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A purr-fect reunion | Illinois veteran drives 16 hours to Texas to reunite with missing cat

Shawn Bowden's cat vanished during a thunderstorm in 2016. On July 25, he got a call from a Texas number that changed his life forever.

TEMPLE, Texas — Shawn Bowden adopted his cat Ace in 2009 in southeast Alabama while he was stationed at Fort Novosel, formerly known as Fort Rucker.

Years later in 2016, the dynamic duo moved to Fort Cavazos, formerly known as Fort Hood. In May of that year, a big thunderstorm struck, with a blast hitting right above Bowden's house. 

At first, everything appeared to be normal. That was, until Bowden noticed the screen was knocked out of a window, and Ace was nowhere to be found. 

"I spent a couple months looking for him," Bowden said. "Nothing ever turned up, so I put fliers out, reward flyers out around several blocks the neighborhood, but never got a call."

Bowden packed up his bags in 2018 and decided to pursue a career as an airline pilot after serving in the Army.

"I figured 'I hope he had a good life'," Bowden added. "That was kind of the end of the story."

Fast forward to July 25, 2023, and little did Bowden know his life was about to change forever. 

"I'm sitting in the cockpit at O'Hare, we're finishing boarding the passengers and I look down I see I've got a missed call," Bowden said. "There's a voicemail, 'Hi, we picked up a cat named Ace. The microchip says you're the previous owner.' It was one of those phone calls you never expect to hear. It's been seven years."

With no hesitation, Bowden started planning how he would reunite with his now 16-year-old cat. 

Bowden decided to drive 1,087 miles to Temple, Texas, and 1,087 miles back once he was finished with his work trip. 

"I had the adrenaline going," Bowden said. "It's like 'I'm going to pick up my buddy, I haven't seen him in seven years'. If I didn't go get him, that's the same as if I was abandoning my sisters or my mom or my dad or something like that. He's part of the family."

After hundreds of miles in the car, Bowden arrived at the Temple Animal Shelter as soon as they opened. It was a special reunion like no other. 

"Tears were shed because he's been missing it for a long time," Richard Morales, City of Temple Animal Control Officer, said. "It was an older cat. He thought the worst, and after six years, receiving that phone call, he was just ecstatic."

Bowden believes Ace did not recognize him at first because the environment was so stressful. However, once they got in the car and started heading back home to Illinois, Ace knew he was right where he was supposed to be.

"I opened the door to the carrier," Bowden said. "He started doing the same things that he always did which was climbing down behind my calves and the footwell and just kind of laying there and sleeping, and I think at that point, he remembered me."

The Temple Animal Shelter says microchipping ensures your pet will always find their way back home, and that's exactly what happened in Ace's case.

The shelter encourages all pet owners to microchip, and if they can't afford that, to get a tag for their animal.

"If you're concerned or even if your dog or cat runs loose, microchip them, so we can at least get them back to their owners," Morales said. "This is just one of the many stories that happens on a daily basis of reuniting owners with their pets."

"I thought it was just a standard procedure when we adopted him and took him to the vet when we adopted him in 2009," said Bowden, "And when he got lost and never turned back up, it was one of those, 'What good was the microchip? That didn't seem to help at all,' but I got my buddy back after seven years, so yes, it does work.". 

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