After the Family’s Cat Disappeared, a Kind Stranger Reunited Them

A long-haul trucker had an unsuspecting passenger who meant the world to a Saskatchewan family.

Spooky Pet Reunions OneCourtesy of Chylisse Marchand
Chylisse Marchand, her daughters and cat Spooky with truck driver Jack Shao.

Like many other families in the summer of 2020, Chylisse Marchand and her school-aged daughters, Shay and Alli, spent their days at home. Chylisse’s driver’s license had been suspended after she suffered a seizure, so regardless of the pandemic, they wouldn’t have been able to venture far from their home in the small town of Redvers, Saskatchewan. One of their pets, however, wasn’t tied down by the circumstances, and managed to take an international journey.

Spooky, one of the family’s black cats, has an independent personality. He and his brother, Licorice, had joined the family as kittens in 2013. The cats lived indoors during the frigid Saskatchewan winters. “But the moment spring hit, they loved going outside,” Chylisse says.

Initially, Chylisse wasn’t terribly concerned when Spooky didn’t return from an evening jaunt in the backyard on July 22. “I thought he would turn up in one of our sheds,” she recalls. “That said, we do live close to the highway, so I was a bit nervous that maybe he’d been hit by a vehicle.”

As it turned out, Spooky had climbed into the engine bay of a parked semi-trailer truck. When the truck departed, Spooky became a stowaway. Somehow, he remained unharmed in that cramped space full of wires and hoses while the vehicle drove 230 kilometres southwest to Tioga, North Dakota, then northeast to Manitoba, then back down to North Dakota again.

Meanwhile, there were lots of tears in Chylisse’s home. “My daughters were freaking out,” she says. “Spooky meant the world to us.” He had been missing for about 24 hours when the kids went to bed on July 23. It was late that evening when Chylisse received a call from Spooky’s vet, who told her the missing cat had been found in North Dakota by a trucker named Jack Shao. The vet gave Chylisse Jack’s phone number; she called him immediately.

“He sounded flustered,” she recalls. “He’s an awesome guy, but he’s not a cat person and he didn’t know what to do with this animal.”

Fortunately, Jack’s route would take him back through Redvers the next day. To keep Spooky safe on the trip back home, Jack placed him inside a box with a small opening for airflow.

On July 24, a friend gave Chylisse, Shay and Alli a lift to the local Co-op, where Jack had agreed to meet them. “As the truck pulled up, my girls were beaming,” Chylisse says. “As for me, I just wanted to hug him.”

Besides feeling grateful for a stranger’s kindness, Chylisse was amused that Spooky had crossed the American border at a time when it was closed to everyone except essential traffic. “And the fact that he held out for so long under the semi is unbelievable,” she adds.

As an artist, Chylisse had a collection of her own original artworks, so she gave Jack a print of an old red truck as a symbol of her gratitude.

Upon returning home, Spooky was a little skittish at first, but soon his usual temperament resurfaced. Nowadays, Spooky and Licorice don’t tend to wander far from home. “I don’t know if Spooky learned from his experience or if it’s because the cats are getting old,” she says. “They stay close to the deck and take in the prairie sunset.”

Next, read this heartwarming story of a dog that was lost during a wildfire evacuation—then reunited with her owners.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada