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Home for Christmas

Judy and Barney
John and Judy Steenbock never imagined their move to Farragut would be so full of drama. When most newly arrived residents are busy searching for home accessories, the Steenbocks were busy searching for their beloved family member, Barney.

In mid October, the Steenbocks moved to Farragut from their long-time home of Huntington on Long Island, N.Y. They brought along their “children,” Sparky, a Brittany Spaniel, and Maine Coon cats Barney and Max.

On Oct 20, the day after they moved into their Fox Den home, the Steenbocks let the cats out of the screened-in-porch for the day.

Max came home that night, Barney didn’t.

“We figure when he (Barney) was ready to come in, there was a dog between him and the house,” John Steenbock said, “so he just went the other way and got lost.”

Barney and Max were semi-celebrities in Long Island, where the Steenbocks lived in an area that offered 13 free acres among the houses. They roamed the fields and brought back “trophies” of squirrels and rabbits.

The black longhair siblings look so much alike they were often mistaken for one another. In fact, John Steenbock said it was the family’s private joke that most people didn’t know there were two cats. Neighbors were often confused when they would see one of the cats, then unknowingly see the other one a half mile away.

The physical similarities between the cats served a good purpose when Barney disappeared.

Judy Steenbock couldn’t find a good snapshot of Barney to go on the “Lost Cat” flyers she had created for neighborhood mailboxes. Max acted as Barney’s “double” and posed for the photograph.

By Oct 23, flyers were placed in mailboxes and posted on telephone poles and street signs. People began calling in “cat sightings” of Barney. He was seen from Sugarwood subdivision, to as far away as Brixworth subdivision, near Anchor Park.

The Steenbocks soon feared that Barney had traveled much farther.

They received a collect phone call from a man in Phoenix who said he had seen and captured Barney. The caller was able to describe the cat’s identity markings. However, the Steenbocks soon realized he was simply reading off the information from their reward poster. Apparently the caller had located, through the Internet, a newspaper advertisement that had been placed by Judy Steenbock.

“Be very careful, because there are scam artists out there,” she advised.

As the weather turned colder and the days grew in number to weeks, her hope dimmed. Judy Steenbock always followed up on all leads, but never spotted Barney.

The Steenbocks were trimming their Christmas tree on Dec 14 when they saw their black cat on the screened-in-porch. “I was surprised, and thought, ‘Max knows that’s not the door we let him in,’” recalled Judy Steenbock. The cat ran away, so John Steenbock followed him.

“He was whining under the deck (of the house) to let me know he was there,” John Steenbock said, “and then I knew it was Barney.” He carried the cat into the house and announced to his wife that Barney had come home.

“I was shocked,” Judy Steenbock said.

The Steenbocks said Barney’s fur is matted and he’s lost some weight, but otherwise appears healthy. “We have no idea how far he went,” John Steenbock said, “but he’s a tough cat, and physically he’s unbelievably strong.”

Barney now spends his days at home sleeping and recuperating.

The Steenbocks spend their days grateful to have the family together again.

“This is absolutely the best Christmas present I could have,” Judy Steenbock said.

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