FLORIDA – A Tampa Bay Area family sat down to dinner last Wednesday without much hope they would ever see their cat again after losing him in Navarre nearly a month prior.
More than three weeks after Oscar wandered off onto a trail on Navarre Beach while his family sought refuge from Hurricane Irma, Lisa-Marie Begall received a text message photo right at the dinner table that left her speechless.
“I opened the message and couldn’t say anything, I just handed the phone to my daughter,” stated Begall, whose German-born family moved to Largo, Florida, in July. “And she yelled ‘OSCAR!’ And she’s so cute, she can only speak very little English, she said, ‘Mommy, I will pass out!'”
Begall, her husband and her 4-year-old daughter call Oscar “the five buck cat” because the shelter where they absolutely fell in love with him practically gave him away to the family over the summer. When Irma pounded southern Florida, the Begalls headed for Fort Pickens Campground. On Sept. 9, they decided to pull into a parking lot near Navarre Beach access 37A and allowed their 3-year-old brown tabby to step out of the RV for fresh air and a stretch, like they’d let him do during each and every pit stop along the way. This particular time, though, Oscar slipped out of sight.
“I don’t want to even imagine what it feels when losing a child but I got an idea of what it feels like,” Begall went on to say. “Because I was crazy about Oscar missing and I couldn’t eat or sleep or do anything. My daughter was having nightmares nonstop.”
The Begalls got word from neighbors that their power was finally back on after spending only one night in Northwest Florida. However, they stayed an extra three nights looking for Oscar in the Navarre neighborhoods near the beach.
They eventually did leave, heartbroken, but not before posting Oscar’s story on multiple area “lost and found pets” pages on Facebook — the modern “missing” flyer.
Begall had an exchange with someone who thought she had actually found the cat in late September, but knew the cat-in-question wasn’t Oscar because it didn’t have a distinct white mark on its face.
“He permanently looks like he dipped his nose in sugar,” Begall stated.
Navarre resident Dena Wise heard of Oscar’s story through one of the Facebook pages and acted as a sort of leader of the search party, keeping in contact with people all over her entire neighborhood while relaying information to the Begalls.
“What happens is, not a lot of people are on social media still,” Wise noted.
She went on to say that one woman, who was not on Facebook, had been feeding Oscar for days before touching base with Wise. Once the women learned about the cat’s situation, she scooped him up and alerted Wise.
On Thursday, Wise and the Begalls each drove halfway to Tallahassee in order to meet up. In the end, a Cracker Barrel parking lot was the setting as Oscar was reunited with his family after nearly one month on the streets.
“It was like a teenager brought home drunk for the first time,” Begall stated. “Like, ‘Don’t you ever scare me like that again.’ But he was pushing his nose against mine as if to say he was sorry. I told him, ‘Don’t ever do that to us again ’cause we might not look for you next time.’
Now, THAT’S a miracle!