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HAS FAITHFUL SYLMAR FELINE PULLED UP STAKES? : ORPHANED CAT REPORTED MISSING BY NEIGHBORS.

Byline: Dennis McCarthy

Sweetheart, the faithful feline of Sylmar, is missing.

Last seen, she was lying under a tree around 10 a.m. Monday morning, looking like a fat cat who had the world by the tail.

She was so full from food dropped off by strangers that it seemed like she could hardly move, not even to walk over and be petted by the people who have helped her these past three years while she's faithfully waited for her owners to return to their red-tagged condo that was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Every day, every night, rain or shine - just sitting there in the empty condo complex, waiting.

After I made her vigil public, and TV and radio stations followed up on the story, so many people dropped off food for the faithful feline that skinny, old Sweetheart ate like a queen, and put on a few pounds.

The only thing missing from her contented smile was a toothpick.

The people who knew her from back when were a little surprised.

``She used to run out every morning meowing very loudly - hungry, and wanting us to leave her breakfast,'' said Bill Brown, who delivers the Daily News in Sweetheart's Sylmar neighborhood early every morning with his daughter, Becci.

``Recently, though, when Becci would call for her in the morning, she'd come walking out from behind the chain-link fence real slow like, with a look on her face that said, `Oh, no, not more food.' ''

Later Monday morning, Bill Marrujo, Sweetheart's neighbor who first noticed the cat had returned to the now empty condo complex about 10 days after the earthquake, stopped by to look in on her.

``She was reclining under a tree looking pretty content with the world,'' Bill said, laughing. ``She seemed to be enjoying her new found popularity. When I went back again that night, though, she was gone. No one's seen her since.''

The $64,000 question, of course, is who took Sweetheart, and how's she being treated? An awful lot of people care.

After three years of loyalty like this, she should be receiving some heavy-duty tender love and care now, but in this day and age, who knows?

Still, the odds favor a good home for Sweetheart because there was no shortage of people wanting to offer her new, warmer lodging after the column ran.

The calls to help have been coming in from as far away as Minneapolis, where people read the column about Sweetheart's loyalty in their local papers.

A contingent of self-proclaimed cat lovers from San Diego read the story, and offered to make the trek up the coast to rescue Sweetheart from decadent L.A.

Closer to home, dozens of phone calls and letters from Valley people started rolling in with offers of a new home for the faithful feline.

Even private eyes and skip tracers - people who know the ins and outs on how to find people - have called offering Sweetheart their expertise on locating her former owners, if they want to be found.

And now, it looks like somebody has her. And, even with the question of who still unanswered, the neighbors who know this cat best - the people who witnessed its faithful vigil for almost three years now - think it's a good thing.

``It's something that should have been done a long time ago, but she just wouldn't go with anybody,'' said Marrujo, who took Sweetheart home once, only to have her run away a few hours later - back to the red-tagged condo.

``After your column ran, the cars were lined up on the street with people dropping off food,'' he said. ``I thought for sure that one of them would take her, and I guess they have.''

Bill and Becci Brown feel much the same way. ``We just hope that wherever she is now, she's warm and safe,'' Bill says.

``Hopefully, the people who took her know that she'll run away if she gets the chance, so they'll keep her inside until she gets used to it.''

Still, neither the Browns, Marrujo or any of the people in this Sylmar neighborhood who have been keeping tabs on this cat since after the earthquake would be surprised to look through the chain-link fence around the still red-tagged condo complex on Foothill Boulevard one morning, and see Sweetheart back at her old stand - just sitting there, waiting.

``Cats have a way of coming back,'' Marrujo said. ``It wouldn't surprise me at all if she somehow found her way back. Again.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO Sweetheart, who has waited nearly three years for her owners to return to their red-tagged condominium damaged in the Northridge Earthquake, was last seen Monday.

Myung J. Chun/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 14, 1996
Words:789
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