A Tattoo Unravels Burli's Secret Past but It Is a Radio Broadcast That Ultimately Leads to His Happy Reunion with His Forever Grateful Current Guardian
|Burli and Hans S.|
"Ein roter Kater? Sehr dünn? Ohne Vorderzähne? Das ist unser Burli!"
-- Hans S.
For a cat who is seventeen-years-old, Burli's last few months certainly have been both eventful and traumatic. His misadventures began sometime in March when he mysteriously disappeared from Hans S.'s residence in Glonn, a spa town in the district of Ebersberg, thirty kilometers southeast of München.
That was all the more puzzling in that he had lived contentedly with the fifty-nine-year-old truck driver and his family for the past sixteen years. "Es ist uns an einem Wochenende vor sechzehn Jahres zugelaufen und nicht mehr weggegangen," Hans S. told the München Abendzeitung on April 7th. (See "Poldi: Das wahre Happy-End des Katers.") "Seitdem ist der Burli bei uns. Der ist ein richtiges Familienmitglied: Meine Mutter mit fünfundachtzig Jahren pflegt ihn genauso, wie es meine Kinder, meine Frau und ich natürlich tun."
Additionally, Hans S. insists that Burli was healthy despite his advanced years and "gefressen wie ein Scheunendrescher." All of that combined to make his loss every bit as upsetting as it was perplexing. "Wir waren alle sehr, sehr traurig," he confessed to the Abendzeitung.
Hans S. and his family searched everywhere that they could think of for him without success before finally being forced to entertain the distressing possibility that Burli had crawled off somewhere in order to die alone. "Das machen Katzen, wenn sie spüren, deas es zuende geht," Hans theorized to the Abendzeitung.
He therefore had no way of knowing that Burli was alive and well and living in the woods of Aying, a municipality in the district of München only fifteen kilometers away and home to the world renown Ayinger Brewery. He was found in a woodpile by Bernhard Schöttl and his nineteen-year-old son, Kilian.
"Wir haben sofort erkannt, dass das Tier schon alt und krank ist," Bernhard told Bild of Berlin on April 5th. (See "Kater Poldi nach sechzehn Jahren zurück zu Frauchen.") "Er hatte ja nicht mal mehr Reißzähne."
|Burli with Kilian Schöttl|
The Schöttls fed Burli for a few days before they discovered that he had a tattoo on one of his ears. They then accordingly handed him over to Tierschutzverein München (TSV).
Staffers there received quite a jolt, however, once they deciphered the tattoo. Specifically, they discovered that his real name is Poldi and that he had disappeared from his first home in Unterhaching, another municipality within the district of München, twenty-five kilometers removed from Glonn, sixteen years earlier. Once contacted by TSV, Burli's former mistress was, to say the least, erstaunt.
"Sie war total perplex, hat keine Sekunde überlegt, ob sie Poldi zurücknehmen soll -- das war für sie selbstverständlich," Eveline Kosenbach of TSV told Bild in the article cited supra. "Sie hat ihn damals überall gesucht."
Kosenbach, it might be recalled, was the one who organized a rally through the borough of Moosach on January 8, 2011 after amateur ornithologist Ernst K. had tortured Rocco to death. (See Cat Defender post of January 19, 2011 entitled "Bird Lover in München Illegally Traps Rocco and Then Methodically Tortures Him to Death with Water and Pepper Spray over an Eleven-Day Period.")
Although Burli's former guardian had been thoughtful enough to have him tattooed, that did not prevent his disappearance which she blames on his inability to get along with her other cat.
While all of this was occurring Hans S. was out driving in his car one day when he heard an announcement on the radio that immediately grabbed his attention. "Ein roter Kater? Sehr dünn? Ohne Vorderzähne?" he thought to himself before it suddenly dawned on him what his ears were telling him. "Das ist unser Burli!"
|Burli with Eveline Kosenbach|
He then drove like hell, which is certainly something that the Germans know how to do well as any tourist who ever has driven on the Autobahn will attest, to TSV where he explained the situation. The staff found his story to be plausible and took him to the quarantine station in order to have a look at the thin, red cat without any front teeth that the Schöttls had earlier surrendered.
Burli was lying on a pillow but when he caught sight of Hans he meowed and extended a paw in greeting. The tears came unbidden to Hans' eyes as he gathered up Burli in his arms. The old cat purred with delight.
In his 1972 country classic, "Watermelon Wine," Tom T. Hall opined that there are only three things in this world that are worth a solitary dime: old dogs, children, and watermelon wine. He elaborated by adding:
"He said women think about theyselves (sic) when menfolk ain't around,
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you're down.
He said I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime,
Now it's old dogs and children and watermelon wine.
Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes.
God bless little children while they're still too young to hate."
If he were to consult Hans S., he might very well be prompted to expand that list to include old cats as well.
