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Billy Jean’s long saga began one cold morning in November 2015, when her owner, Nancy, moved from Mill Valley to Santa Rosa, stopping several times on her drive along the way.
On one of those stops, Billy Jean disappeared, unbeknownst to Nancy and her family. They continued on their way to Santa Rosa, realizing only when they began unpacking the car that Billy Jean was gone. Since they didn’t know where Billy Jean had gotten out, Nancy turned to her Nextdoor neighborhood back in Mill Valley, asking her old community of neighbors to look for Billy Jean. Despite their efforts, no one could find her. Undeterred, Nancy kept searching for months, calling shelters and vets across the Bay Area to see if anyone had spotted her or picked her up.
Months later, in early 2016, Nancy and her family moved again – this time, to New York – and resigned themselves to the fact that they would likely never see Billy Jean again.
In May, however, Sarah Haynes, owner of the Kitty Charm School in Mill Valley, noticed a new addition to the feral cats who frequented the feeding area behind the school.
“At first we thought she was a neighborhood cat,” says Sarah. “She had a collar on, she was friendly, and seemed healthy.”
However, in early November 2016, as temperatures began to drop in Mill Valley, Sarah and staff noticed the cat again and decided to take her in, fearful that she was lost and wouldn’t make it through the cold night.
At that point, Sarah turned to Nextdoor, as well, asking if anyone recognized the cat or knew her owners.
Miraculously, after weeks of silence, a neighbor commented on Sarah’s post with a potential lead. She said that the cat looked similar to the one pictured in a Nextdoor “lost kitten” post from a year ago. It was a long shot – but was it Billy Jean?
With the help of several neighbors, Sarah tracked down the original post about Billy Jean, as well as Nancy’s contact information in New York. While the chances were slim, they made the call to Nancy.
As soon as Nancy saw the photo, she knew it was her Billy Jean. She provided proof to Sarah, who spent weeks making sure everything added up. Sure enough, it did: a year and a week after Billy Jean was lost on the way to Santa Rosa, she was found! But neighbors didn’t stop there. Nancy was unable to afford the roundtrip airfare to California to retrieve Billy Jean, so her cross-country neighbors stepped up.
Many neighbors offered to pitch in for the flight, and one neighbor offered her frequent flyer miles to help. Another neighbor offered to take Billy Jean with her on her business trip to New York so she could hand-deliver her to Nancy.
Nancy considered the options, and ultimately decided to fly out to California to reunite with Billy Jean.
On a cold evening not unlike the one where Nancy had set out on her road trip, she touched down in San Francisco and made her way to the Kitty Charm School in her old hometown. After a year and three thousand miles between them, Billy Jean was there waiting for her.
“Billy Jean’s a one in a million kitty,” said Sarah. “I hope that people will learn a lesson from this. The fact that she made it home is absolutely amazing.”
Billy Jean is now happily in her new home in New York, and has since been microchipped.
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Originally reported by CBS San Francisco.