It’s been an incredible journey.
When Norm and Alice Shamion decided to move from Florida to Casper, Wyoming to be closer to the family, they only had one condition:
“Our cat is coming with us.”
It was easy enough to compromise, so the Shamion packed up their houses and began the long journey to Casper with their daughter. While the three flew from Florida to Wyoming, it was up to Rich, her son-in-law, the U-Haul and most of all Mitsi the Cat to drive to their new home.
“My father stayed one night in Alabama, in a town just outside Mobile,” said Derik Hepner, grandson of Norm and Alice. “The next morning he got ready to take off and go back out on the street, and the cat slipped out of its harness and escaped.”
Rich literally had a job (at least in his head) and Hepner said he was “absolutely devastated”.
Rich spent as much time as possible trying to find the cat. After almost 5 hours of unsuccessful searching, Rich had to get back on the road.
“I felt terrible for him,” said Hepner. “His priority was taking the cat back to my grandma, but he just couldn’t find it, hard as it was, he had to go.”
To make matters worse, the cat was lost in a place where the family had no friends, no family, no connections to even try to find the cat.
Fortunately, we live in an age of social media, and Hepner had an idea.
“I was like, ‘Hey, there’s always Facebook,'” said Hepner. “So I started a Facebook page and shared it on lost pet pages in the area, and people started joining the page. It wasn’t long before there were a hundred dedicated people looking for it literally every day . It was crazy. “
But maybe it wasn’t.
By and large, people are good and kind and want to help each other when situations arise. This is exactly what happened this time. When the Operation Bring Mitsi Home Facebook page was created, a whole movement began to reunite Mitsi with her parents.
“I need your help, please,” Hepner began with the first Facebook post. “My grandfather, who is 90 years old, and my grandmother, who is 84 years old, are in the middle of a move from FL to WY for health reasons to be closer to the family.
“When they flew to WY with my mom, my dad was driving the U-Haul across the country with all of their belongings, including their beloved cat Mitsi. While it stopped for the night in Semmes, AL, just outside Mobile at the Days Inn by Wyndham on Moffett, Mitsi slipped out of her harness and escaped. Since my grandmother deals with memory problems, it is devastating to her.
“After many hours of endless searching, my father had a schedule and had to hit the streets as heartbreaking as he was. Mitsi escaped at the Days Inn by Wyndham on Moffett Road. I ask anyone I know please share this post and maybe will seen by the right person through the power of Facebook. There is a reward for anyone seeing Mitsi as we would love to reunite them with my grandparents. Thank you. “
The power of Facebook worked.
“People who were completely strangers to us were out there wanting to find that damn cat,” said Hepner. “There are a handful of girls who were out there literally for three weeks every day looking for Mitsi. They set live traps everywhere, made posters, and spent their own money setting food on the traps. It was all great touching to see how all these people who didn’t know us at all did these things for us. “
It took three weeks, various traps, hidden cameras, and more, but it finally happened.
Hepner created the site on April 27th. And in the ultimate, unique, fairytale happy ending, Mitsi was caught. She was on her way home.
Photo credit: Derek Hepner
“Lo and behold, one of the girls checked the traps every morning as she has done for the past three weeks,” said Hepner in a slightly low voice. “And there was that damn cat in one of the traps.”
Hepner said the woman who found Mitsi called him immediately.
“She called me hysterically and said, ‘We have her, we have her!'” He said. “So she got the cat, checked it out at the vet, and then more people started offering their services to transport it around the county. Two people took it to somewhere in Mississippi and my sister and brother Law started from Casper and drove all the way to Mississippi to pick up the cat. Tonight they finally got home and had the reunion everyone had been waiting for. “
Such things don’t usually happen. Yes, humans find lost pets. But rarely do so many people come together with a common goal, let alone one that is of no use to them. Skeptics can say, “Oh, it’s only a pet. It’s not a big deal.” But the real pet owners know. Losing a pet is like losing a child. The people of Alabama knew this and understood it, which is why they worked so tirelessly to reunite Mitsi with her parents.
“It’s a story of a lost cat; it happens all the time,” said Hepner. “But the way it all happened and the people who stood up for us, I never expected it.”
A woman named Michelle was the driving force behind the search effort, Hepner said. She was the one Mitsi actually found. When offered a reward, she initially declined, but Hepner said they eventually forced her too. However, that didn’t seem enough. Hepner and his family wanted to thank everyone who had invested time and money in finding Mitsi, and so he started a new page again.
This time it was a donation page for a shelter in Mobile, Alabama. Hepner made the first donation and it turned out people again.
“Within two days, we have donated nearly $ 700,” said Hepner. “It’s a whole different story in itself about how people donate to the cause.”
Because that’s exactly what most people do. Every day we wake up with the chance to change the world in big and small ways. Maybe we’re not superheroes wearing a cape and hood to save the city. But we have the potential to change people’s lives.
That’s what Michelle and the rest of the folks at Mobile did. When they read Hepner’s story about his grandparents and their missing cat, they took action. They didn’t do it for a reward, or for the awards, or for the words that were written in a news article. They did it because they could, because they wanted to, because it was the right thing to do.
In this way they gave something back to a family who believed they had lost the most important thing in the world to them.
When Norm and Alice were reunited with their beloved pet, that damn cat, they knew they would love her just a little more for the rest of the time.
And Mitsi? Mitsi also knew something. She had been on an incredible journey, but when she was carried through the door into the waiting arms of Norm and Alice, she knew she was finally home.