in a Facebook post Monday.
“Today has been a total riot of Percy-love here on Facebook, and I can't even begin to thank you for all the fun and love you've sent me. I've been having a blast watching the messages and comments on my phone while working.
“Here's a kind of odd little footnote to it all. It was two years ago, on this very day, March 6, 2015, that Howie (his feline companion at the time) went to sleep forever in my arms in Appleton, Wisconsin.
“That was a day of sad love, and today is a day of happy love. Karma? I don't know. But it's kind of poignant, isn't it? I feel like a circle is closing, but I don't exactly know what. I'm content to think that it's a kind of bringing-together of two beautiful little pussycat souls. My privilege to know and care for them both.”
Associated Press sources contributed to this article.
For more about the pets who provide companionship to today's truckers, listen in at 7:50 a.m. Thursday, March 9, to the morning news on KXEL AM 1540 radio in Waterloo, Iowa, with Tim Harwood as he talks with The Trucker Newspaper's own Assistant Editor Dorothy Cox.