KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (Portland Press Herald) — Here, kitty, kitty.
Romeo, a sociable, 5-year-old gray tabby cat whose owner in Kennebunkport thought it had crossed the Rainbow Bridge after disappearing more than a year ago, is back home.
It’s all because a man from Solon found the feline in the Waldo Count town of Unity — more than 100 miles northeast — and took him to a veterinarian in Skowhegan.
Where did you go, Romeo? And how?
Kevin Taft, who lives on North Main Street in Solon, said he was in the Field of Dreams Park in Unity on Oct. 10 doing paperwork for his job when met Romeo, who, as it turned out has a long history of roaming. (Romeo was once detained briefly by the Secret Service after he wandered onto the family compound of former President George H.W. Bush at Walker’s Point in 2015; more on that later).
“I was sitting at a picnic table doing my paperwork and I heard a meow and then I had somebody sitting in my lap — and it was him,” Taft, 47, who works for Goodwill and for SequelCare of Maine, said by phone Wednesday of Romeo. “He was very friendly. Lovable. Came right to me.”
Taft said the cat was a bit lean when he found him, but otherwise healthy. He thought it was a “drop-off” cat, one that had been abandoned.
Meanwhile, 120 miles to the south in Kennebunkport, George Lichte nearly had given up hope of ever seeing Romeo again. He had made up posters asking his neighbors to “please check in and under sheds, garages and other buildings” and asked to be notified at once if anyone found Romeo.
“Romeo disappeared a year ago,” Lichte wrote on his Facebook page on Oct. 21. “Today we got a voicemail from a vet in Skowhegan that they scanned his microchip this morning while someone was bringing him in for shots.
“How did Romeo end up 100 miles away? Stay tuned. … Romeo is apparently still a very funny cat.”
Contacted by phone Wednesday, Lichte said Romeo is well known in the Kennebunkport area, visiting homes, hotels — even the dance floors at wedding receptions. Romeo had a collar that told anyone who found him to leave him; he’d return home eventually.
Not this time, though.
“We’ve had Romeo for four years, I got him as a kitten for my birthday,” Lichte, 60, said Wednesday afternoon. “He has spent a lot of time wandering around the town of Kennebunkport. He’s got his own door he goes in and out along with the dogs.”
Romeo would disappear and Lichte would put up posters to alert his neighbors and others to be on the lookout for the gray tabby cat. Lichte said Romeo lives on wild birds and mice during his wanderings.
Lichte said he once received a phone call on a Saturday evening in 2015 and was told he was being “patched through from a dispatcher,” thinking it was the local Police Department about roaming Romeo. It wasn’t.
The caller said, “Romeo’s right here. You can come and pick him up.”
“I said, ‘Where are you?’ and he said, ‘Guard house number one,” and I said, ‘Who is this?’ And he goes, ‘Walker’s Point.’ It was the Secret Service.”
That was a little over a mile away.
Taft, a self-described animal lover, said he was the guy who brought the cat to the Animal Medical Clinic on North Avenue in Skowhegan to have him checked out and have his shots updated. He loved that cat.
Romeo had somehow shed his collar, so there was no way to identify him — except for the microchip embedded in his skin.
“My idea was to adopt him — to keep him as mine because I thought he was a stray — so I took him to the vet to make sure he was healthy,” he said. “He had a few ticks on him; I got those off him. They scanned him and found his microchip.”
Dr. Amanda Bisol at the Skowhegan animal clinic said they scanned the cat, found the chip and contacted the company that sold the chip. That’s when they discovered Romeo belongs to Lichte.
“We we able to reunite them,” Bisol said Wednesday. “I’ve been here six and a half years and this is the first time that this has happened, so it was pretty exciting for us, too. This was the first time that I was able to do it.”
Taft said the story of how Romeo got to his home in Somerset County is a cat tale of epic proportions. He learned that Romeo was picked up as a nuisance at one of the nice Kennebunkport hotels by a Unity College student, who took him home to her residence.
“One girl took him from Kennebunkport to Unity, then she ended up dropping out of school, but left the cat,” Taft said. “Another girl took him and he just disappeared on her one day, and that’s how he got into Unity. It’s kind of really an odd story. The other girl adopted the cat, then he left her, and he was at the park when I found him.”
Taft said he knew Romeo for only about a week but loved him just the same and will miss him.
“I didn’t really have him long enough to grow a great bond with him, but I did bond with him. I did love him a lot,” he said. “He was a very lovable cat, but I was also relieved that his owner wanted him back.”
Taft said he has gotten two more cats since then during a recent free adoption weekend at the Waterville animal shelter.
As for Lichte and his wife, Lillian Ross, they thought that a recent influx of coyotes in the area might have brought their vagabond feline to its last call.
“We didn’t have an end to the story until we got a phone call a couple Saturdays ago,” Lichte said. “They had found Romeo alive. We were just completely flabbergasted. I don’t even know how to describe that feeling, because I had given up. I figured he was all but dead.
“But sure enough, it was Romeo. It took him a little while to adjust being back home, but he’s back to being Romeo.”