International detective work turns up former Hampstead man's missing cat in MexicoBy JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent
March 07. 2018 12:50PM
HAMPSTEAD — A cat that was missing in Mexico has been reunited with his owner, thanks to some international pet detective work.
The effort to bring Junior and his owner, Steve Braun, back together had a happy ending Sunday in Ajijic, a town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.
A retired computer programmer, Braun moved from Hampstead to Mexico last year and took Junior with him, but the 14-year-old cat that’s been a part of his life for the past 12 years disappeared on Feb. 27 while in the backyard.
“I let him go out into the backyard anytime he wants to go out and sniff the flowers. He always comes home. He never goes far,” said Braun, who adopted Junior after taking him in as a stray hanging around the Derry townhouse where he lived at the time.
Braun realized Junior was missing when he didn’t find the cat sleeping next to him in bed on the day his pet vanished.
“I missed him,” he said. “I had no idea where he was. I figured he was gone.”
The 64-year-old Braun had no luck when he searched the neighborhood.
What he didn’t know was that two blocks away, Domingo Marquez Flores, publisher of a local newspaper, had found Junior and was trying to track down his owner.
Meanwhile, 2,900 miles away, Hampstead Animal Control Officer Sheila Johannesen was at home checking Facebook Saturday night when she saw a post by a woman named Julia Schneider de Sevilla, who said her friend found a cat near a church in Ajijic and that the cat was wearing a 2016 rabies vaccine tag from Hampstead Animal Hospital. She had apparently contacted the hospital and was told that the hospital only had a local number for the owner and they would try to reach him because they couldn’t release his name.
Johannesen began assisting with the search first thing Sunday morning by contacting the hospital. She was able to get Braun’s name because of her position with animal control and tried to find other contact information for him.
She checked to see if Braun’s name popped up on the list of local licensed dog owners, but found nothing.
Through more questioning, Johannesen learned that Braun had two cats, and while Junior didn’t have a microchip, the other cat did, she said.
After gathering other information that led to more dead ends, Johannesen decided to pass Braun’s name along to de Sevilla so that she could assist further with the search. Johannesen said de Sevilla was eventually able to find Braun on Facebook and shared his contact information.
Johannesen messaged Braun on Facebook and got an immediate response. They talked on the phone and made arrangements for Braun and Junior to reunite.
“He called me within 10 minutes of our instant message,” she said. “He was crying and he had me crying. Those were happy tears.”
Johannesen said it’s the first time she’s ever been involved with an international search for a pet owner.
“Social media and microchips, all of these things that are available shows how much this works,” she said.
Braun was relieved to have Junior home.
“He sat in my lap and purred for a while, then he went off into the corner, curled up and went to sleep,” he said.
Braun has now changed Junior’s tag information to include a contact number in Mexico.