The Carr Fire was first reported on July 23, 2018, at the intersection of Highway 299 and Carr Powerhouse Road, in the Whiskeytown district of the Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area, in Shasta County, California.
When the fire reached Redding on July 26, Tom and Judy Henderson packed up their truck and headed to a Carr Fire evacuation center. Their two cats, Millie and Shadow, along with their two dogs went with them.
Volunteers at the evacuee shelter hadn’t had time yet to set up cages for the pets. Tom slept on the ground with their two leashed dogs while Judy stayed in the truck with the terrified cats.
Once the pet cages were set up around 4 a.m., Judy placed Millie on a least to walk her over to the cages. During an interview with Redding.com Judy stated the terror she felt when Millie escaped
“The minute she felt the earth under her feet, she broke free of her collar and ran away.”
Judy believed Millie was dead after being told a large number of mountain lions live in the area. Even Tom held out little hope they’d ever see Millie again.
Other evacuees helped search for Millie with no luck. Four days later the family had to return home without her.
The kind volunteers from Carr fire Pet Rescue and reunification put food out for pets seen wandering the area after the fire. They promised to watch for Millie.
Eight months later, when the family had really given up on Millie, the call came. Volunteers had been trapping cats near the Shasta College football field. Not only was Millie in good condition, but she’d also actually gotten fatter. Redding resident Ruthie Cortright, one of the group’s coordinators had an explanation for the weight gain. Millie had been absorbed into a colony of friendly community cats who lived at the college.
Judy didn’t recognize Millie because her coat had gotten darker. The microchip confirmed the cat was really her!
A post by Robin Bray on the Carr Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification group page gave further details about Millie’s rescue.
“Nearly 8 months after being lost in the evacuation during the Carr Fire, Millie was rescued last night and reunified with her eager owner, Judy Mix-Henderson, this morning, in an operation spear-headed by trappers, Beth Gillespie Farmer, and Angela Nava!
Millie’s whole family welcomed her home with meows, woofs, and head-butts! All were as thrilled to see her as she was them! There wasn’t a dry eye in this hard-earned win for the entire Carr Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification Team.
Finding a cat in a strange area was only one hurdle we needed to overcome. The area was large in scope. Prior searches there by ourselves and others had yielded no sightings. Millie, like so many cats, had gone into survival mode and was doing what she needed to do to live on her own for nearly 8 months in an unfamiliar environment. These cats continue to amaze us with their resilience and survival instincts. We’ve learned to expect miracles and Millie was no exception.
The location where she was lost required special permission and coordination, which took persistence and patience to secure. Within hours of receiving the permission needed, the field team jumped into action, entering trapping mode, and BAM! A new record – Six minutes from setting the trap to catching Millie, a cat no-one had seen since she was lost on July 27th!
As has been said, “LUCK is when preparation meets opportunity.” We’ve been steadfastly creating this “luck” for nearly 8 months with Millie.”
Volunteers continue to put out food and continue to keep an eye out for other missing cats. More than 70 animals have been reunited with family, thanks to their efforts. Ruthie contributes the microchip for making the reunion possible. Most of the owners for lost pets have reported their animals aren’t microchipped.
Millie is more of a cuddler since she’s back with her family. She even hangs out with the two dogs. Her biggest adjustment for now if learning to deal with the new kitten the family adopted in October. Tom says they’re “tolerating each other to a point.”