"Bei uns heißt er, Burli, und dass wir ihn wiederhaben, ist das schönste Ostergeschenk," he told the Abendzeitung in the article cited supra.
|Burli in the Garden|
It is unclear exactly how the custody issue was resolved, but suffice it to say that Burli's previous owner has elected not to press her suit. Even if she had been so inclined, it is far from certain that she would have prevailed.
"Der Mann hat sich völlig korrekt verhalten," München jurist Rudolf Brettmeister told the Abendzeitung in the article cited supra. "Mangels Zuordnung zu einem Eigentumer war das Tier als herrenlos anzusehen."
Early on in his guardianship of Burli, Hans S. had taken him to a veterinarian but the practitioner had been unable to decipher the tattoo. It is unclear why TSV was able to succeed where his veterinarian failed unless the charity simply is more proficient in such matters.
The woman has not been left totally out of the picture in that Hans S. has extended an invitation for her to visit Burli in Glonn. The risk involved there, should she accept, is that she very well could have a change of heart upon seeing Burli again, especially if he should happen to still remember her.
Sadly, there is a dark cloud hanging over Hans and Burli's happiness. Specifically, while Burli was at TSV's shelter he was diagnosed to be suffering from both liver disease and Feline Hyperthyroidism.
The encouraging news is that TSV believes both ailments to be treatable. "Aber jetzt sind unsere Tierärzte guter Hoffnung, dass sie ihn wieder hinkriegen," Monika von Tettenborn of TSV told the München Abendzeitung on April 5th. (See "Kater auf großer Tour.")
|Burli Enjoying His Leibspeise|
Happy to be back home, Burli now spends bis days sleeping, playing in the garden, and dining on sliced chicken. "Das ist Burlis Leibspeise," Hans S. told the München Abendzeitung on April 10th. (See "So lebt der weltberühmte Ausreißer-Kater heute.")
In his younger days, Burli used to give the bum's rush to every dog that dared to venture onto his Grundstück but these days he seems to be more content to bask in the attention ladled on him by Hans and his family. He not only attentively listens to every word spoken to him but gives the distinct impression that he comprehends them as well.
Since he always has been frightened of thunderstorms, Hans now believes in hindsight that he was frightened into becoming as Ausreißer by the ruckus generated by a construction crew erecting new houses in the neighborhood. "Einmal hat das ganze Haus vibriert," Hans S. told the Abendzeitung in the April 10th article cited supra. "Wir vermuten, dass Burli sich so gefürchet hat, dass er fortgelaufen ist. Warum sollte er sonst ausbüxen, zum ersten Mal in sechzehn Jahre?"
As for how he made it to Aying, Hans speculates that Burli may have taken refuge in a parked car so as to escape the bedlam unleashed by the construction crew and in turn unwittingly became a stowaway. While that is certainly a possibility, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he simply walked the fifteen kilometers. After all, cats are known to sometimes cover great distances zu Fuß.
A few years back, a three-year-old one named Mimine spent thirteen months walking eight-hundred kilometers from Toulouse in southwest France to Treveray in the north in order to track down a family that cruelly had abandoned her. Although the cat that they had left behind was neither tagged nor microchipped, the family insisted that the late arrival was indeed their Mimine.
As incredible as her journey was, it never has been explained how Mimine knew where to find her family. (See Cat Defender post of April 27, 2007 entitled "French Chat Named Mimine Walks Eight-Hundred Kilometers to Track Down Family That Abandoned Her.")
|Burli Ruminating on the State of the World|
With the unriddling of his extraordinary secret past, Burli thus became the second cat in recent memory to be so exposed thanks to a tattoo. Earlier in January of 2010, Ingrid Kerger got the shock of her life when a veterinary hospital in Oakbank, fifteen kilometers east of Winnipeg, telephoned to inform her that it had located her cat, Tiger Lily.
The truly amazing part of that was that Tiger Lily had disappeared from Kerger's home in Lockport, thirty-two kilometers north of Winnipeg, on October 12, 1996 when she was only three-years-old. "I was in shock when they called," Kerger later said. "My sons were incredulous."
The improbable reunion was made possible not only by virtue of Tiger Lily's ear tattoo, but also the due diligence demonstrated by the surgeons who tracked Kerger from Lockport to the new abode in Winnipeg. To top it all off, Kerger insists that Tiger Lily still remembers her and her two sons despite all the years of separation. (See Cat Defender post of March 31, 2010 entitled "Winnipeg Family Is Astounded by Tiger Lily's Miraculous Returns after Having Been Believed Dead for Fourteen Years.")
It accordingly is entirely possible that Burli will remember his former mistress should they ever meet again. With cats it is pretty much impossible to know not only where they have been but what they recall.
Tattoos therefore do unquestionably work to a certain degree even though they have their negatives and limitations just like all pet identification devices. Chiefly among these is the need to sedate cats before marking them.
|Tiger Lily with Ingrid Kerger|
They also are a form of mutilation much like the branding of livestock and the surveillance tagging of wildlife. For instance, early last month eighty-five-year-old Holland Cokeley of South Strabane, Pennsylvania, found a turtle that his son, Jeff, had carved his initials and the date into the bottom portion of its shell forty-seven years ago. (See Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2012, "Turtle with Unique Mark -- Boy's Initials -- Found after Forty-Seven Years.")
