Burned-out Santa Rosa family mourned and buried Thomas the cat, so they thought

Thomas was rescued and returned to a Santa Rosa family more than a month after the devastating blaze and weeks after burying an animal they thought was their beloved pet.|

Thomas’ burial was loving and dignified, but just as heart-crushingly sorrowful as you would expect of the farewell to a cat that 12 years ago was a child’s birthday surprise.

Lea Stockham, now 15, would have defied the flames and run after Thomas when, terrified, he leapt from her arms as she and her sister, Grace, 16, and their parents fled their imperiled home off Skyfarm Drive in darkness the morning of Oct. 9.

Lea sobbed in the car as her mom, Dani Stockham, assured her that cats are survivors and that Thomas is brilliant.

Three days later, Lea returned to the ruins of her home with her mother and her dad, Boyd. Lea examined the burned porch where Thomas’ little house had been; there lay the burned body of a cat.

Lea collapsed. Her folks consoled her, then prepared for what was a small, affectionate and terribly sad funeral.

On Sunday, Boyd Stockham received an email from the Avid microchip company. It said someone had found Thomas.

“Initially we thought it was some kind of cruel scam,” Dani said. But she and Boyd phoned Avid and were given the number of the person who’d reported finding Thomas.

He is Shannon Jay, a San Francisco park ranger who spends his free time working long, unpaid hours using trap-door cages, motion-detection cameras, heat sensors and such to pursue runaway and feral cats. He told Boyd and Dani that at 2 a.m. last Friday he caught on Split Rail Court - just up Skyfarm Drive from their burned home - a thin but barely injured cat identified by its microchip as their Thomas.

Lea and her sister and dad were bundles of nerves as they drove to meet Shannon Jay. He had indeed found Thomas, and would accept no reward.

The cat had been gone and presumed dead for more than 45 days. Dani would like to tell fire victims with lost pets, “There is still hope.”

The Stockhams don’t know whose cat it was they buried.

Their Thomas is once again eating well and he’s sleeping like a king, right alongside Lea.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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