The incredible journey of Piper

Piper Marcum left her Bowling Green home in mid-August under mysterious circumstances.

Her family quickly began to search for her.

After two days, they thought she must be dead.

After all, the cat, who was 15, never stayed away from home very long.

“We were concerned that she’d been hurt or attacked by dogs,” said Steve Marcum, whose daughter, Sarah, a Western Kentucky University senior, had owned Piper since second grade.

“I tried not to think of it,” Sarah said.

For weeks, the Marcums grieved for Piper, who was given to Sarah by Anne Grubbs, a family friend who found Piper when she was a kitten crawling into the tailpipe of a car in a parking lot.

“She’s just part of the family,” said Steve Marcum’s wife, Alecia. “She’s been in our Christmas cards throughout the years and we’ve dressed her up as we’ve been dressed up.”

The Marcums even told their Sunday school class at Eastwood Baptist Church about the loss of their sweet cat.

Then, after Piper had been gone a month, Sarah Marcum’s fiancé, Nick Roberts, a veterinary technician at Alpine Pet Care Center, marked Piper’s file at Alpine “Deceased.”

But Piper, it turned out, was alive.

On Sept. 17, the Marcums got a call from Alpine saying someone had seen Piper at Stupp Bridge Co., which is a few miles from the Marcums’ home on Spindletop Drive.

The person had seen Piper’s rabies tag, which had the number to Alpine on it as well as an ID number for Piper.

The stunned Marcums quickly headed to Stupp, which is on Century Street. They wondered how Piper had traveled so far.

“If she had ventured on her own, she would have had to cross the railroad tracks and Nashville Road,” Steve Marcum said.

The Marcums thought Piper may have caught a ride to Stupp on one of the trucks that belonged to people who were doing work on their home.

But it didn’t really matter. They just wanted Piper home.

It wasn’t to be on Sept. 17.

Though the Marcums and Roberts went to Stupp to search for Piper, carrying cat food with them, she was nowhere to be found.

Again, the Marcums feared the worst.

“I left some fliers at Stupp and Longview Fibre,” the factory nearby, Steve Marcum said.

He hoped someone would see Piper and call his family.

Then, on Sept. 19, the Marcums got another call from Alpine. A woman from Glasgow, Heather Dennison, had spotted Piper, read her rabies tag and called Alpine to report that she had her.

Steve Marcum called Dennison right away.

“He seemed really excited,” she said. “It was 20 after 10 (a.m.) when I talked to him and he said ‘I’ll be in Glasgow at 11:30.’ ”

Dennison was glad she could help out. She and her husband had found Piper in the parking lot at Wal-Mart in Glasgow on Sept. 18.

“I saw this little kitty cat just trotting along,” Dennison said. “I saw her little ID tag hanging down, so I thought I’d check it. … I called the number out there (at Alpine) that night, but nobody was there. We took her home that night and I called the number again the next morning. I couldn’t stand to leave her all night. I have my animals and mine have been lost before and I wouldn’t want them to be out there.”

The Dennisons took Piper to Wendy’s and bought her a five-piece chicken nuggets meal.

“She ate every one of them,” Dennison said.

At the Dennisons’ house, Piper was well-behaved and used the litter box easily.

When Steve Marcum picked Piper up Sept. 19, Dennison said, she was happy.

“We lost a cat one time and it wandered for months and months and we went back and got it and he was really bad off and died a couple months later,” she said. “I just hope Piper’s happy.”

Piper was glad to see Steve Marcum.

“She had lost a lot of weight,” he said, “but came right to me.”

Steve Marcum gave Dennison a $25 reward, even though she tried to refuse it.

“But it turned out that they had the Strut your Mutt for Barren River Animal Welfare Association to raise money for the shelter,” Dennison said, “and I donated it to them because I thought that would be the best thing to do with it.”

Steve Marcum was so happy to have Piper that he drove straight to Natcher Elementary School, where Alecia Marcum is the library media specialist.

Alecia Marcum was thrilled to see Piper.

Steve Marcum knew his daughter would be as well, so he called her and she met him and Piper at Alpine, where Piper got a physical and was declared healthy.

“I was real excited to see her,” Sarah Marcum said, “but she seemed out of it, like she wasn’t really herself.”

It wasn’t long, however, before Piper was back to normal, living in the garage, snuggling on the couch with Sarah and keeping mice and snakes at bay.

Now the Marcums would love to know the whole story of what happened to Piper, who they heard was taken to Glasgow by someone who was going to take care of her, but lost her when they opened the door of the vehicle they were in at the Wal-Mart parking lot.

“It’s been a happy ending for our cat and we’ve met a lot of nice people through this,” Alecia Marcum said.

Now, she thinks it’s ironic that Kentucky author George Ella Lyon will be at Natcher on Monday to talk about her books, including “A Traveling Cat,” which is about a feline that takes to the road.

“Luckily, the good thing about Piper is she’s home, and at the end of the other story, the traveling cat is still traveling,” Alecia Marcum said.

She’s taken the opportunity to use the tale of Piper’s travels to encourage students at Natcher to write stories about what they think Piper did when she was on her mysterious trip.

“I’m anxious to see what the classes write,” she said.

And she’s anxious to make sure Piper is in the family Christmas card for sure this year.


Carmichael, Alicia (2005, October). The incredible journey of Piper. Bowling Green Daily News. Retrieved from