The last time Dara Gerson saw her cat, Vanilla, he was in the arms of her daughter more than eight years ago.
At the time, the Sausalito family mourned the loss of young Siamese, putting up signs and searching for him with no success, reports the Larkspur-Corte Madera Patch. Eventually they gave up, although Gerson says that something always told her that her cat wasn't dead.
It took eight years, but Gerson's intuition was proven correct in dramatic fashion last week when Vanilla was returned to his family in a touching reunion at San Francisco Animal Control.
Apparently, after he jumped out of Gerson's daughter's arms, Vanilla traveled across the Golden Gate Bridge to Noe Valley-- a journey that would take about six hours -- where he eventually found a home with an elderly man, reports ABC News. The man had dementia, however, and his caretaker contacted Animal Control in December after he was checked into the hospital.
Deputy Officer Joseph Majeski took custody of Vanilla on December 21, and, as is procedure, scanned the feline's ear for a microchip, reports KTVU. Vanilla had been tagged by Gerson all those years ago, and the chip led Majeski back the family, now living in Los Angeles.
"Sometimes owners, I call them and I find their missing pets, their pet's been missing for a week or two, but this was just a whole different level of happiness," Majeski told the station.
The happy reunion might not have happened at all if not for a bit of luck -- through all those years, Gerson had never changed her cell phone number, noted Patch.
Kat Brown, deputy director of the Department of Animal Care and Control in San Francisco, said she handed Vanilla back over to his original owners without a second thought.
"She adopted Vanilla for life; there was no question she was going to get her cat," Brown told Patch. "It was one of those heartwarming stories."
KTVU reported that only about 10 percent of pets at the county shelter where Vanilla was found have microchips.
The Humane Society recommends microchipping pets in case the worst happens, but warns pet owners that the high tech identifiers are not foolproof, and do not take the place of the appropriate collars and tags.