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A Christmas Miracle: A Lost Cat Makes it Home for the Holidays

It had been six months since Baby-Girl went missing. Then the unexpected happened.

Illustration of a Christmas stocking; By Clare Owen

It was Christmas Eve morning, and I awoke with a mission: to find my lost cat, Baby-Girl. As I got ready, I could hear icy rain pelting the windows. Baby-Girl was out there somewhere in the storm; I could just feel it. Sure, it had been six months since she’d gone missing, but I still had faith. This was the season for miracles, after all.

During the previous summer, my sweet kitty had disappeared from my parents’ house in Indiana. Baby-Girl had been staying with them while I was between apartments. At the time, I lived and worked in Washington, D.C. I was staying with friends until I signed my lease on a new place. Baby-Girl had gotten out of my parents’ house three days before I was set to fly back home to pick her up.

My dad and I had spent that entire visit searching for her. Dad was the family’s resident “realist,” which meant he spent a whole lot of time trying to prepare me for the worst. “She’s either been hit by a car or been taken in by someone who found her,” he said. I rolled my eyes. Dad always supported me, but he could be so skeptical. He could do with a little more faith!

Besides, though I couldn’t explain it, I knew I’d see Baby-Girl again. She’d been a stray when I found her. A scrappy little tabby who had survived all on her own. If any cat could do the impossible, it was my Baby-Girl. Even after I returned to D.C. without her and the weeks stretched into months, deep down I had this undeniable feeling that we would be reunited one day.

Now, home again in Indiana for the holidays, I was determined to pick up my search right where I’d left off. I grabbed Baby-Girl’s cat carrier and loaded it into the car, then asked my dad to drive me to the shelter.

“Sharon, you have to be realistic,” Dad said as we headed to the garage. “She’s been gone too long. You’re not going to find her.”

“Well, I disagree,” I said.

Dad raised an eyebrow as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Don’t you believe in Christmas miracles?” I asked.

“Bah humbug,” he said. It was his favorite Christmas saying and an inside joke in our family. He even had a shirt with the phrase emblazoned across the front, which he wore every Christmas morning just to get a rise out of us.

At the shelter, the woman at the front desk greeted my dad warmly. “Good to see you again, Mr. Dillon! Still looking for your cat?”

Ah, I thought, maybe he’s not such a pessimist after all.

A staff member took us to see the cats. “When did she go missing?” the woman asked.

“Six months ago.”

“And was she chipped?” No, I had to admit, Baby-Girl was not. The staffer winced. “When we get unchipped cats, they’re put up for adoption after three days,” she explained. “If your cat was brought in, she’s surely gone by now.”

We walked through rows of cages. My eyes scanned cats of all colors and sizes. None of them was my Baby-Girl. Then I noticed a room farther back. I pushed ahead. “Sweetheart, that’s where they keep the cats that just came in,” Dad said. “Your cat wouldn’t be in there.”

“It doesn’t hurt to look,” I said.

I stepped in the room and heard a familiar meow. My eyes zeroed in on a little tabby cat with big green eyes. She was skinnier than I remembered, but it was Baby-Girl, all right! My eyes welled up with tears. I opened the cage door. Baby-Girl practically jumped into my arms. I held her close as Dad looked on. “There’s just no way….” he mumbled.

The shelter staff was skeptical too. I pointed out that this cat matched Baby-Girl’s description perfectly—right down to her white hind-left paw. Still, everyone looked uncertain. This cat had just been brought in during the morning storm.

“Wait here! I can prove she’s my cat,” I said, excusing myself to grab the carrier. I’d trained Baby-Girl to walk inside the carrier when I opened its door. Sure enough, when she was let down in the middle of the room, she made a dash for the carrier and scooted right inside.

“That’s definitely your cat,” a staffer laughed. “I’ve never seen any cat do that willingly.”

Back home, the rest of the family welcomed Baby-Girl to our Christmas Eve. She purred like a motorboat, rubbing up against everyone’s legs. She seemed completely at home. Dad remained stubbornly skeptical.

“It just cannot be her,” he said. “Not after all this time.”

Eventually, Baby-Girl made her way down to the basement, where her litter box was kept. “See? How would she know that the box was there if she has never been here before?” I said to Dad.

“Fine,” he said. “I’m 40 percent convinced it’s her.”

“What would it take to change your mind?” I asked.

He considered for a moment. “If she sits in her favorite spot in the hearth, I’ll believe it’s her.”

Baby-Girl loved to sit curled up inside my parents’ decorative fireplace. And that’s exactly what she did as soon as dinner was done.

“Okay, maybe it’s her,” Dad admitted. “I’m about 60 percent sure.”

We all groaned. Dad took to his armchair to read his novel as we wound down for the evening. All of a sudden, he burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny, Bill?” Mom asked him.

“My book,” he said. “It says: ‘Baby-Girl, I have lost you. Now I have found you. I will never lose you again!’”

We all roared with laughter. “Is that enough, Dad?” I asked. “Or does the Holy Spirit himself have to appear and tell you it’s true?”

“Okay, I’m 90 percent sure,” Dad said. “But only because the Baby-Girl in the story is a lost dog, not a cat.”

We were all almost in tears from laughing so hard. My heart was filled with gratitude—I was surrounded by family and, against all odds, my cat was home again, six months after going missing.

It turned out Baby-Girl’s return wasn’t the only Christmas miracle that year. The next day, when Dad came downstairs for Christmas morning, he was wearing a new holiday shirt. It read: I Believe!

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