The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

July 8, 2012

Cat, lost in May 22 tornado, reunited with owner

JOPLIN, Mo. — Bootsie, the black cat with the white paws, had been missing for 13 months — ever since a massive tornado on May 22, 2011, tore through the middle of Joplin.

So to say that Milo Harris, the cat’s owner, was happy late last month when Bootsie was finally found might be an understatement.

“That’s the first time in my life — I’d always heard the term but never experienced it — that I wept for joy,” Harris said.

Harris, who retired from Joplin High School in 1994 after nearly 30 years as a history teacher, was napping on May 22 in front of the TV in his former house in the 2600 block of Joplin Avenue. Bootsie, who is nearly 13 years old, was outside; his other cat, Toby, was indoors.

When the tornado struck, the front door blew open and the roof was blown away. Harris was pinned under his TV and a collapsed wall until neighbors rescued him. He spent that night at a triage center, getting six stitches in an injury to his leg. Toby was safe in a cat carrier, but Bootsie was nowhere to be found.

“I lost three houses, my truck and Bootsie,” Harris said. “I didn’t mind losing the others, but I sure hated losing my cat. I never stopped kicking myself, figuratively speaking, for not going to the door” to call Bootsie inside.

In the months that followed, Harris visited the Joplin Humane Society’s Animal Adoption and Resource Center “over and over and over,” showing workers Bootsie’s photo. He placed ads in local newspapers week after week, going “here, there and everywhere” when callers responded to tell him they’d seen a cat matching Bootsie’s description.

He even borrowed a trap and, on a tip from a neighbor, set it out one day near 26th Street and Ohio Avenue. He didn’t catch anything other than a glimpse of a black-and-white cat that he thought was Bootsie.

He eventually bought a new house and a new truck, yet the hope of finding Bootsie gradually slipped away.

“I’d given up,” he said. “About 10 months I kept my hopes high, but I thought, ‘Well, he’s gone.’”

At the end of June, Harris got a phone call from someone at the shelter, telling him Bootsie had been found and brought in. A moment of disbelief was quickly washed away by happiness, Harris said.

“I was just ecstatic,” he said. “It’s the best news I’d had in years and years.”

Lysa Buehler, the shelter manager, said Bootsie had been found near 32nd Street and Grand Avenue. He wasn’t very happy, but he was in “pretty good shape,” which she said indicates that he had likely been living somewhere and being fed regularly. He was still wearing his identification tags, which is how staff were able to match him back up with Harris.

Harris said he was concerned that his cat wouldn’t remember him. Bootsie had always been a finicky feline, preferring Harris’ company over anyone else’s, he said. He hoped that the year hadn’t changed his cat too much, and he found he needn’t have worried.

“He loved me to death,” he said. “He couldn’t get enough loving.”

Harris said Bootsie has adjusted “very well” to being back home in the week since he was found. He’s scared of everyone but his owner, who won’t let him go outside without a leash, but he otherwise seems happy and healthy, Harris said.

Finding pets

Lysa Buehler, manager of the Animal Adoption and Resource Center, credits identification tags or a microchip on a pet along with owner persistence as the keys to a success story when pets go missing.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
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    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

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    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

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    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

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    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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