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Cat’s 1,200-mile trek ends in Santa Fe

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Sasha, a black cat that was picked up off the street in Santa Fe, is to be reunited with his owner in Portland, Oregon, after going missing around 5 years ago. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Who knows? Maybe he wanted to check out Meow Wolf.

Viktor Usov suspects that his black cat has spent the past five years on a great American adventure.

“Yeah, like he had gone to see the redwoods and the Grand Canyon,” said Usov in a phone interview from his home in Portland, Oregon.

So it only makes sense that Sasha would head to Santa Fe, a popular tourist destination, a part of which is the immersive arts installation “The House of Eternal Return” at Meow Wolf.

Usov, 31, said he hasn’t seen Sasha since he left the house one night five years ago and never came back.

“We have coyotes in this neck of the woods, so we assumed the worst,” he said.

So imagine his surprise when five years later he got a call from the Santa Fe Humane Society informing him that Sasha had been found 1,200 miles away.

“We couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It seemed crazy, but maybe not so crazy.”

Sasha, who is now about 6 years old, has always been the adventurous type, he said. He used to follow along when they took their dogs for walks.

And while cats have a reputation for being aloof, Sasha was affable.

“He loved all animals, all people. He’d come greet us at the door,” he said.

Murad Kirdar, public relations officer at the Santa Fe animal shelter, holds Sasha, a black cat that was picked up off the street in Santa Fe earlier this month. Sasha will be reunited with his owner in Portland, Oregon, after going missing five years ago. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Usov said he named the cat Sasha because it is a common name for males in his native Ukraine, “and I like the name.”

Usov said Sasha was in bad shape when he first met him at the humane society in Portland.

“He was really sick at the time I got him,” he said, adding that the kitten was found to have “a belly full of worms.”

“But for some reason I felt very compelled and connected to him,” said Usov, an accomplished dancer who is studying at the National University for Natural Medicine.

Usov’s mother practices Chinese medicine and performed acupuncture on the cat. That seemed to work.

“He ended up being one of the sweetest cats you’ll ever meet. He loved everybody. He even loved having his belly rubbed,” he said.

Sasha might have been lost forever. But fortunately, Usov had a microchip embedded beneath Sasha’s skin when he adopted him. “All of this comes down to one simple microchip,” said Murad Kirdar, a spokesman for the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.

Kirdar said animal control picked up Sasha earlier this month on Morning Street, which is off Agua Fria Street west of South Meadows on Santa Fe’s south side. He was then listed as a stray.

The animal shelter scanned the cat for a microchip and, sure enough, it turned up a phone number for Usov.

“More importantly, it was updated. We get so many cats and dogs that come in here as strays, but people have changed their phone number or moved and we can’t find them,” said Kirdar, adding that the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter, saves about 5,000 animals a year.

After locating Usov, Kirdar reached out to American Airlines, which agreed to fly him, and Sasha, to Portland on Tuesday.

“We’re glad to have provided a happy ending to Sasha’s long journey,” Curtis Blessing, a communications manager for the airline, said in a statement.

Usov said he and his family plan to meet Sasha, who will be accompanied by Kirdar, at the Portland airport.

“We’re very excited,” he said.

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