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They thought the day would never happen.
But, to the surprise of this Neligh family, their cat returned home after it went missing for 10 months.
Vicki Haddock and her 15-year-old daughter Aleesha Bergman said their cat, Samatha, disappeared in March of 2018. As the months passed, they didn’t think they would ever see their beloved pet again.
The family was gone on vacation over spring break when their cat went missing last year.
“It was super bitterly cold and she does not go outside when it’s cold, but I had had someone scheduled to come into the house to do some things while we were gone, and she must’ve gotten out then,” Haddock said. “She must’ve been freaked out and ran out, because by the time we got home, she was just totally gone.”
They called and called for Samantha when they got home, but saw no signs of her.
“I always just said we are grateful that she is happy somewhere,” Haddock said “And we didn’t know where that would be. We hadn’t found her dead, but we honestly never expected her to come back.”
Bergman, a sophomore at Neligh-Oakdale, said there was a time when she was outside the band room and the boys spotted a dead cat.
“I was like, ‘Oh gosh,’ but then it was all black, and I was relieved it wasn’t her,” she said.
Bergman, who was just 2 1/2 years old when she got Samantha, grew up with her as a family pet for nearly 13 years.
“Aleesha couldn’t have been older than 3, like between 2 ½ and 3, just old enough to understand,” Haddock said. “She wanted a kitty so bad and she was praying for a kitty.”
Bergman said they lived in Stanton at the time and she can still remember watching the cat walk past her window.
“I wanted it,” she said.
Haddock said Samantha’s mom had brought her into their garage for a short time.
“And Aleesha had seen her and said, ‘Oh there’s my kitty.’ And then the mom took her away and we didn’t know where she went,” she said. “Then, the mom came back, and dropped her off, left her and took off. So, she was in our garage and, of course, she was scared and she was just tiny.”
Haddock said Samantha, who was “probably pure alley cat,” was “just old enough to be separated from her mom, probably 6 weeks old” at the time.
“Aleesha had been wanting a kitty so bad, and it was just so ironic that she was praying for this kitten, and then all of a sudden, this cat just comes and leaves it at our house,” she said. “We weren’t really looking to get a cat, but under those circumstances, it just happened.”
Samantha has since had two litters of her own, including her son Ghost, which the family kept.
After she went missing, Ghost developed some health issues and they took him to the vet.
“They said it was angry bladder and was caused by depression,” Haddock said. “We were supposed to give him some additional love and attention.”
Over Christmas break the family showed Ghost some additional empathy.
“All Christmas we talked about, ‘Oh, it’s your first Christmas without your mom,’” Haddock said.
Bergman said it was during this time that she started to have dreams about Samantha.
“I kept dreaming, like those really big trucks that have the back that the door slides up, I always imagined there was a truck there and she was stuck in the back of it,” she said.
Bergman said they never completely gave up hope, even though they didn’t think it was likely Samantha would return.
And then, on Jan. 11, 2019, she did.
“I came home late, it was like close to 11 p.m. Friday night, and I let the dogs out,” Haddock said.
She heard a “meow,” but didn’t give it much thought.
“And then I went to let the dogs back in, not even thinking about the ‘meow’ anymore, and (Samantha) just ran in, charged in, like she’d never been gone and headed for the food dish,” Haddock said. “I was so stunned, and Ghost was sitting there and all the animals were just looking at her like, ‘Where in the world have you been?’ She ate three bowls of food, but she didn’t look like she’d been starving. We would love for her to be able to tell us where she’s been.”
She said Samantha acted like she had never been gone.
“She sleeps right between the doors here and behind the table, and immediately she was right back to her places that she always hung out,” Haddock said. “She didn’t act freaked out. She was back home.”
Haddock had planned to go out of town the next day, but decided she better stay home after Samantha’s return.
“She wanted to cuddle all weekend,” she said. “We cuddled a lot of the weekend and she’d just purr. She liked to be snuggled.”
Bergman, who was staying at her dad’s house that weekend, didn’t believe it when her mom sent a Snapchat with the news.
“I thought she was joking at first,” Bergman said. “I thought it was Ghost in bad lighting.”
She was in such disbelief that her mom had to convince her it was really Samantha.
“She said, ‘This is a bad joke, Mom,’ and I was like, ‘No, she’s really home,’ and then I sent her a video,” Haddock said.
Bergman said when she realized their missing cat had indeed returned, she was “so excited,” and asked her mom to send pictures of the cat all weekend.
“The rest of the weekend, I was like, ‘Show me her,’” she said smiling.
Samantha was not microchipped, and although they have had collars on their cats at different times, she was not wearing one the day she disappeared. Haddock said she isn’t sure what changes she’ll make when Samantha wants to venture outside again.
“Since she got back, she hasn’t even tried to go out,” she said. “I’ve had a couple people ask if we had a tag on her or anything. I don’t know, maybe I need to get her microchipped, but then I don’t know would anybody around here actually have a cat checked for a microchip? I’m not sure. I think we’re going to be really nervous when she goes back out.”
Haddock said Samantha returned in good physical condition, making her believe that someone had taken care of her, although she hasn’t confirmed that.
“If somebody was out there taking care of her, we’re grateful,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe she’ll want to go back out and see them when she does go out.”