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Woman runs tab to find a tabby

| Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Kathy Stack remains in dogged pursuit of a missing cat.

Her efforts to find her pet feline, Paco, have proved both expensive and relentless. She makes the investigators on the CBS-TV missing persons drama "Without A Trace" look like slackers.

"I adopted Paco from the Animal Rescue League last year and fell in love with the little guy," Stack said from the home she shares with her mother, two dogs and three other cats. "I really want him back."

To anyone walking the streets of Munhall or Lincoln Place, that much is obvious.

Telephone poles in those communities are plastered with posters of the missing tabby, who slipped out of Stack's front door on April 19, leaped over a fence and disappeared into the night.

The signs advertise a $500 reward for information leading to Paco's safe return, or about as much as a Sharp 32-inch flat-tube stereo TV costs at the nearest Best Buy.

Stack, in her 40s, had the reward posters printed at Office Depot.

Her most recent order was for 300.

"They are 79 cents each," she said. "But they need those protective plastic sleeves so they won't get ruined in the rain, and that adds to the cost."

Stack also is placing ads resembling the posters in community publications and Pittsburgh's two daily newspapers. The responses leave her alternately optimistic and frustrated.

"I've had a few good leads," she said. "I also had one guy call, drunk, offering me a new kitten. I told him no thanks."

Mass-producing the reward posters was a strategy Stack developed in conjunction with John Keane of Walnut Creek, Calif., who has helped find lost pets for nearly three decades.

In an odd coincidence, Keane claims to have once retrieved a missing Jack Russell terrier belonging to actor Jim Carrey of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" fame.

Keane, the real-life pet detective, uses the professional moniker Sherlock Bones. Stack paid him a $75 consulting fee, even though this Sherlock isn't bringing his magnifying glass to Pittsburgh to search the streets for Paco.

"Part of what I do is support people through their crisis; the other part is to guide them," Keane told me. "I simplify the pet-finding process for them, try to point them toward the things that work."

Asked whether there is a realistic chance of Paco turning up, Keane said, "After (two weeks), I would start to be concerned, but sure, why not• Listen, the pet wasn't abducted by aliens. He's probably still in the area."

In the thus-far futile quest to bring Paco home, Stack estimates she has spent close to $700. Add $500 if the reward is claimed. That's a lot of money, but Stack believes it would be a small price to pay to be reunited with her cat.

"We should be spending money on fixing the house, fixing the leaky basement," she said. "But Paco is very important to us. We need to get him back."

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