Franklin’s friends at Century High School

My cat Franklin and I experienced mind-bending kindness during Kind Community Week. If Franklin could write his own story, this would be a doozy. Six weeks ago, my grumpy, orange tabby went missing. I spent hours walking my dogs and meowing through the streets. Neighbors surrounding Holt Arena went to bed many a night hearing wistful cries. “Franklin! Come here, Little Buddy!” He never came.

The Sunday before the Kind Community Kick-Off, members of the steering committee and I were doing a final walkthrough at the Portneuf Wellness Complex. My cellphone buzzed. The caller lived near me and had seen my “Lost Cat” fliers. His son who attends Century High School mentioned an orange tabby cat showed up a few weeks ago, and the night custodian was feeding it. That couldn’t be Franklin. What would he be doing out at Century?

Ever hopeful, I sent Century’s athletic director a text. Stephen Anderson is still in my phone after coaching volleyball at Century years ago.

“I know it’s Sunday and I’m sorry to bug you, but I hear that my cat might be at CHS. Do have the contact info for the night custodian?” Mr. Anderson replied right away, “Who is this?” I’m sure he was thinking he needed to hit the Verizon store Monday morning because as soon as a crazy cat lady has your number, there’s no telling when your phone will go off.

After sending him a picture, Mr. Anderson confirmed that the Century cat looked like Franklin. Pauline Thiros, Century’s head volleyball coach, was lending us volleyballs for the Kind Community Kick-off, so I called and asked if I could go out with her and look for Franklin. Pauline is not only the four-time state champion coach of the Diamondbacks, but she’s also the Associate Vice President for Development at Idaho State. She is a busy woman. I’ve known Pauline since we played volleyball in high school, and we played together in college as well. She is a fierce competitor and someone I wouldn’t characterize as “sweet” in a million years, but as the sun was setting, she and her daughter Zoe so sweetly walked the school grounds calling and meowing with me. No Franklin.

The next morning at 7:55 a.m., the other two Kind Community co-founders and I just finished a radio interview when Mr. Anderson called. “Billie, it’s Steve. Your cat is out here under the bleachers in the main gym.”

I was supposed to pick up my partner’s kids and get them to two different schools. I called a friend whose kids go to school with the younger ones and asked if I could drop them off in her driveway. Of course she said “yes.”

The other kid is Century student newly with her driving permit. As we sped out South Fifth, I made sure to narrate every traffic law I may or may not have broken or bent. When we got to Century, a custodian named Phil led me to the gym. Phil! That’s one of my other cat’s names. Maybe it’s a sign.

Phil led me through the rushing current of students to the empty gym. He spotted the cat right away under the stowed stands. I held my breath as I dropped to my belly to look. I couldn’t tell if it was Franklin, and I was too big to slide under the bleachers. A kind math teacher had kept kids from entering the gym, and I asked her to find a couple that were smaller than me. Two students named Cory and Alex stepped up. They slid under the risers and coaxed the cat to inch forward.

He scooted toward my hand. Then he licked it. Franklin! I grabbed the scruff of his neck and pulled him to me. He lost a third of his weight and I could feel almost every bone in his body, but he was as soft as he’s always been.

While I sat to hold him in the Century foyer, I realized I was surrounded by student-made signs touting Kindness Week. I was overcome with gratitude but anger and sadness, too.

Where have you been Franklin? Who brought you here? Someone must have trapped and dumped him because he doesn’t go to people willingly. Thank goodness for kind souls.

I couldn’t linger with him long. I had to be at Hawthorne Middle School in an hour dressed as the Cow Crusader for Kindness to help them kick off their school’s Kindness Week. As I was leaving, a secretary whose cat recently died, offered Franklin the rest of her cat food. The principal smiled and gave me a hug. As many in our community endeavored to spend the week celebrating and spreading kindness, I must say, Franklin’s friends at Century High School did it beautifully.

Billie Johnson of Pocatello holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree from Idaho State University. She works as an engineer, is an avid community volunteer, and maintains a blog about her adventures in a cow suit at www.CowSuitSaturday.com.