TOWNSHEND -- For the most part, Py is a healthy-looking male cat that doesn’t seem shy around strangers.
But his shortened, singed whiskers offer a hint of what he’s been through: After surviving a July 18 home explosion in Townshend, Py eluded capture for two weeks.
It took a persistent community effort to finally rescue Py earlier this week and reunite him with a female feline, Smudgie, who also lived through the blast.
"They definitely are miracle cats," Lorrie Snow said after checking on Py Thursday afternoon at West River Valley Veterinary Service in Newfane.
Even before the Grafton Road explosion last month, Snow and her husband Rick had a bond with the cats: Homeowner Carlton Smith had asked the couple, who are friends and neighbors, to check on and feed her pets while she was out of town.
The Snows left Smith’s home the evening of July 17, having noticed no problems. Before 3 a.m. the next day, a blast -- possibly caused by leaking propane -- shook Townshend Common and sent debris sailing a few hundred feet.
No one was injured, but Smith’s cats were presumed dead. That changed the next day, though, when Smith and Lorrie Snow spotted Py hiding inside the wreckage.
Then, the following evening, the Snows found Smudgie and pulled her to safety after receiving a tip about the cat’s whereabouts from a sheriff’s deputy.
"We began to yell," Lorrie Snow said. "She just came sauntering over." Added Rick Snow: "We put her in a crate and sat her right outside the window, hoping her meowing would lure (Py) out."
But Py would not leave willingly. The day after the explosion, he had briefly exited but then escaped back into the house. And, as the Snows made their daily visits, they noticed that the cat had relocated to the home’s cellar.
"He’d sit on the broken wood and the broken shutters and talk to us," Lorrie Snow said. "Then he’d go back to the basement."
The Snows heard from Py on July 26, and then he disappeared. Though they did not give up hope, the couple feared the worst.
"Every night, we’d walk around the property hollering to him, hoping he’d answer us," Rick Snow said.
The situation seemed hopeless when a cleanup crew arrived to remove what had become an unstable pile of debris.
"We were very concerned that the cellar had caved in on him," Lorrie Snow said.
But on Tuesday, Py appeared in the area of a detached garage. And on Wednesday evening, lured by food placed on a mattress, the cat scarfed its meal and approached Rick Snow.
After some careful coaxing, "he just let me pick him right up," Snow said. "He acted like he was relieved to finally be caught." Though it was late, the Snows called Dr. Heidi Winot of the West River Valley clinic.
"They appear to be in good health, considering their experience," Winot said. "They did have superficial singeing on their coats and whiskers."
The veterinarian had been assisting in the search and had pledged her help no matter what time of the day Py finally emerged. "We did our best to try to convince Py to join us," Winot said. "We did our part. It’s just that kind of community."
The Snows feel the same way: They noted that the outpouring for Smith’s cats included help from Windham County Sheriff’s Department and from staff at West River Family Dental.
"They were keeping an eye on him," Lorrie Snow said. "They put food out."
The dental office was damaged in the explosion but since has reopened with a few boarded-up windows. And nearly all of the wreckage of Smith’s historic home had been removed as of Thursday, leaving a hole where the foundation had been.
But Py and Smudgie, who soon will be staying with Smith at the Snows’ home, represent two small, furry bright spots.
"It’s a huge relief," Lorrie Snow said. "Something wonderful happened in spite of this horrible tragedy."