Legally blind paraplegic runaway William Ryan, 10, made an incredible solo trek from New York City to a Pennsylvania farm where his father had sent the family cat, police said yesterday.
"Little Willie," as the boy is known, arrived at Sunnybrooke Pet Haven near Gettysburg shortly after 5 a.m. The manager called state police, who had begun a highly publicized search when the lad was sighted on the Pennsylvania Turnpike 18 hours earlier.
Officers arrived to find Little Willie shivering, crying, and begging to see his beloved female long-hair, Twinkie.
"It's incredible," said Sgt. Burke Forbes. "The kid had no money. He thumbed rides, rode the rails, pushed himself along the highway in his wheelchair. Too bad the cat ain't here." Twinkie had escaped four days earlier.
Incredibly, the cat turned up at the Ryan home in Brooklyn just as Little Willie's father, Rex, was getting the word by phone that his son was safe.
With an uncanny homing instinct but with exceptionally bad timing, Twinkie had made the 220-mile trek from the pet farm to New York, passing Little Willie like a ship in the night.
That journey was all the more incredible given that Twinkie, who is deaf, was born with minute, useless hind feet and withered hind legs and had to drag himself on his stomach. The cat is also severely dyslexic.
Rex Ryan said the cat probably thumbed rides and rode the rails and asked for directions rather than trying to make sense of road signs.
"I thought Twinkie would be happier on the farm, but I should have been more sensitive. He was a companion, inspiration, and role model for Little Willie, whose mother was struck by lightning last May," Ryan said in an interview.
"Obviously, Twinkie longed to be with Little Willie as much as Little Willie longed to be with Twinkie. Well, now they will be reunited."
Ryan, 42, a cardboard box designer, arranged with Pennsylvania child welfare authorities late yesterday to have Little Willie remain at the pet farm as a ward of the state. He returned Twinkie to the farm by Federal Express in a padded box at a special two-day delivery rate of $19.50.
"Dog was speaking ot su through those miraculous journeys," said Ryan, who, like Twinkie, is lexically challenged. "Sih will eb done."