When Brenda Norris went looking for a pet to adopt, running into her long-lost friend Jack was the furthest thing from her mind.
But that’s what happened last week on Christmas Eve, and Norris believes the reunion was truly a Yuletide miracle.
Jack, an approximately 12-year-old gray, short-haired cat, came to the Norris’ former Wauseon household when he was about two. The roommate of a friend of Brenda and Russell Norris was moving from their apartment and needed a home for three cats, Jack among them. Because the Norrises lived on a 15-acre farm on State Highway 108 and catered to stray cats, they welcomed the feline orphans to live with their large collection.
It was a sweet deal for Jack: plenty of food, a heated barn to hang out in, and a clowder of cats as friends. Over the 11 years the Norrises lived on the farm they caught about 50 cats that strayed onto their property, had them fixed to prevent further populations, then gave them shelter if they desired.
Then one day in 2017 Jack wandered off.
“He would always go to the neighbor’s to visit, but he would always come back,” Norris said. “One day, he just never came back. We would go out and yell for him, but he never came back.”
She searched for Jack for months. “It was hard, because he was such a lovable cat and he was older, and we knew he wasn’t in the best of health,” she said. “It drove my husband crazy, trying to find the cat all the time.”
The Norrises eventually gave up the search. They took comfort in Russell’s suggestion that someone had picked up the friendly stray and made him a pet.
Then last week, on Dec. 24, Norris scrolled through the Fulton County Humane Society Facebook page from the couple’s current McClure, Ohio, home. She was looking to adopt a dog, but decided to also scan the available cats, something she didn’t usually do.
She watched a video featuring some of them, and immediately recognized an old friend.
“I swore to my family – I said, ‘This is Jack,’” Norris said.
She messaged the Humane Society, and two days later paid a visit, where she discovered her eyes hadn’t deceived her. Jack was back.
“I was so excited. It was unbelievable to me that after two years he’d come back. It was like a Christmas miracle to me,” she said.
Norris identified Jack to Humane Society Treasurer Tracy Wanner by his distinguishing features: bad teeth and being declawed. Then she called Jack’s name, and the cat responded.
“Sure enough, he didn’t have front claws. That was her cat,” Wanner said.
Norris said Jack wasn’t as certain about the reunion, “but when I picked him up he put his head under my chin, and I knew.”
Jack was released to Norris free of charge, and taken to his new home in McClure. “All the way coming home he just laid in my lap. He knew, too,” Norris said.
Wanner said Jack was named Sugar by the Humane Society crew when he was brought to the facility Nov. 18. He had been found in Wauseon with another stray with whom he’d bonded. The collar around Jack’s neck suggested he had, indeed, been rescued after he strayed from the Norris farm, but then had been abandoned.
The tom was emaciated, dehydrated, and drooling from increasingly rotting teeth that had given him a mouth infection. He improved following treatment from a veterinarian, and was featured in the facility’s video.
Norris was visibly emotional about the reunion, Wanner said. “She hadn’t seen him in about two years. We’re happy, the cat’s happy, and the owner’s happy.”
Jack has settled into his new home and re-adapted to the farm cats he was raised with, which the Norrises brought to McClure. The home has an enclosed porch with a cat door, so Jack and the others can roam the property. However, the couple keeps a much closer eye on him.
“I’m really happy that he’s back, and he seems very content,” Norris said. “I thought I’d never see him again.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.