Cargo has befriended Akiko, his foster family's 2-year-old Alaskan husky. Cargo, the stowaway cat that arrived in Bangor on a military cargo flight in July, is living with Nanci Hamlin and Justin Proulx until the pilot who is considering adopting Cargo, returns home from deployment. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

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Amid all the troubling news about delayed deliveries at the post office, one unexpected delivery gives us a reason to smile.

In a series of firsts for both U.S. Air Force Capt. Daniel Cotton and Bangor International Airport, a cat was found hiding under a cargo pallet in the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III Cotton was piloting to Europe last month. The crew discovered the flight-taking feline during a stop-over in Bangor, after the plane had departed from a base in California and stopped for cargo in Colorado.

“I’ve been on hundreds of flights all over the world and landed in pretty much every continent and never had a hitchhiker quite like that,” Cotton said.

“We are calling it the ‘feline recovery mission,’” Aimiee Thibodeau, airport marketing and business development manager, said in July “As far as anyone knows, this is a first for the Bangor airport.”

Despite airport staff and the Bangor Humane Society reaching out to bases and animal shelters in California and Colorado, and spreading the word about the cat on social media for weeks, answers about the cat’s origin or owners didn’t materialize.

It’s unclear if the cat had its heart set on a vacation abroad, and was trying to slink around the European Union’s American travel ban. But it’s happily obvious that the adventurous animal, now named Cargo, has found at least a temporary home here in the Bangor area.

Fittingly, two airport employees offered to foster the cat after the shelter put it up for adoption. Nanci Hamlin and her boyfriend Justin Proulx have been in contact with Cotton, the pilot, in case he is interested in and able to adopt the cat when he returns from overseas deployment.

“We told him we will keep Cargo for him if he wants to adopt him when he gets back,” Hamlin said. “Right now he’s not sure if he can and we told him that if he can’t Justin and I will keep him and make Cargo part of our family.”

That family also includes four other cats and a husky named Akiko. While the cats have needed some time to start to get along, Cargo and Akiko were fast friends.

“We really did not know how our husky would be with him, or he with her,” Hamilin said. “We brought Cargo home and those two are inseparable and the best of friends.”

It’s a heartwarming story about unlikely packages and unlikely friendships during a time of delivery deadlines and social distance. As the realities and requirements of an ongoing pandemic continue to keep many of us apart, pets have proven to be an important source of companionship — though it isn’t always cheap. Along with having to shoulder new procedures, many animal shelters have seen increased demand.

“Shelter dogs are really winning in this entire coronavirus experience,” Sarah Brasky, the founder and executive director of a New York-based nonprofit that helps dogs be placed in foster homes, told the Associated Press in April. “It’s a strange phenomenon because there was always interest in fostering and rescue but now it is exploding.”

Cargo the cat may have followed a uniquely adventurous flight plan on his adoption journey, but shelters are constantly engaged in rescue missions, trying to connect wayward animals with a new and loving home. This particular mission seems to have been a great success, even if Cargo now spends much of his days looking out the window.

“I feel he wants to know what is out there,” Hamlin said. “But he’s an indoor cat now.”

In some ways, public health experts and governments have asked us to be indoor cats during the pandemic, avoiding some of the adventures and interactions we might get to enjoy in a more normal time. Like Cargo, we may not be flying to Europe anytime soon. But as he seems to have discovered, Bangor is a pretty good place to be during these uncertain times.

The BDN Editorial Board

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...