Imagine taking a cross-country flight with your furry friend. Once you’ve completed the journey, you can’t wait to get home. You walk to your car, begin loading luggage and your pet into it. Disoriented from medication and the long trip, the animal gets spooked and escapes in the airport’s parking garage. You search for hours, desperate to find him, but to no avail. You leave the airport, not knowing if you’ll ever see your beloved pet again.


Joey before his airport adventure


Debbie and Bernie Walko had that heart-wrenching experience last month. They were relocating to South Carolina with their cat, ‘Joey’, when he got away from them in the parking garage. After hours of fruitless searching and calling for him, the Walkos contacted airport operations and asked that airport staff continue to look for Joey.

Operations Duty Officer Michelle Neeley distributed lost animal flyers and asked all the airport tenants to be on the lookout for him. Rental car employees, skycaps, parking operators, and all operations duty officers walked through the garages and surrounding areas multiple times a day searching for the missing cat.

Then a call came that a cat fitting Joey’s description had been found! A photo was sent to the Walkos who quickly confirmed that the feline was NOT Joey. This particular stray was ultimately adopted by another JAX Operations Duty Officer, who named her ‘Echo.’

While not the missing Joey, Echo found a “furever” home during the search

Still the search continued, interrupted for a few days by Hurricane Matthew. During the storm, Joey’s parents were evacuated from South Carolina and spent nearly a week in Atlanta. After Matthew, they figured there was no way he was going to be found.

A total of twenty-seven days had passed since the search first began. And then, it happened! Michelle received a call from Debbie White with Elite Parking Services that the cat had been found in an area close to where Joey had been reported lost. Although very thin, the cat appeared to be in good health.

Joey enjoying his first proper meal after his airport adventure
Michelle Neeley and Debbie White wait with Joey at JAX

Airport Ops contacted the Walko’s to give them the good news. The very next day, they made the 2 ½ hour drive back to the airport to be reunited with Joey. As Joey waited to be reunited with his family, Ops staff stayed with him to make sure he was well-fed and comfortable.


First look at Joey after 27 days

The Walko’s were happily reunited with Joey in the American Airlines Baggage Claim Office (after all doors were properly secured, of course). A purrfectly happy ending!

Joey finally reunited!

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