Fort Worth man picks up wrong suitcase from DFW airport, finds cat
07:53 PM CST on Tuesday, January 22, 2008
By ERIN LYNN EIDENSHINK / The Dallas Morning News
There's more than one way to ship a cat. But a kitten named Gracie Mae may find a cat carrier more comfortable next time.
The cat survived an unauthorized suitcase ride from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport last week. A Fort Worth man discovered the stowaway after he grabbed the wrong suitcase after a flight from Chicago.
"I went to unpack and saw some of the clothes and saw it wasn't my suitcase," Rob Carter said. "I was going to close it, and a kitten jumped out and ran under the bed. I screamed like a little girl."
Meanwhile, Gracie Mae's owners were frantically trying to figure out what happened to their pet.
The cat belongs to Kelly and Seth Levy of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Mrs. Levy said she dropped her husband off at the airport Friday afternoon for his trip to Dallas and then ran some errands. Hours later, she realized the cat was gone.
She had her father tear out bathroom tiles and part of a cabinet to check a crawl space. No cat. That evening, she wandered around her neighborhood, calling for Gracie Mae. Still no cat.
Eventually, Mr. Carter was able to coax the cat from under his bed.
"In the morning, I got close enough to see its collar and the phone number on it," he said. "So I called the number and got a hold of the crying wife of the traveler."
Ms. Levy was stunned to realize that Gracie Mae had survived.
"My poor cat, who just had surgery, survives being packed away in the suitcase, going through the Fort Lauderdale baggage process, going through the X-ray, being loaded onto the airplane, flown four hours to Texas and unloaded," Ms. Levy told the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale. Then, her cat was "picked up by some strange person, driven to his house and unpacked."
Left unexplained: how a suitcase containing a live cat escaped the eyes of baggage inspectors.
Tim Wagner, spokesman for American Airlines, said it's hard to understand how workers would not notice a cat in a bag. But the Transportation Security Administration, not the airlines, screens luggage, and the agency is focused on explosives, he said.
The story has a happy ending: Mr. Carter met Mr. Levy at the airport and handed over the cat. Mr. Levy paid the $80 to send Gracie Mae home.
Before he knew the cat had a home, Mr. Carter said, he considered keeping her.
"If I couldn't have found a good home, I would have kept it," he said. "We were going to name it Suitcase."
Kelly and Seth Levy with Gracie Mae