They were a long way from their Indiana home, but Roger Wulf found his feline travel partners alive and well in Waynesburg.
The cats, Ollie and Buddy, were in the tractor-trailer with Wulf last month when he was involved in an accident on Interstate 79 near mile marker 20 in Greene County.
Wulf, of Fort Wayne, was hauling recycled plastic for his employer, BN Express. He said he was driving north on I-79 on April 17 when he struck another tractor-trailer in front of him about 11:30 a.m.
“I looked in my driver’s side mirror, and I was right there on top of him. There was nothing I could do,” Wulf said.
Wulf suffered a fractured vertebrae and required surgery a couple days after the accident.
Wulf says he drives about 130,000 miles a year. For all of those miles, Buddy and Ollie are with him.
Ollie is a 5-year-old cat that Wulf has had since he was eight months old.
“What made me adopt him was he was missing half of his tail,” Wulf said. “He was a cat that nobody would want because he was deformed.”
Wulf thought Ollie needed company, so he got Buddy a few months ago.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Wulf says his cats were at the front of his mind.
“I told the first responders I was worried about my two cats,” Wulf said. The first responders passed the message on to Toni Ferencak, a volunteer at Catnip Acres, a cat rescue in Franklin Township.
Together with Derek Forman, a humane officer for Catnip Acres, set out to locate the cats.
“I drove out to the accident site and looked over the guardrails to make sure it didn’t run into the bushes,” said Ferencak, adding that she hoped the cats did not stray too far from the scene.
The tractor-trailer was towed to Waynesburg. While Ferencak and Forman were setting traps, it turned out neither cat had left their 16-wheeled home, and both were found last week.
“They were in the tractor-trailer the whole time. I climbed up in there, trying to see if I could find something hidden,” Ferencak said. “The whole front of the truck was pushed backwards. They could have been hiding anywhere. They ended up coming out for food. I was happy for the one. I never expected to get the second one.”
Ferencak told Wulf the good news.
“He couldn’t even talk at first, he was so emotional,” Ferencak said.
Wulf had the same recollection of their conversation.
“I was happy. I started crying. I look at those two cats as my kids,” Wulf said.
Wulf says he had some food in the truck, but not enough to last both cats the two weeks they were in there. He said he was shocked to learn they were still alive.
“The grace of God is what kept them alive,” Wulf said. “I love them to death. I was worried about them. I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly thinking about them ... There was a big relief knowing that they survived. Knowing that there’s nice people out there to help somebody like that.”
Wulf cannot drive because of his injuries. However, last Thursday, a friend drove him five-and-a-half hours from Fort Wayne to Waynesburg, and Wulf was reunited with Ollie and Buddy.
“I wish there were more people like (Ferencak) in this world,” Wulf said. “I don’t even know how to say thank you, and how much I appreciate this. Maybe it will inspire someone else to be that kind.”