It's like he never left.
Three years after Renae Rasmussen had to regretfully rehome her cat Ralph, he came back to her. Rasmussen was reunited with her beloved cat last week after nearly four years of separation and the addition of two children.
"I went out to get him, and he's just the same cat," Rasmussen said. "I swear he remembers me. He adjusted so quickly. It's the same house we were in before and he still sleeps right by my pillow."
Sleeping by her pillow was one of the main reasons Rasmussen and her husband, Jacob, had to find a new home for their cat in 2016 after only having him for about 18 months.
"I was super pregnant at the time and Ralph would always lay right by my face," Rasmussen said. "I was always very paranoid that he was going to jump up and lay on the baby's face."
Along with Rasmussen's protective mothering instincts, Jacob had developed an aggressive cough around the house. The couple visited the doctor's office where one of the first things out of the doctor's mouth was, "Do you have a cat?"
When the couple answered "Yes," the doctor diagnosed Jacob with allergies to the feline and suggested Rasmussen find a new home for Ralph.
"There wasn't a lot of questions - I felt like he didn't really assess the situation further," Rasmussen said in reflection of the visit to the doctor's office. "(The doctor) gave (Jacob) a steroid shot and then we left. I started thinking 'who can I reach out to that would give (Ralph) a loving home?'"
Rasmussen rehomed Ralph to a co-worker who had animals of her own but a month later Rasmussen saw a picture of her cat on the internet. Ralph, who had disappeared from Rasmussen's co-worker's care, would not return. Instead, the black and white ball of fluff eventually found his way to Prairie Paws Rescue.
"I called Prairie Paws and the lady, who now I know as Kaye (John), said (of Ralph), 'he's just great. I'm gonna adopt him,'" Rasmussen said. "I told her my story and how I felt so bad and she said, 'you know, that happens.'"
Kaye John is the co-founder and president of Prairie Paws Rescue. John's plan to adopt Ralph put Rasmussen at peace with the decision.
"I just kind of felt like, 'that's good, she's gonna give him a good home,'" Rasmussen said.
Years later after her now 3 1/2-year-old and 1 1/2-year-old children fell in love with a cat at their day care center, Rasmussen decided to browse the Prairie Paws and James River Humane Society websites in an effort to find a furry companion for her family. While she was searching the humane society website a cat that looked very familiar caught her eye.
"I called Prairie Paws and I said 'I have no idea who I talked to - it has been three years - but I had this cat and somebody there said they were going to adopt him and they named him after a hockey player.'"
The woman on the other end of the line happened to be the one who adopted Ralph.
"Kaye said 'Oh my gosh, that's me - he's sitting on my lap and I am petting him as we speak,'" Rasmussen said.
John assured Rasmussen it was not Ralph on the humane society's website and let the former owner know her cat was doing well. John began to tell Rasmussen of other felines available for adoption but Rasmussen said she was not really paying attention.
"I was kind of trying to not cry on the phone," Rasmussen said. "I don't know, there is just something about after having a baby - you just get so protective and I realized that (Ralph) was my baby too."
John then texted Rasmussen asking if in fact she and her family would like Ralph back. The family determined Jacob's cough was due to acid reflux but Rasmussen was still slightly apprehensive with two small children in her home. Under the condition of a few day trial stay, Rasmussen gratefully accepted John's offer and was reunited with Ralph.
It has been one week and Rasmussen said the family and Ralph have adjusted smoothly. John said the most rewarding part of her job as co-founder of Prairie Paws is reuniting animals with their original owners.
"If I had a pet that was missing and somebody had it I would hope that someone would let me have my pet back no matter how long the time," John said. "One of our mission statements with Prairie Paws is to get the pet back to its owners if an owner shows up. I am a firm believer in that. I am so happy Ralph is back with his family."
Prairie Paws is a non-profit, foster home-based organization John established in July 2007. The non-profit is run by John and volunteers from the community.
"For me, it is just so important to have people like Kaye in the community," Rasmussen said. "The work that she does is just so special. I met her and went out there and just saw all of her animals and the love she has for the animals and how well she takes care of them. Then to be so generous and give an animal back -- I am just so grateful she took (Ralph) under her wing and gave him a good home."