To Lynn Vaught, Gillette was just going to be a stopping point on the road between her home in Whitefish, Mont., and Philadelphia, where she was traveling for an operation.
Her cat Tofu had other plans.
When Vaught was packing her car after a stay at the Holiday Inn, the wily feline pulled a disappearing act.
Vaught, who has worked with mountain lions and bears in her job as a wildlife rehabilitator, wasn’t sure if Tofu had slipped out the door of her hotel or found some other means of escape.
“He’s not exactly a tiny cat,” Vaught said of the mixed breed, which resembles a Siamese. She had rescued Tofu from a barn 10 years ago along with his sister Sushi, who also was on the trip. Vaught had worried about bringing her cats with her on a cross-country trip, and now it seemed as though her worst fears had been realized.
What she did find were several hotel workers willing to do anything they could to find the missing pet.
“We looked in every single room we could possibly think of,” said Chrystal Lund, who works the Holiday Inn’s front desk.
She checked outside, including around Dumpsters, to see where the cat had escaped to.
Lund, and Executive Housekeeper Deedee Scribner, did the most searching, but close to a dozen of the employees were involved in some capacity. People on the work crew who were renovating the second floor, also kept an eye out for Tofu.
Scribner was moved to tears when she thought about Vaught having to leave Gillette without her longtime companion.
Lund, Vaught and Scribner went through the hotel top to bottom, looking under chairs and beds, moving furniture.
Lund and Scribner kept searching, even after their shifts ended at 3 p.m..
At 5 p.m., the group was getting ready to call the police department to see if they had seen any cats out wandering the neighborhood (Animal Control offices were closed that Sunday.)
Vaught was resigned to spending another night in Gillette.
She went back to her hotel room and opened the door. There was Tofu.
It is still a mystery how the cat eluded Vaught and the hotel workers, but Lund thinks he must have found a way to crawl into the box spring of the mattress.
It was the anticlimactic end to a search that had taken up most of everyone’s time and energy.
“We were like, ‘Where have you been?’” said Lund. “I think we had dreams of Siamese cats last night.”
Wherever Tofu had been hiding, the most important thing to Vaught was that she had him back — even though he had made her late for the appointment in Philadelphia.
Though Vaught was soon on her way again, she said she will always remember and be grateful to the hotel workers who helped her.
“I feel like I have a family right now in Gillette, Wyoming,” she said.