A little girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

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.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CatsCourtenayPort Alberniucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

This photo shows Franklin River Camp "B" circa 1940. Logging was started in the Franklin River area by Bloedel, Stewart & Welch in 1934. This is one of 42 photos of the Franklin River area, donated together in an album put together by the donor's husband, Stanley Young. Young worked as a highrigger in the Franklin River area from 1939-46. This is one of 24,000 photos contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN10830 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Logging along Franklin River

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Getting enough Vitamin D can be challenging for Canadians, especially during winter months. (CONTRIBUTED)
ACTIVE LIVING: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a vital role in our health

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns gives a thumbs up to active transportation during a presentation of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic site in Port Alberni on April 16, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: MP Gord Johns takes victory ride for cycling strategy

Johns gained a reputation as the bicycle-riding MP during his first year

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

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

Most Read