By Bill O'BRIEN
With a subtitle reading: “The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey,” a recently-published book titled Lost and Found Cat, written by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes – the latter, who was formerly with the no-kill Central Oklahoma Humane Society – tells the heartwarming story of an Iraqi family forced to flee their war-torn city of Mosul and how their cat, Kunkush, travels as far as Greece before becoming separated on the arduous journey.
But it doesn’t end there. There is a happy ending, as Kunkush and her family are reunited through the valiant efforts of animal lovers and humanitarians from around the world. People who want to bring some joy into the lives of this family – and their beloved cat.
Readers here may remember the saga of "Simpson," a cat who was catnapped by a neighbor and dumped in a field near Piedmont, only to be found by a kind farmer months later. After our story ran, many people searched vigilantly for Simpson, as they have for other animals who have faced similar circumstances.
Meanwhile, following her introduction by Raindrop Turkish House's Kuaybe Basturk, Shrodes shared Kunkush’s incredible and moving story Thursday evening at the Raindrop Turkish House, reading excerpts from her and Kuntz’s book and telling how she went from working in Oklahoma City to traveling the world, and ending up on the Greek island of Lesbos, helping people during the refugee crisis two years ago.
Shrodes explained how the widowed mother of that family, Suri, paid smugglers to get them out of Iraq. Not wanting to leave their white cat behind, they paid more to the smugglers for the privilege of taking Kunkush as well.
On the long and dangerous trip, Suri concealed the feline in a basket. Making it to Turkey, and eventually to the Turkish coast, the Iraqi refugees and their pet were transported with other refugees on a small boat to the Greek Island of Lesbos.
However, like so many desperate refugees fleeing chaos in their homelands who died in sinking boats in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, the unseaworthy vessel began to take on water and many threw their belongings overboard in hopes of lightening the load and saving their lives.
SAFE … BUT LOST
Suir, determined to make it to safety with Kunkush was able to make it to the shore of the island with the cat. But scared and disoriented upon arrival, Kunkush fled into a nearby forest.
Shrodes explained that Lesbos locals noticed the white cat because other feral cats in the area avoided Kunkush. They soon remembered that refugee family and the woman who had traveled so far with her cat.
With Shrodes’ background in working with dogs and cats, Shrodes, who was already there, helping refugee families, offered to help, taking Kunkush to a veterinarian to get checked out. Shrodes then took the cat in to protect him.
... AND FOUND
With a strong determination to reunite the cat with her family, Shrodes spread the word – with help from friends back in Oklahoma City – about the cat. This effort went viral via Facebook and a family member of Suri’s – they had been relocated to Norway, where they were thriving in their new life in that Scandinavian country – saw the picture of Kunkush and ultimately the cat was sent to Norway where it was reunited with them.
Shrodes told the Raindrop Turkish House attendees that Kunkush loved her new home in Norway, but, sadly, the cat succumbed to a malady unrelated to her stressful journey, dying in her new, Norwegian home in late 2016.
The author showed pictures of the family and of Kunkush and of the foods that Shrodes was given during her visit with the family in preparing this book – which had the family’s seal of approval.
After her presentation, Shrodes took questions, autographed the book she co-authored and talked to the Raindrop Turkish House guests as they ate Turkish sweets and drank Turkish tea. Also, plushes of the cat were sold, as were bracelets, which were made by Syrian refugee mothers who now live in Izmir, Turkey.
And with many children present – many whom likely had cats of their own – cat coloring books and crayons were made available so they could color and think about Kunkush and the joy she brought to her beloved family.
Andrew W. Griffin contributed to this story.