By Shelly Makrugin

Tigger the therapy catCindy Taylor and her family had five minutes to evacuate their home in Irvine in southeastern Alberta when a train derailed on the west side of the community.

Cindy, her husband, five children aged five to 18, and therapy cat Tigger, safely evacuated their home.
But the family was devastated when Tigger slipped off his leash outside the evacuation center at the Cypress County office in Dunmore, 20 minutes from Irvine. The family called and looked for Tigger but couldn’t find him.

“It was very upsetting.” Cindy says. “He brings a lot of joy to the kids, just his personality as a cat. He’s very loving."

Red Cross Emergency Management volunteer Elizabeth Thomson was working with the family when Tigger disappeared. She remembers how distressed they were and made sure she put notes in the file about the lost cat.

“They are a member of the family just as equal as other members of the family.” Elizabeth says.

“Tigger was lost. And for other evacuees, their pets were their main concern.”

Tigger was lost far from home, but he stuck close to the last place he had been with his family. Later that night when it quieted down, a couple of people saw a cat wandering the parking lot and mentioned it to the volunteers. Elizabeth immediately thought of Tigger and happily confirmed it was him.

Elizabeth and Red Cross Emergency Management Coordinator Tina Wideen called the family and offered to drive him in to the Medicine Hat hotel where the family was staying.

“He was very friendly,” Tina said. “But he would not allow us to put him in a carrier or box, so we put him in the back seat of the SUV. And he kept rolling down the back windows!” Tina laughed. “I had to lock them. Who would have believed the cat rolled down the window and jumped out?”

Tina and ElizabethGetting Tigger back was a huge relief for the Taylor family.

“We were over the moon; the kids were crying. We were so thankful to the Red Cross and emotionally overwhelmed.”

Elizabeth has a serious cat allergy and her eyes puffed up during her time with Tigger, but she said it was worth it.

“To see the family and their sense of relief. They were so happy.” Elizabeth said. “And Tigger happily climbed into his own carrier the family had.”

Cindy says the family needed few days to recover from the stress and uncertainty of the evacuation and having Tigger back has made all the difference.

For more information on how you and your family can be ready in case of an emergency or disaster, visit our website and download our Be Ready App.

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