Whether he took the Pacific Coast Highway south before turning inland or stopped to camp somewhere under the Montana stars, this runaway will never tell.
His weight was healthy when he was found in Santa Fe earlier this month, but Sasha’s matted fur gave him away — the hefty longhair black cat was on the run.
Officers from the city’s Animal Services Division picked him up on a south-side street and delivered him to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, where staff scanned for a microchip to determine if he had a human.
A phone call shortly after revealed the extent of Sasha’s expedition across the American West.
“I let him out one night and he never came home,” said Viktor Usov of Portland, Ore., who had been Sasha’s owner and was expecting to be reunited with the feline Tuesday. “That was five years ago. I just thought a coyote got him, which was sad to think about.
“When I got the call, I was ecstatic,” Usov added in a phone interview Monday, “but I was not that surprised. This cat loves adventure.”
Just how 6-year-old Sasha traveled about 1,400 miles from Portland to Santa Fe will remain a mystery.
Usov, 31, a former professional dancer who is now in medical school, said he likes to think Sasha walked the distance, taking in national forests and monuments along the way.
Murad Kirdar, a spokesman for the local animal shelter, said the 18-pound cat most likely hitched a ride with somebody or something.
“We’ve heard numerous stories about cats inside the trunk of a car or getting on a train,” Kirdar said. “How exactly he got from Portland to here, though — that’s anyone’s guess.”
After sharing Sasha’s story with American Airlines, Kirdar received free airfare to fly with the cat Tuesday from Santa Fe to Phoenix and then to Portland, bringing Sasha’s journey full circle.
Usov said Sasha and his labradoodle, Tara, used to eat out of the same bowl when they were a kitten and puppy. He thinks Tara will remember the cat, even five years later, he said.
Kirdar emphasized the upcoming reunion of the four-legged friends was made possible by Sasha’s microchip, which contained Usov’s phone number. Animal shelters and veterinarians will implant a microchip in a pet for just $5, Kirdar said — and as long as owners remember to update their phone numbers, the devices can lead to the most improbable of reunions.
Meanwhile, Sasha’s adventures might be coming to an end, at least for a while.
“Once he’s back home, I don’t think I’m letting him out anytime soon,” Usov said.