It was an incredible journey.

When Norm and Alice Shamion decided to move from Florida to Casper, Wyoming to be closer to family, they only had one condition:

"Our cat comes with us."

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It was an easy enough compromise to make, so the Shamion's packed up their homes and began the long journey to Casper, alongside their daughter. While the three of them flew from Florida to Wyoming, it was up to Rich, their son-in-law to drive the U-Haul and, most importantly, Mitsi the Cat, to her new home.

"My dad stopped for a night in Alabama, in a town right outside of Mobile," said Derik Hepner, grandson to Norm and Alice. "The next morning, he was getting ready to take off and hit the road again, and the cat slipped out of her harness and got away."

Rich literally had one job (at least, in his mind), and Hepner said he was "absolutely devastated."

Rich spent as much time as he could trying to find the cat. After nearly 5 hours of searching to no avail, Rich had to get back on the road.

"I felt horrible for him," Hepner said. "His priority was to get the cat back to my grandma, but he just couldn't find her, so as hard of a choice as it was, he had to leave."

Making matters worse was the fact that the cat was lost in a place where the family had no friends, no family, no connections at all, really, to even attempt to find the cat.

Luckily, we live in an age of social media, and Hepner had an idea.

"I was like, 'Hey, there's always Facebook,'" Hepner said. "So I started a Facebook page and just kind of started sharing it to lost pet pages in the area, and people started joining the page. Before long, there were like a hundred dedicated people that were literally looking for that at every single 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. That's exactly what happened this time, so when the Facebook page, 'Operation Bring Mitsi Home' was created, it began an entire movement to reunite Mitsi with her parents.

"I need your help, please," Hepner began with the first Facebook post. "My grandfather who is 90 and grandmother who is 84 are in the middle of a move from FL to WY due to health, and to be closer to family.

"As they flew to WY with my mom, my dad was driving the U-Haul across the country with all their stuff, including their beloved cat, Mitsi. While stopped for the night in Semmes, AL. just outside of Mobile at the Days Inn by Wyndham on Moffett, Mitsi slipped out of her harness and got away. With my grandmother dealing with memory issues, this is devastating to her.

"After many hours of searching endlessly, my dad was on a schedule and had to get back on the road as heartbreaking as it was for him. Mitsi got away at the Days Inn by Wyndham on Moffett Rd. I'm asking anyone I know to please share this post and maybe it will be seen by the right person by the power of Facebook. There is a reward out if anyone has seen Mitsi, as we would love to reunite her with my grandparents. Thank you."

The power of Facebook worked.

"People that were complete strangers to us were out there, dedicated to finding that darn cat," Hepner said. "There's a handful of gals that were out there literally every single day for three weeks searching for Mitsi. They set live traps all around, making posters, spending their own money to put food in the traps. It was all very touching to see how all these people that didn't know us at all were doing these things for us."

It took three weeks,various traps, hidden cameras set up, and so much more, but it finally happened.

Hepner created the page on April 27. And, in the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime, fairytale happy ending, Mitsi was caught. She was homeward bound.

Photo Credit: Derek Hepner

 

"Lo and behold, one of the gals went to check the traps every morning, like she had been doing for the last three weeks," Hepner said, his voice cracking ever-so-slightly. "And there was that darn cat in one of the traps."

Hepner said the woman who found Mitsi called him immediately.

"She called me hysterically, saying 'We got her, we got her!'" he said. "So she got the cat, had her checked out at the vet, and then even more people started offering their services to transport her across the county. Two people got her all the way to somewhere in Mississippi and my sister and brother-in-law took off from Casper and drove all the way to Mississippi to pick up the cat and they finally got back home this evening and had the reunion everyone had been waiting for."

Things like this don't typically happen. Yes, people find lost pets. But rarely do so many people come together with a common goal, let alone one that bears no benefit to them. Skeptics can say "Oh, it's just a pet. It's not a big deal." But actual pet owners know. Losing a pet is like losing a child. The people in 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," Hepner said. "But the way everything played out and the people that stepped up for us, I never expected this."

A woman named Michelle was the driving force behind the search efforts, Hepner said. She was the one who actually found Mitsi. When offered a reward, she refused at first but Hepner said they eventually forced her too. That didn't seem like enough, though. Hepner and his family wanted to do something to thank everybody who put in the time and money to find Mitsi so, again, he started, another page.

This time, it was a fundraising page for an animal shelter in Mobile, Alabama. Hepner made the first donation and, yet again, people turned out.

"Just within two days, it's already almost to $700 in donations," Hepner stated. "That's kind of a whole 'nother story in itself, about how people are donating to the cause."

Because, again, that's what most people do. Every day, we wake up with a chance to change the world, in big ways and in small ways. Maybe we're not superheroes, donning a cape and cowl to save the city. But we have the potential to change peoples' lives.

That's what Michelle and the rest of the people of 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 accolades, or for the words written in a news article . They did it because they could, because they wanted to, because it was the right thing to do.

In doing so, they gave something back to a family that thought they had lost the most important thing in the world to them.

When Norm and Alice were reunited with their beloved pet, that darn cat, they knew they were going to love her just a little bit extra, for the rest of forever.

And Mitsi? Mitsi knew something, too. 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 that finally, finally, she was home.

 

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