On the morning of Oct. 9, the Stockhams awoke to the Tubbs Fire closing in on their Santa Rosa property.
They had to scramble to grab their pets and their most important items as the flames approached, according to SFGate.
As they fled the fire in the early morning darkness, their beloved cat Thomas got spooked and jumped from 15-year-old Lea Stockholm’s arms, according to the Press Democrat. He had been her birthday present 12 years ago.
“He just like, started clawing at me and slipped out of my arms,” she told CBS 5.
The whole family, but especially Lea, was devastated, and mom Dani Stockholm tried to reassure her that he was one smart cat and felines are known to be survivors, the Press Democrat reported.
Three days later, Dani, Boyd, Lea and Grace Stockham returned to their property, not knowing what they might find.
Their home was destroyed – and in the rubble, they found the body of a burned cat.
“It was gray and white and you could just see fur on the back of the head,” Dani Stockham told CBS 5. “There was no doubt that it was Thomas.”
Lea broke down, heartbroken at the loss of her longtime companion.
The family held a funeral – including printed programs – for their beloved cat.
Then, about seven weeks later, they received an email from Avid microchip company informing them that Thomas had been found.
“Initially we thought it was some kind of cruel scam,” Dani Stockham told the Press Democrat.
But it turns out it was true: San Francisco park ranger Shannon Jay, who in his free time catches feral and lost cats, came across Thomas at 2 a.m. last Friday, according to the Press Democrat. He wasn’t far from their home and was emaciated but apparently mostly OK.
“THOMAS IS ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t stop shaking!!!!!” Dani Stockholm wrote on her Facebook page. “Boyd, Grace and Lea are on the way to pick him up right now!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“It was honestly like the best day I had since the fire,” Lea told SFGate about picking up her cat. “It was the greatest day ever.”
The family doesn’t know whose cat they buried at the heartfelt funeral.
As for Thomas, he’s pretty much back to his old self, happily reunited with his best friend Lea and the rest of the family.
“Thomas is doing great,” Lea told The Sacramento Bee. “He is still recovering. Very tired and just wants to be beside us.”
“It is a miracle for our family with everything we have lost,” Dani Stockholm said.