Homeless Man Offers Reward For Missing Cat


Daniel Harlan, a slight man with a wispy beard going gray, is just another face in the crowd in San Francisco. He is homeless, a street panhandler. Most people wouldn’t give him a second glance except for his constant companion, a pug-nosed Himalayan cat named Samantha.The cat made him stand out among panhandlers. Now the cat is gone. Stolen, Harlan thinks.

Harlan is 58. He has had a tough life: You can see it on his face, and the cat is probably his only friend in the world.”It’s the only thing he really cares about,” said Harlan’s brother, Stephen Kent, a rancher who lives in Oklahoma.Somebody took Harlan’s cat Friday from a homeless encampment under a freeway off-ramp near Eighth and Harrison streets. Harlan had gone off to buy some food for himself and Samantha at a nearby store with money he’d gotten panhandling. He left the cat on a leash tied to his tent. “Somebody just untied the leash and took her,” he said Monday. “I was only gone for a few minutes, and when I got back she was gone.”

Harlan went looking for the cat in the area, and when he returned after a while, somebody had made off with his battered tent, too. He went to the police, but they had no time to search for a homeless man’s cat. He went to the SPCA, too, and the animal control shelter. No luck. Nobody had seen Samantha.She’s easy to recognize: gray, short hair and a pug nose; the cat looks like it ran into a wall. “There’s only one like it in San Francisco,” Harlan said.

Samantha and Harlan had their brief moment in the spotlight when Chronicle photographer Mike Kepka took their picture for a story about Market Street, and it ran on SFGate. Harlan came to The Chronicle for help Monday. He hopes somebody might see the cat’s picture in the paper or on SFGate and help bring her back.”I bet somebody stole her to sell her for money,” he said. “She’s a very expensive cat. I paid $2,200 for her back in Oklahoma, back when I had money nearly four years ago.”She is leash-trained,” he said, “She’s not afraid of dogs and she’s friendly with people. She keeps me calm, and she helps me out,” he said. “She’s with me 24/7.”

Harlan is originally from around Muskogee, Okla., and used to work in construction in Oklahoma and Texas. He did OK, but his luck turned bad when he bought a big motor home hoping to move around the country. “But it broke down,” he said, “I got it fixed and it broke down some more. I had to sell it for $500.”He said he bought an old pickup truck, but it broke down, too. “Every mechanic in the world took advantage of him,” said his brother, Kent.

Harlan and Samantha stayed with Kent for a while, then headed to California. “I told him, they got hard times there, too,” Kent said. “But he was in California before and he wanted to go back. ”It’s on old, sad story. “He’s a pretty good guy, just down on his luck,” said Kent. “He used to drink, but not anymore. That cat keeps him calm. He’s a good cat, very smart.”Harlan gets about $975 a month from Social Security; the rest he gets from the kindness of strangers. He has a sleeping bag and a cell phone; even homeless people have cell phones these days.



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. angel
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 16:56:41

    I am really sad for this stranger. I appreciate that you have wrote a story about this guys dilemma, and I’ll keep my eye out for the cat if I see him in my hood. Blessings Daniel 🙂


  2. chick
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 16:57:04

    That’s so sad. I hope he gets his cat back!


  3. sally
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:01:26

    I hope he gets his cat back. I have three at my house (roommate’s) and I cannot imagine my life without any of them. Cats are so comforting.


  4. suzy
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:03:53

    Please run a followup and tell us how this turns out.


  5. John
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:06:27

    Cute cat i should ask the guy how much would he sell it for.


  6. teddy
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:07:44

    Some people do still genuinely care.


  7. zoe
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 17:08:08

    Aw, that’s sad. Who would steal someone’s pet? 😦


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