Williams Lake family reunited with their cat in time for Christmas

Jackie Black was reunited with her owners after having escaped during evacuation for the 2017 wildfires. (Photo Submitted)Jackie Black was reunited with her owners after having escaped during evacuation for the 2017 wildfires. (Photo Submitted)
Tracey Walker coaxes her family's cat Jackie Black, named for actor Jack Black, to come out and get some treats as the cat adjusts to life with humans again. (Ruth Lloyd Photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Tracey Walker’s daughter Maria feeds treats to the family’s cat Jackie Black, who returned after being missing for over four years. (Ruth Lloyd Photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Tracey Walker’s daughter Maria feeds treats to the family’s cat Jackie Black, who returned after being missing for over four years. (Ruth Lloyd Photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Tracey Walker's daughter Maria feeds treats to the family's cat Jackie Black, who returned after being missing for over four years. (Ruth Lloyd Photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Jackie Black, named after the actor Jack Black, was reunited with her family after more than four years on her own. She escaped from where she was being kept while her family was evacuated to 100 Mile House during the 2017 wildfires. (Photo Submitted)

Tracy Walker’s daughter Maria said it was ‘the best Christmas present ever’ when the family’s cat Jackie Black was found and brought home in November – four years after it went missing.

During the 2017 wildfires, Walker lived in Nimpo Lake, B.C., and when the evacuation order came down, she packed up her children and what pets she could and left.

With three kids, five cats, three dogs, and a whole bunch of exotic animals crammed into Walker’s vehicle and travel trailer, she headed to 100 Mile House.

“All five (cats) were living in my travel trailer for five days and just destroying it because they weren’t used to being so confined,” said Walker.

Her friend Jan Laurin, who lived in the area and has been doing animal rescue for years, offered to host the cats in a room at the back of her barn.

They were safely contained in the barn for two days. That is, until rescue cat Jackie Black (named after actor Jack Black), led an escape with two others.

“It’s a skill she had learned — to open doors,” said Walker. Three of the five cats managed to get out once the door was opened.

Two of the escapees were recovered within the first couple of months.

The first to return was a friendly cat they called Chuck Norris. He sought out humans and with his distinctive markings, he was back home with the family within a couple of weeks.

A second cat named Marbles was also located two months later, but in the process, the Walkers found out the microchips associated with two of the escapees were not registered.

“I looked into it and all three of the sisters from the same litter were not registered, including Jackie’s,” said Walker.

So she found the paperwork with all of the microchip numbers and registered Jackie Black.

Walker continued looking for Jackie for over four years, watching social media for any young female black cats found in the region.

“Facebook was amazing,” said Walker. “Every time I saw a black cat listed on (one of the lost pet groups) I would always check the details as much as possible or make a comment: ‘I lost my cat in 2017.’”

Thanks to her persistence, her friends in the area also continued to keep an eye out for any cats fitting Jackie’s description: a small, black, female cat – no distinct markings.

While helping to catch members of a feral cat colony near 100 Mile House in order to spay and neuter them to prevent population growth, volunteers realized that one small black cat had been someone’s pet and was not actually feral.

Walker’s friend contacted her and let her know they may have found her missing cat.

“I drove an hour and 20 minutes down to 100 Mile House and met with Jackie,” said Walker, who now lives in the Williams Lake area.

With Jackie in a kennel, they found a larger cage Walker could crawl into to release Jackie but still prevent her from escaping.

“At first she was just really determined to climb out, but then I started talking to her and calling her name,” said Walker. “She settled right down and started kneading with her paws.”

Walker was fairly sure it was her cat, but she was a black cat with no obvious distinctive markings, so her friend Jan offered to take the cat in to confirm using the microchip.

“I said ‘No, I’m not taking a chance. I’m taking her home,’” recalled Walker.

She then took the cat to the SPCA the next day to confirm it using the microchip.

“Sure enough it was our Jackie, so that’s when I started to cry,” said Walker.

Jackie was brought back home on Nov. 12, and was reintegrating with the family and fellow pets. Her 15-year old son Elijah thought of Jackie as his cat and was very excited to get Jackie back.

Walker now has a catio and all the cats are kept indoors.

“We don’t ever want to go through that again. So they don’t leave,” she said.

The family still has horses, cows, dogs, some exotics, and of course the cats.

Walker said the biggest lesson she sees is for people to make sure the microchips they may have in their pets to relocate them are registered with the correct contact information.

“It was a lifesaver for us, 100 per cent,” said Walker.

She posted the story to Facebook to give people hope and to tell them to keep trying if they do lose a pet.

“You never know,” she said.

Read more: The cat came back: Twilight returns to B.C. Interior home after 2 month disappearance

Read more: Reporters reflect on the 2017 wildfire season



ruth.lloyd@wltribune.com

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