A woman in Ontario is trying to find a family who adopted her beloved uncle’s pet after learning that her relative passed away.
Magali Greani sends her elderly uncle in Montreal a Christmas card every year, knowing the 72-year-old widower delights in opening her handwritten missives. Ghislain Mairel usually calls his niece immediately to thank her for the thoughtful gesture.
This year though, Greani, who lives in Toronto, never received a phone call. Her uncle had lived alone for 12 years, ever since his wife died. His only companion was his beloved 14-year-old black cat, le Chat.
‘It was quite rough for him since my aunt died. He was very lonely,” she said over a Skype interview. “He loved his cat.”
Early this month, after several unanswered phone calls to her uncle, Greani googled him, trying to ensure she had sent her card to the right mailing address. She was shocked to discover her uncle’s name was listed on a Quebec coroner’s website of unclaimed bodies. He’d been dead for almost six weeks and she never knew.
‘I was shocked. I was really shocked. It was very hard,” she said. His only other relative in Montreal, his brother, had died several years before.
She learned that her uncle had fallen in his apartment in Ahuntsic on Dec. 2, hit his head and died. A neighbour found his body and called police. His body was brought to the coroner’s office, where it sat in a freezer unclaimed. Magali said she never received a phone call from Montreal police telling her what happened.
“I was upset because we wrote a Christmas card. It would have been in the mailbox with my address on it,” she said. “To me it would have been really easy to find me. So yeah, I was really upset (with Montreal police). I think they did the bare minimum to find me.”
Montreal police wouldn’t comment on this case.
Meanwhile, when police found Mairel’s body, they also found his 14-year-old cat, Le Chat. They handed the cat over to the SPCA.
Greani says her uncle would have been distraught knowing the cat he so adored, his best friend, was living in a cage at the SPCA. She was determined to adopt him.
But when she called the SPCA in Montreal to inquire about Le Chat, she was told the cat had been adopted weeks earlier.
She says despite repeated phone calls to the SPCA, she has been stonewalled. She asked administrators there to contact the owners, to explain to them the mistake. But they kept telling her the new owner’s name was confidential. Her repeated requests for the SPCA to contact the new owners were to no avail.
“They said that all the paperwork was done, all the process was done and ‘sorry about that,'” she said. “It’s been really harsh. I am dealing with the grief from my uncle. It’s really really important to get the cat, because that is the only thing that still linked me to my uncle.”
Greani’s roommate Pamela Kohl posted the story on a Facebook animal site, asking for help finding the new owners. Her post has been shared dozens of times.
“I am guessing the people who adopted the cat are probably empathetic, compassionate people,” Kohl said.
“If they knew the story I think they would want to reach out.”
Global News contacted the SPCA. A spokesman explained they received the cat on Dec. 3. They legally have to keep the animal for five days before releasing it for adoption. He was adopted on Dec. 12.
The SPCA says Greani contacted them on Jan. 16, but there were discrepancies in their files (including the cat’s name) which led to confusion. A spokesman continued:
“We cannot give the name of the adoptive family and have followed all legal procedures. There was no mistake on our side. We attempted to contact the adoptive family last week but there appears to have been an error in transmitting the request. We understand Mrs. Gréani’s distress and have contacted the adoptive family to inform them of the situation as of today. We are awaiting his response.”
Greani is heading to Montreal at the end of the week to clear out her uncle’s apartment, and to see if she can find Le Chat.
“The only thing I have left from my uncle is the cat,” she said. “I love cats, and I really want to get him back.”