Anjel the cat came into Anne Collins’ life at a critical time.
It was four years ago, and the recently divorced 41-year-old had returned to the East Coast, to her native Richmond, Va. A market research software professional, Collins was still finding her feet when she moved up to Long Island City, N.Y. and met the Russian blue cat, just two at the time and belonging to her new roommate.
Collins bonded with the animal and in February, when she moved up to Westport for a job, Anjel came with her.
“He’s very shy at first, but very affectionate—that’s the reason he’s named Anjel,” Collins said of her cat, who is about seven years old. “Once he gets to know you, he’s a love monkey. A snuggle bunny. He’ll lay in bed and purr when you scratch his head, and loves loves loves being with people. He can be very funny. I call him ‘Spazzy Cat’ because in the middle of the night, at like 2 a.m., he’ll run around and spaz out.”
One day in August, Collins returned to the room she was renting in Greens Farms to find Anjel missing. It’s never been made clear just what happened to the cat, though at least one individual living in that house had expressed that she did not care for the animal.
Collins was panic- and grief-stricken.
She immediately contacted not just Westport Police Animal Control but the animal control unit of multiple Fairfield County towns, including New Canaan. Here, Animal Control Officer Maryann Kleinschmitt requested a photo of Anjel and kept an eye out—at one point contacting Collins when a domestic cat came to the shelter, though it turned out not to be Anjel.
“I really felt I was starting to lose hope and I didn’t want to lose hope,” Collins recalled. “I had a family cat go missing, my parents cat at one point when I was visiting him, went missing and he never showed up. So I’ve been through that whole routine before of a cat disappearing and not showing up. I kept telling myself that after I pass the week mark, the 7-day mark, and you know it’s not an outdoor cat, that this will not end.”
A week passed, Anjel could be found nowhere and Collins began to grow despondent.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Collins, a cat around that same time began skulking around Waveny. Clearly not a feral animal, the cat also appeared not to be an outdoor cat, and a woman who was working out of Waveny, Sharon Stewart, began feeding the animal and putting out water for it. Within a couple of days, Stewart contacted Kleinschmitt to say that she was tending to an unusual cat.
Hearing a description of the animal and with Anjel’s picture in hand, Kleinschmitt secured the cat and phoned Collins to tell her that this time, she felt she really did have the right cat.
“It was a miracle,” Collins said.
Though severely dehydrated and suffering now from some lingering effects of the trauma—Collins still doesn’t know for sure how the cat ended up in New Canaan, a town she herself had been to only once for lunch—Anjel saw a vet and had his health restored.
“There are many Animal Control people out there who just follow the process, but Maryann is different,” Collins said. “She really puts her heart and soul into the job. She is the miracle of this. Without her and the woman who helped feed Anjel, I would not have gotten him back.”
“They are miracles and I am forever thankful for them. I owe Anjel’s life to them. Anjel is my rock and I cannot imagine life without him. He’s a special cat, a unique cat, such a good part o the world. He reminds me of unconditional love and gives me back my hope. During a time when I saw some really crappy sides to people, he reminds me that there is good out there.”
Collins said she’s now closer to Anjel than she had been before, and that she has moved out of Westport and into a Greenwich rental that she feels is far safer for the animal.
Collins said that after her divorce, she grew depressed and had lost many of the material possessions she had amassed, including a house in California. She calls Anjel the closest living thing to her heart, a part of her immediate family and puzzles at the thought that anyone could have deliberately hurt him—for example, by removing him from her room back in Westport and dumping the animal at Waveny (a possibility).
For Collins, the two women who helped her reunite with Anjel restored her faith in people.
“They ensured that he survived and was happy, that he would get out of that traumatic situation,” she said. “It’s such a gift on so many levels. I’m not married, so he’s the closest thing I have to a companion. He shares my whole life with me. I don’t know what I would do without him.”