Sweet reunion

Ava Miller with Charlie the cat.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

OMAHA, Neb. - Ava Miller never gave up on her lost cat, Charlie.

Ever since he went missing two years ago, the now-10-year-old Omaha girl regularly asked her mom, “Where do you think Charlie is?” and “Are we still looking for him?”

Last week Ava got an early Christmas present when she and the orange tabby were reunited.

A Bellevue woman had found Charlie.

“She melted,’’ her mom said of Ava.

Courtney Miller, Ava’s mom, said Charlie’s adventure started in fall 2015 when he slipped away as someone walked out the door of the family’s home near 50th and Q Streets.

The family searched for him, put food outside to lure him back and told their neighbors to keep their eyes open.

But days and weeks went by, and there was still no sign of Charlie, a cat known for his affectionate nature and loud meow.

Ava was heartbroken, her mom said, and never stopped asking about him.

After a year had passed, Miller finally had to tell Ava that Charlie probably wouldn’t be coming back.

Then Miller got a call last week from Stephany Koelzer.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Koelzer said she heard a cat meowing loudly in the alley behind her home in Bellevue near 25th Street and Chandler Road, about 4 miles from the Miller home.

Koelzer stepped outside and saw an orange tabby cat.

The cat walked up to her and looked well-groomed, well-fed and healthy. Koelzer, who has cats of her own, said it seemed clear the cat probably was someone’s pet.

She let the cat into the family garage and set out food and water. But she left the garage door open so the cat could get out and head back home.

But for five nights in a row the cat showed up in the backyard, meowing loudly. So she called the Nebraska Humane Society. Her family also posted information about the cat on the Lost Pets of Omaha Area Facebook page.

The Humane Society sent an animal control officer to see whether the can was microchipped.

It turned out the cat had a chip, which had Miller’s name and number.

Koelzer called Miller and told her she’d found her wayward cat.

Miller drove to Koelzer’s house with Ava, telling the girl only that she had a big surprise for her.

Ava’s mom captured the tearful reunion on camera. In the video, Ava puts her hands to her face and drops to her knees, overwhelmed with joy.

Charlie walks to her and Ava scratches him under his chin, then she scoops the cat into her arms and hugs him.

Ava is ecstatic having Charlie back home, her mom said, and loves cuddling with him once again.

Miller figures someone probably found Charlie after he got loose, thought he was a stray and kept him as a pet.

Pam Wiese, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Humane Society, said that’s most likely what happened. Wiese said it’s not the first time a cat has been reunited with the owner after being lost for a couple of years, but it is uncommon. She said Charlie’s reunion shows the importance of getting pets microchipped.

Miller said she’s thankful to Koelzer for calling the Humane Society and is so happy for Ava.

“It’s just all a blessing,’’ she said.

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