They thought he was goner, but after nearly a year of searching for their lost cat, Vanore Voaklander spotted a post on social media that caught her attention.
“Two weeks less a year he’d been gone he showed up on Facebook,” Voaklander said. “We were in shock. We are still in shock.”
Her cat, Boo Boo, wandered away from the family’s home in August 2017 during one of his short trips outdoors. Voaklander believes someone found him and took him.
“We walked the neighbourhood, we were out on our bikes, my daughter cut her vacation short to come home and look for him,” she said. “We were absolutely frantic.”
They put up posters and started a Facebook page for the missing animal. The family followed up on leads sent in, even giving up their Christmas day to search an acreage subdivision of Strathcona County after reports a tuxedo cat, matching Boo Boo’s description, was seen in the area.
“We were getting leads from all different neighbourhoods. We would rush there and find out there would be no cat,” Voaklander said.
The family continued to follow up on leads but started to move on when they lost hope their beloved pet would come home.
In February, 10 kilometers away from the family’s home at Integra 24/7 solutions, a tow-truck company, Darren Labelle spotted a black and white cat that looked sick, dirty and beaten up.
“He would never come anywhere near you,” Labelle said.
Labelle started to feed the cat he called Gary. It took some time, but he slowly gained the cat’s trust.
Eventually, Labelle opened the back door of the business and Gary came inside.
His short visits got longer every and eventually, Gary made himself right at home.
“He’d actually jump up on us, head butt you and lay on my keyboard while I was trying to work,” he said. “I realized this cat has to be domesticated.”
Labelle put a picture of Gary on a lost and found Facebook page. An hour later, Voaklander responded.
“Gary’s mom sent me a message saying ‘I think that’s my cat!”‘ he said.
Voaklander called up the company and spoke with Labelle who said he would be in the next morning for her to come see the cat. He said even though he started work at seven, Gary normally didn’t come in until eight.
“That’s when I knew it was our cat because he was such a creature of habit,” Voaklander laughed. “Only he would come into work the same time every day.”
Boo Boo was also micro-chipped and tattooed so they were able to prove his identity. When he got home, Voaklander said he curled up in his bed and fell asleep for three days. He hasn’t wandered more than two minutes from the house since.
“He must have learned a lesson,” Voaklander said.
One month after the reunion, Voaklander and her husband returned to the tow shop with Boo Boo/Gary in tow. They also brought with them donations for Labelle and his crew to help feed some of the other strays who now call the yard home. Voaklander also handed over the $1,000 reward they had offered for the cat’s safe return, even though Labelle didn’t want it.
“We can’t thank him enough,” she said. “It really made the world a better place for us.”