Jackie Sharp fell in love with her cat, Dallas, the very first time she saw him in the Petaluma, California, animal shelter. It was a few days before Christmas 1997, and the little ball of black fluff was only about two months old.
"I was going through my first year of college (at Santa Rosa Junior College), and it was crazy and stressful," Sharp told her local newspaper, the Argus-Courier. "At the end of the day I would come home and he would just curl up on my lap and purr. He was always there for me. He got me through a lot."
In 2000, she moved to Rohnert Park, California, where Dallas loved to explore the creek near her house. But one night, he didn't come home.
"It was horrible," Sharp remembered. "I was looking everywhere for him. It was very sad. I loved that cat."
She moved several times in the years that followed, but she kept photos of Dallas as a kitten and never stopped thinking about her dear pet. "Someone must have adopted him," she figured. "It's been so long… maybe he had passed away by now."
So when the VCA Animal Care Center called last week, saying that they had her cat, she thought they had to be mistaken. All three of her cats were home with her right now, she said. And then she realized that they were talking about Dallas.
"I was in shock," Sharp, now 34, said. "It has been 13 years. I figured he had found a new home or was gone by now."
A man had found Dallas near the same creek that the cat had been exploring when he disappeared in 2000. He brought Dallas to Laurie Atwood, who feeds some of the feral cats living by the creek. Atwood brought the cat in to the Animal Center. Emergency veterinarians had noticed that the cat had a microchip implant, a tiny transponder about the size of a grain of rice, and looked up the information linked to it. There was a phone number — Sharp's grandmother's, which was still the same after 13 years — so they called.
Dallas was near death. He needed a blood transfusion and spent days on a feeding tube — measures that the veterinarians probably wouldn't have taken if they hadn't been able to locate his owner.
"He was completely dehydrated and emaciated." Dr. Robin Schaffner, the veterinarian who treated Dallas, told the Argus-Courier. "He probably would have passed away within hours without aggressive treatment. The microchip saved his life."
After several days at the Animal Center, Sharp was finally able to take Dallas, now 16, home again. Sharp says that they recognized each other right away, even after all that time apart.
"It was so amazing," she said. "He was the coolest cat ever and I missed him so much."
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