Rachel Burk has always had a soft spot for cats.
And so when the Stevensville woman read a Facebook post about a cat that had been spotted wandering around a rest stop near the Idaho border, she decided she was going to do something about it.
“The Bitter Root Humane Association made a post on the lost-and-found pets page about a cat that was seen at the rest stop past St. Regis,” Burk said. “It asked anyone headed that way to see if it could be caught and checked for a microchip.
“That bothered me all day after I read about it,” she said.
It nagged at her enough to get in the car with her boyfriend, Joe Gordon, and make the three-hour drive to the rest stop off Highway 90 just past the tiny town of Saltese.
“It’s the very last rest stop before you get to the Montana/Idaho border,” Burk said. “With the road construction, it took us awhile to get there. He loves cats, too. We both knew we had to try to do something.”
They left Stevensville after Gordon finished his work day, and arrived with enough light to spot the black cat and get it to eat some food. They couldn't get close enough to capture it that night.
After she returned home, Burk started communicating with a woman from a cat rescue in Idaho who had made several trips to the rest stop in an attempt to capture the cat. When the woman finally got it in hand, the sprinklers came on and all she ended up with was some scratches.
Last Saturday, Burk and Gordon decided to give it another try.
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They drove through a massive rainstorm that turned to hail under a sky that flickered with lightning.
“We ended up being out there in the rain like idiots trying to find this cat,” she said. “My boyfriend first saw him inside a culvert, but a bunch of ATVs flew by and scared him. We then spotted him in what must have been his little home under a big weed.
“I kept talking to him and he kept talking back, but he didn’t want come out,” Burk said. “We had borrowed a live trap and decided we were going to leave that and come back the next day.”
As she started to walk away, “it meowed really loud and it started to follow me,” she said. “I set some treats on the ground and started talking to him. He let me pet him. After a couple of pets, I grabbed him and picked him up.
“He meowed a lot but didn’t scratch me,” she said. “I opened the car door and put him a towel in the back seat.”
It turned out the cat did have a microchip that was traced back to a man in Midland, Texas. Folks at the Burnt Fork Clinic called him and he said that he had given the cat to a “boyfriend’s girlfriend’s sister or something like that."
“He didn’t want the cat back,” she said.
The cat has now settled into at the Burk home. He’s become attached to Burk’s dad, Dale.
“There was a lot of worry about what was going to happen with this cat,” she said. “I don’t know if it could tell that I was cat person or what, but I think Buddy has found a new home here.”