The residents of the Valley Apartments are more than neighbors.
They are family.
And, as in many families, there is a family pet.
And that’s Milo.
Milo actually belongs to resident Tony Cruz, but he makes his daily rounds to visit most everyone, from sharing lunch with one neighbor to taking a cat nap with another – Milo is known and loved by everyone.
That’s why everyone got so worried on Monday morning, October 29th, when Milo disappeared.
“I don’t always sleep too well, and I was up about 4 a.m. and suddenly I saw somebody dashing past my window,” Tony Cruz said. “So I went over and opened the door to see what was going on, and Milo got out. By 7 a.m. he was nowhere to be found. He never leaves the area, so I was pretty worried.”
“We went everywhere looking for him,” neighbor Betty Smith said. “We took flashlights, we went everyone. No one could find him. We were all just so upset. Everybody in here was so upset.”
Near Halloween, Milo’s disappearance was a true nightmare for the neighbors, who took turns going out and looking for him; but as Halloween turned into Thanksgiving; and then Christmas neared, some were giving up hope that Milo would ever come home.
“We watched and we prayed that we’d find him or he’d come home,” Betty Smith said. “Milo was loved by everyone, from Apartment #1 all the way to Apartment #24.”
Tony Cruz has had Milo for six years, and they are true buddies. When Milo disappeared, Tony wasn’t sure how he was going to get along, but he truly loved his cat.
After nearly two months, there didn’t seem to be much hope for Milo.
But that’s what Christmas miracles are all about.
Over on the northwest corner of Main and Main Cross Streets, a crew is working to remodel the old house that sits next to the Courthouse. Harold Thomas and his workers have been reconstructing and remodeling. Since the weather was chilly, the work continues inside, and that’s where they were on Monday morning, December 17th.
You hear lots of strange sounds in an old house – put purring coming from the walls usually isn’t one of them.
“They were going through the house and they heard a cat crying in the walls,” Tony Cruz said. “They said that they started banging on the walls and listening. When they found him, they cut a hole in the wall and took him out.”
Somehow, Milo had been on an adventure, and his journey took him a couple of blocks from his home with Tony and into that house.
No one (except Milo, of course) is sure how long he was stuck inside the wall of the house, but Tony Cruz said that before he disappeared, Milo weighed about 20 pounds – and upon his return he know weighs about seven pounds.
“He has a hard time walking, he’s just getting back to that,” Tony Cruz said. “He looks big, but it’s just all skin and fur. If you feel him, there’s nothing left. He’s lost a lot of his muscle, and I think maybe even he’s lost some of his sight.”
Extracting Milo from the wall, workers found a tag with his name, along with Tony Cruz’s name and address as Milo’s owner.
So they brought Milo home - just in time for Christmas.
“If he hadn’t had that tag on, they wouldn’t have known where to bring him or who he belonged to,” Tony Cruz said. “I wouldn’t have never gotten her back. They took time to read the tag, and ‘bingo’, there he was.
He just barely got saved in time,” Betty Smith said. “He’s still very weak. He’s walking some, but he’s not to his natural self yet.”
“They brought him to my house next door because Tony wasn’t home,” Brenda Cole said. “I said ‘Let’s go see if Christine is home, and thank God she was.”
“When the lady brought him back, I never asked her what her name was,” Christine Beach said. “I was crying. I just went in and sat down and wrapped him up. He didn’t want me to move, he just wanted to lay there and have me pet him.”
Milo’s return was also comforting for Christine Beach because her husband, Jim, had passed away just 10 days before Milo disappeared, so she had been carrying two burdens since October.
“When I got home and they told me Milo was back, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it,” Tony Cruz said.
Along with Milo, the lady who brought Milo home (everyone was in such shock, her identity remains a mystery to them) also brought some cat food and other things to make sure that Milo had all he needed to get healthy and recover from his ordeal.
“We did not get her name, but we would all like to say ‘thank you’,” Betty Smith said. “It’s been all smiles and happiness since Milo came back home.”
So, now that he’s home, Milo is slowly trying to get his strength back and recover. He still can’t walk very far after his time inside the wall, but all his caregivers say that he’s getting back to normal.
“We all have to help Tony with him because Tony has to go places,” Christine Beach said. “We don’t leave him alone. There’s always somebody here to make sure Milo’s not alone and that he’s okay.”
“If they can have a ‘Miracle on 34th Street, we can have a miracle in the Valley Apartments,” Betty Smith smiled.