ROCK SPRINGS — It’s a heartwarming story that could rival the plot of the classic movie “Homeward Bound.”
Tyler, a spirited cat who keeps his trucker owner company on the road, is about to complete an extraordinary 1,800-mile adventure that began a month ago when they were separated in Fernley, Nevada.
For that first leg of his journey, Tyler somehow found his way 670 miles to Rock Springs, Wyoming.
As co-pilot to Chad McIntyre, a long-haul truck driver who lives in Decatur, Illinois, Tyler had been traveling cross-country for more a month when he somehow managed to escape at a Nevada truck stop Nov. 29.
“My husband had just fed him and pulled out the cat litter box he keeps on the floorboard to empty it like he had done 100 other times,” Brandi McIntyre told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “And then went inside and got himself something to eat and cleaned up and when he came back out, he realized he was gone.
“He has no idea how he got out because he’s not small. He’s a 15-pound cat and my husband did not see him sneak by.”
A Frantic Search
Chad McIntyre searched the truck stop high and low trying to find his friend, but to no avail. Frantic and scared for the cat, he called his wife to tell her the bad news.
Brandi McIntyre went to work immediately flooding the trucker social media network and lost and found animal groups on Facebook with photos and information asking everyone for help to locate their feline companion.
Five days later and more than 670 miles east of Fernley, Tyler showed up at the Rock Springs Flying J Truck Stop where someone luckily found him wandering around. Recognizing his friendly nature wasn’t indicative of a feral or stray cat, Tyler was taken to the local animal shelter where they scanned him and found he was microchipped.
“He was so friendly and just so calm,” said Rock Springs Animal Shelter Supervisor Lydia Gomez. “They knew that he belonged to someone. But we thought it was someone local.”
To the surprise of Gomez and Tyler's owners, who believed he was still missing in Nevada, it was quite a shock for all of them to find out he had traveled that far.
“When she called to tell us he was in Rock Springs, I was like, ‘Wait, what? Where’s that?’ I couldn’t believe it when she said, ‘Wyoming,’” Brandi McIntyre said.
Tyler’s Just A Nomad
While the adventure has been a long one for Tyler, it’s not his first taste of the nomadic life. In fact, the McIntyres had originally encountered him when he mysteriously appeared on their doorstep about a year ago.
After a brief stint at the local animal control where no one claimed him, the couple adopted Tyler, giving him a loving and forever home.
Just exactly how Tyler made it all the way from Nevada to Rock Springs is still unknown, but what is clear is he had to have found some help. It’s likely another trucker picked the cat up and then he escaped from that truck or could have hitched a ride on the engine compartment, Gomez said.
“That would have kept her warm,” she said. “There’s little nooks and crannies all over the engines of those trucks where he would have hid and stayed safe and warm.”
Initially, Brandi McIntyre wanted to drive to Rock Springs herself to get Tyler, but her husband, who drives through Wyoming and was concerned about the winter roads and the unpredictable weather, asked her not to do that.
They also discussed flying the cat home, but Gomez said it would have been too expensive, so she contacted Joan Nickum, an experienced pet rescuer, to help facilitate the transport.
With nearly two decades of organizing pet transports, Nickum said the entire process depends fully on volunteers, called relay legs, to make it happen. Each driver covers about an hour or 90 minutes of travel where they pass the animal to the next. Most transports take a minimum of 15 volunteers.
“There’s no way we could do it without the many, many volunteers who use their time and their own money and cars to make these transports,” Nickum said. “This is all done by volunteers across the country willing to give of themselves to make these rescues happen.”
While the transport crews try to take “direct” routes that isn’t always possible. In this case, that route would have been straight from Rock Springs through Nebraska to Illinois, Nickum said. However, there were issues with going in that direction, so they had to make a detour taking the cat first to Denver, where he spent Thursday and Friday nights.
Tyler’s next stop will land him in Kansas, where Joan will pick him up and keep him for a night. From there, she plans to take him to St. Louis, Missouri, where he will be reunited with the McIntyres.
“He’s grounded from going on the truck for a while,” Brandi McIntyre said. “My husband and I just have decided that maybe it’s better if he stays home for at least a while and then maybe down the road he can go again.”
Beyond facilitating a joyous reunion, the story of Tyler the truck-stop tabby also underscores the crucial role of microchipping pets, Gomez said. She emphasized the importance of pet owners getting their animals microchipped, adding they need to make sure they register the microchip.
“You have no idea how many animals I have seen that have microchips that haven’t been registered,” she said. “And they do no good if they haven’t been. It’s such a simple thing for pet owners to do is to get their pet microchipped and then register the microchip because collars fall off, but we can always find the owner with a registered microchip.”
For Tyler and the McIntyres, that microchip means at least one trucker and his truck-stop tabby will travel many more miles together.