While it is unclear how much pain the younger Cokeley inflicted upon the defenseless turtle, it is indisputable that it had to have been frightened out of its mind. To mistreat an animal in such a fashion is the very epitome of animal cruelty and the younger Cokeley accordingly belongs in jail as opposed to being treated as another darling of the insensitive capitalist media.
Tattoos also are sometimes difficult to decipher, as Hans S. found out, and those using them must keep their contact information updated with whichever registry, such as Tattoo-A-Pet in Fort Lauderdale, that they choose to use. As the cases of both Burli and Tiger Lily have more than amply demonstrated, that entails doing so for up to twenty years after a cat has vanished.
Normally, cats are tattooed on their ears but since some unscrupulous individuals and business have been known to cut off tattooed ears before illegal selling them to vivisectors, many owners elect to have their companions tattooed a second time on the insides of their thighs. The rationale being that no self-respecting vivisector ever would entertain the notion of carving up a mutilated cat; rather, they require wholesome, intact specimens so as to better gauge the full extent of the damage and pain that they so ruthlessly inflict.
Many of the same limitations that pertain to tattoos also apply to surgically implanted microchips as well. In particular, they sometimes malfunction and veterinarians and shelter personnel often are unwilling to do a thorough job of looking for them. Besides moving around inside animals, not all chips operate at the same frequency and therefore require different scanners in order to be read.
Most important of all, there is a growing body of scientific research linking them to cancer. (See Cat Defender posts of September 21, 2007 and November 6, 2010 entitled, respectively, "FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs" and "Bulkin Contracts Cancer from an Implanted Microchip and Now It Is Time for Digital Angel and Merck to Answer for Their Crimes in a Court of Law.")
Collars, whether they be conventional, elastic, or breakaway, remain the least invasive form of identification although they certainly are not without their limitations and negatives. (See Cat Defender posts of May28, 2008 and June 22, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Collars Turn into Death Traps for Trooper and Que but Both Are Rescued at the Eleventh Hour" and "Hobson Is Forced to Wander Around Yorkshire for Months Trapped in an Elastic Collar That Steadily Was Eating Away at His Shoulder and Leg.")
|Holland Cokeley's Mutilated Turtle|
Despite the extravagant claims made by their proponents, no identification device ever will protect a cat against the machinations of ailurophobes, thieves, motorists, and poisoners. Likewise, none of them will prevent a cat from either getting lost or experiencing misadventures.
In Burli's case , he was saved from starvation and an untimely death by the compassion of the Schöttls. Secondly, once they noticed his tattoo, they chose to attempt to reunite him with his owner by handing him over to TSV.
The real architect of this happy reunion, however, was TSV which had not only the expertise to decipher Burli's tattoo but went the extra mile by contacting the media. If Burli had wound up with a rescue group that was any less conscientious than TSV, he likely would have been returned to his previous owner and Hans S. would have gone to his grave never knowing what had become of him.
This unfortunate episode possibly could have been avoided if Hans either had registered Burli's tattoo or outfitted him with a collar. Even more inexplicably, there is absolutely nothing in press reports to suggest that he either visited local shelters or blanketed his neighborhood with Lost Cat posters.
Also, individuals searching for lost cats need to pay special attention to all movable objects in their neighborhoods, such as automobiles, garbage trucks, discarded furniture, and even parcels going out in the post. Since they have a tendency to secret themselves away in small compartments when frightened, it is easy for an unwitting cat to get trapped inside one of these objects and to subsequently end up halfway across the country never to be seen again.
In the final analysis, collars, Lost Cat posters, visiting shelters in person, door-to-door canvassing of neighborhoods, and paying special attention to movable objects trumps everything that modern science has to offer when it comes to locating lost cats. It additionally is a good idea for cat owners to reconnoiter their neighborhoods well in advance for potential dangers, whether they be human or animal.
Above all, the most important thing to bear in mind is that lost cats are helpless in such circumstances and the sand is fast running out of the hourglass. Anyone who truly cares about a cat must be willing to drop everything, go all-out, and to spare no expense in order to relocate it.
A cat's life is something precious and once it is extinguished it cannot, like that of the mythical phoenix, be rekindled. Moreover, anyone who ever has loved one of them and had the good fortune to be loved in return knows only too well how intricately his happiness and that of the beloved are intertwined.
Photos: Sigi Müller of München Abendzeitung (Burli with Hans S., in garden, eating, and up close), Bernhard Schöttl (Burli with Kilian), Tierschutzverein München (Burli with Kosenbach), Winnipeg Free Press (Tiger Lily with Kerger), and Holland Cokeley (mutilated turtle).