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Smith: Mack, the cat adopted following the Tubbs fire, comes home

Mack and Darcy (COURTESY OF THE WALLACE FAMILY)

CHRIS SMITH, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Mack is back.

The fraught, public tug-of-war between two families concluded Wednesday, when the people who adopted the handsome cat weeks after the October fires relinquished him to the people who’d lost him amid the chaos of fleeing their doomed home.

Mack’s post-fire guardians, who found him at the Sonoma County animal shelter and named him Phoenix, phoned the county’s Brian Whipple on Wednesday morning to say he could come pick up the cat.

“They’re good people,” Whipple said later. And, he said, they were deeply sorry to let the cat go.

Whipple phoned Lynne Wallace to say Mack was coming back to her family. The Wallaces had for two months pleaded for the return of Mack, and with Whipple acting as intermediary had exchanged letters with the guardians who signed their letters, Phoenix’s Dads.

Prior to Wednesday, Phoenix’s Dads cited numerous reasons for concluding that it was in the cat’s best interests to remain with them. Only they know why they changed their minds.

The Wallaces are grateful they did.

IT WAS NEARLY 5 P.M. Wednesday when Whipple appeared at the Santa Rosa home of one of Lynne and Rod Wallace’s grown children, Shelby Wallace. Whipple carried a cardboard pet carrier.

He set it on the living room carpet and opened it. Lynne Wallace and her daughter dropped and cooed to Mack, allowing him his space before caressing him.

Mack looked about the unfamiliar house, then hopped from the box and walked to his sister and lifelong companion, Darcy. They touched noses and walked together down the hall.

THERE WASN’T MUCH that Whipple, from county Animal Services, could say about the people who’d adopted the cat, or that the Wallaces would expect him to say.

As to why Phoenix’s Dads changed their minds and returned the cat, Whipple said they are fine people who “really didn’t want to fight over it.”

He added, “The best for the animal is what they want.” Whipple wore a pained look as he said the farewell by the people who’d had the cat in their home and family since November was very sad.

Lynne Wallace said to him, “I know it was hard for them.”

SOME WILL CHEER Mack’s return to the Wallaces and some will deplore it. The issue of which family should have the cat was roundly and passionately debated on social media, and it attracted a fair amount of media coverage.

Phoenix’s Dads took much heat for not returning the cat when they became aware that the Wallaces claimed him and pleaded to have him back. The Wallaces have been accused by some of demonstrating little concern for the cat.

My two cents is that in the absence of proof of abuse or endangerment, there’s no question that a lost family pet, when found, must be returned to its family.

Phoenix’s Dads did right by adopting a fire survivor that for weeks went unclaimed, by giving him a home and by returning to him his original family and to Darcy.

The Wallaces seem joyous and on Wednesday evening were planning for a welcome-home cake molded of canned cat food.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.