B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Aria Pendak Jefferson, centre, with her mother Ashley Jefferson, left, meets ChiChi for the first time in two years. Courtney Johnson from Ucluelet, right, rescued ChiChi from a parking lot. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Aria Pendak Jefferson, centre, with her mother Ashley Jefferson, left, meets ChiChi for the first time in two years. Courtney Johnson from Ucluelet, right, rescued ChiChi from a parking lot. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Aria Pendak Jefferson of Courtenay holds a purring ChiChi after the two were reunited in a parking lot in Port Alberni on Wednesday. ChiChi went missing two years ago in Ucluelet. SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley NewsAria Pendak Jefferson of Courtenay holds a purring ChiChi after the two were reunited in a parking lot in Port Alberni on Wednesday. ChiChi went missing two years ago in Ucluelet. SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News
Jesse Pendak, left, and Ashley Jefferson of Courtenay wait with their daughter Aria, who is five years old, for Courtney Johnson to arrive from Ucluelet with the family cat. ChiChi has been missing for two years. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Jesse Pendak, left, and Ashley Jefferson of Courtenay wait with their daughter Aria, who is five years old, for Courtney Johnson to arrive from Ucluelet with the family cat. ChiChi has been missing for two years. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
ChiChi the cat is reunited with her family from Courtenay after going missing while the family was staying with a friend in Ucluelet two years ago. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)ChiChi the cat is reunited with her family from Courtenay after going missing while the family was staying with a friend in Ucluelet two years ago. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

When Aria Pendak Jefferson’s cat ran away while the family was in Ucluelet two years ago, she was despondent. The three-year-old regarded ChiChi, a black and white tuxedo cat, as her best friend.

Now almost six and with several other cats in the house, Aria never lost hope that she would see ChiChi again.

On Wednesday, her wish came true.

“She just ran out the door and never came back,” Aria’s mother, Ashley Jefferson said about the day the cat went missing. She was staying at a friend’s house in Ucluelet at the time while in the process of moving.

“She was heartbroken. She didn’t give up though,” Jesse Pendak said of his and Ashley’s daughter, who was a few months older than the cat. ChiChi had been born on Pendak’s bed, so Aria was with her since she was born.

“They grew up together,” Jefferson said. The adults assumed the worst about the family cat.

Courtney Johnson and her partner, Barry Edge, own Image West in Ucluelet. Just before Easter a friend told Courtney that there was a friendly stray cat in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess across the street. Johnson feeds a small group of feral cats in the neighbourhood so she went over to see how she could help the stray.

She brought the cat home, called her Scrappy and spent four hours patiently cutting mats out of her fur. “She ate her weight in kitty food. I was amazed at how calm she was,” Johnson said.

It was a stroke of luck and social media that brought the two families together.

“I (occasionally) checked the Ucluelet Facebook page to see if she was randomly posted,” Jefferson said. “I hadn’t checked in about six months. I randomly checked one day and Courtney, the lady who (has) her, had posted a photo—and I knew it was her.”

ChiChi has unique colourings on her face, including a black nose. Even though she is smaller than when she went missing there was no mistaking the photo on Facebook was the Pendaks’ cat.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” Pendak said.

“I was shocked,” Jefferson said. “This little one (Aria) never stopped thinking she would get her cat back and she was right.”

ChiChi was found within a 10-minute drive from where she disappeared. “I wish she had a GoPro on her to see what she’s been doing all this time,” Johnson said.

When Johnson said ChiChi’s name for the first time the cat sat up and looked at her. “She would sleep in my bathtub,” Johnson said.

“She would sleep in my bathtub too,” Jefferson said.

On Wednesday, April 21, the two families met halfway, in a parking lot in Port Alberni, to exchange the cat. Aria wore a special pink dress for the occasion and waited shyly as Johnson and Edge drove up in their orange Tacoma truck. When it was time for Aria to be reunited with her best furry friend, ChiChi sat on the shadowed pavement in a harness and leash and accepted pets.

When Aria picked her up, ChiChi began purring. Aria grinned. “I’m so happy,” she said.

Johnson was at peace seeing the reunion. “People have had a lot of loss. I know I have had loss. I think this is amazing to be able to reunite somebody’s friend with her family.

“Hope deserves to be kept alive.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

RELATED: Victoria man moonlights as cat rescuer



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CatsCourtenayPORT ALBERNIucluelet

Just Posted

Maple Ridge city hall (The News files)
Maple Ridge turns to public for consultation on transportation plan

Mayor encourages all residents to participate in ‘important engagement process’

Ethan Page, left, and Nicky Walton received Excellence in Arts Scholarship Awards in music. (Special to The News)
Port Haney Artist-in-Residence Aaron Moran. (Special to the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows News)
Personal reflections of Maple Ridge are needed for new public art project

Residents of all ages, backgrounds and abilities welcome to share stories and poems

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maple Ridge elementary school exposed to COVID-19

Exposure event at Glenwood elementary the seventh in past two weeks

Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or in writing.
LETTER: Upset by being called an ‘idiot’

Maple Ridge writer disagrees with majority on COVID safety protocols and their impacts

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Linda Annis, executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, at press conference Monday. (Submitted photo)
Crime Stoppers receiving $200K from province for ‘Guns and Gangs’ tip line campaign

Executive director Linda Annis broke the news Monday morning in Surrey

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Most Read