"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Friday, December 02, 2005

Vive La France!

I just love a happy ending, especially where stray animals are involved, and this one is a corker: Emily the Continental Cat has returned safely. You may remember hearing about this a couple of months ago. The McElhiney family of Appleton, Wisconsin were very distraught when their beloved pet disappeared from their home last September. The story took a bizarre twist when the grey tabby was found, thin and thirsty yet alive, in a cargo container in Nancy, France on October 24th. Apparently she had wandered into a container of cardboard bales at a paper company near her home, and had been shipped across the Atlantic. Fortunately, she was wearing an ID tag, so when she was discovered by sympathetic workers at the Belgian company, Raflatac, they were able to contact her vet in the US who informed the McElhiney's of Emily's predicament. (This should be a valuable lesson to all pet owners, BTW: if you let your animal outdoors, be sure they wear a collar and tag.)

Once the press got ahold of the story, all hell broke loose. Offers poured in from hundreds of people who were travelling from France to the USA to bring Emily home. The State Department became involved, and the French government cut through red tape to expedite her return. Continental Airlines, eager to seize on some good publicity, offered to fly the cat home from Paris in sumptuous business class after Emily's tale spread around the world and she cleared a one-month quarantine.

"This was such a marvelous story, that we wanted to add something to it," Continental spokesman Philippe Fleury told AP Television News at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport.

So it was with much fanfare that a Continental cargo agent handed the globe-hopping feline over to 9-year-old Nick Herndon, son of the cat's owners, at a press reception yesterday. Reporters showed up in droves for the event, which was worthy of the most famous celebrity. Emily meowed and pawed at reporters' microphones as the family answered questions.

On her flight home, Emily passed up a menu of peppered salmon filet and "opted for her French cat food" and some water, said an airline spokesman. Apparently all that French food did Emily some good, as her owners noted "she's bigger and heavier than before".

This comes as no surprise to me. If you've ever been to Paris, you know that if there's one thing the French do extremely well, it's eat. There's a boulangerie, patisserie, chocolatier, or cafe serving mouth-watering, tasty delectables on every corner. I must have gained at least 15 pounds when I was there three years ago, and I'd love to go back again. Seeing how well Emily fared, maybe I should look around for a European-bound cargo container in my neighborhood and stow away inside (I'll be sure to wear a tag). On second thought, maybe not; with my luck, I'd probably end up somewhere in Albania, happy to have un plat de Friskies®.

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