Chris Smith: Sonoma County cat is claimed by two families after fire

(Courtesy photo)


Nothing is simple, certainly not the tale of a handsome cat named Mack who may have survived the Tubbs fire and may now be living with people who refuse to return him to his family.

Sonoma County Animal Services officials caught in the middle of the dispute are about to have a DNA test done on the cat that a family of Fountaingrove fire victims believes is Mack and that is now living with people who call him Aspen.

For Christmas to be nigh makes all this all the more painful to Shelby Wallace, a hair stylist who shared a home on Rocky Point Way, off Fountaingrove Parkway, with her mother and stepfather until the flames of Oct. 9 consumed it.

As happened so often, the humans knew they might perish were they to spend much time seeking their 5-year-old, sibling cats, Mack and Darcy. As happened so often, Shelby and her folks feared that the cats were killed.

But after just a couple of days, a woman found and posted online a photo of a cat that the Wallaces immediately recognized as Darcy. She was quickly reunited with her family.

The cat that might be Mack was delivered to the county animal shelter on Oct. 11, just two days after the fire. Members of the Wallace family went to the shelter on Oct. 13, filed a missing cat report and looked among the caged animals for Mack.

Why they didn’t find and claim their cat right then, no one can say. Regardless, Wallace family members say that after that day they made frequent calls to the shelter to see if a cat matching Mack’s description had been brought in.

Many weeks later, the Wallaces spotted a video online of a cat at the county shelter. They felt certain it was Mack.

But when they tried to claim him they were told the cat had been adopted. Shelby Wallace and her family pleaded to get the cat back, but were told the new owners, who took him home Nov. 29, love him and believe they can give him a better home.

“We don’t know if it’s the same cat,” said county spokesman Scott Alonso. To find out, the county will pay for DNA testing of the adopted cat now named Aspen to determine if he is, in fact, Mack.

If he is, the Wallaces believe Santa Rosa law is on their side, and that people who adopted Mack must return him.

If those folks do have Mack, I’d hope they’d consider that he was part of the Wallace family for five years, he slept every night alongside his sister, and his true family has already lost enough with the destruction of their home.

Now we wait for the results of the DNA test.


SIFTERS STANDING BY: If you lost your home to the fires and the debris hasn’t yet been hauled away, or if you know someone in that situation, Bob Rusert has an offer for you.

He and fellow members of The Bridge, a Santa Rosa church, would like to come help you sift the remains of your house for valuables and keepsakes.

Rusert and the others are taking up a mission begun by volunteers with the international Samaritan’s Purse relief organization. Those workers sifted at many fire sites, and before moving on, trained and left their safety gear and sifting supplies with Rusert and others at The Bridge.

Rusert said his team of volunteers has recovered all sorts of things from the debris of homes: jewelry, military medals, rings, ceramics, mementos.

Anyone interested in having the church members’ help can contact them at, or 806-7528.

Rusert said he likes to help people sift the ashes because, as much as anything, “it helps them create closure.”

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or