After a series of wildfires devastated California last month, many families are still reeling from their losses. Not only were countless homes and possessions destroyed, but a few loved ones were lost as well.
The Stockham family, from Santa Rosa, was caught up in the October 9th North Bay wildfires. With very little advanced warning, the family’s mother, Dani, told everyone to get dressed and evacuate immediately.
There was no time to pack any possessions. But there was one thing they couldn’t leave behind: Thomas, the family cat.
Fifteen-year-old daughter Lea went back and grabbed her cat, desperately trying to take it with them as they fled the soon to be destroyed home.
But when Thomas slipped away out of sight, there was no time to look for him.
“It was really devastating when I couldn’t grab him,” Lea told KPIX. “He had just like started clawing at me and slipped right out of my arms.”
The family fled to safety without their beloved cat. Their home, like so many homes in the area, was completely destroyed.
They were heartbroken to think Thomas was somewhere in the rubble.
They eventually returned home after the disaster, with still no word about their cat.
But then, they discovered something that seemed to confirm their worst fears: the body of a cat, right where Thomas used to sleep.
Devastated, they held a funeral for their ill-fated pet.
The death hit particularly close to home for Lea, who had Thomas her entire life.
“I got him when I was 2, and he was like my first animal,” Lea told KTVU.
“Realizing that he was gone was terrible.”
It was a heartbreaking loss that only compounded their existing problems. Six weeks passed since Thomas’ funeral, and the family started the slow recovery process.
But then, they got an email.
After the fires, San Francisco Park Ranger Shannon Jay had been tracking down and capturing lost cats displaced from their homes, hoping to reunite them with their families.
Only a few blocks from the Stockham’s dilapidated property, he trapped a gray and white cat.
Jay was happy to discover that the cat had a microchip implanted, which made it easy to find the owners’ contact information.
So he emailed the Stockhams—not realizing they were certain their cat was dead. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
“When my parents said we got the email, I started crying because I was like, ‘No way. This can’t be happening,'” Lea recalled to KTVU.
But then, they saw the cat up close—and knew it was him.
“It was gray and white, and you could just see fur on the back of the head,” Dani told KPIX. “There was no doubt that it was Thomas.”
And Lea would have recognized her old friend anywhere.
“I didn’t believe it till I saw him and saw him like meowing and purring,” she told KTVU. “He knew it was me! It was amazing I was so happy.”
It was finally some good news for the Stockhams—who said that discovering their cat was alive really turned their spirits around.
“It’s a miracle…it’s life changing,” Dani told KTVU. “It really changed the whole dynamic of our recovery.”
“It was like honestly the best day I’ve had since the fire,” Lea told KPIX.