Smith: Many words but no movement in the catfight over fire survivor Mack



Before we catch up on the struggle between two households over Mack, the cat that ran from the Tubbs fire and was renamed Phoenix by the people who adopted him and won’t return him, I want to admit my bias.

As an adult I’ve rarely been without a dog in my life. You may recall that I wrote late in 2016 of the death of Betty, the Australian shepherd I adored every day for 14 years.

If we flew somewhere on vacation, we left Betty with friends. One set of friends and then another told me while we were away that not only did they love having Betty, but that she was bonding with them so tightly that they feared she wouldn’t want to go home.

Then I came to get her and she and I rolled about in a tangle of joy and my friends called to her but she didn’t hear them. Betty certainly did love them and was happy to be with them, but I was her guy. She was part of our family.

So if Betty and I had become separated and somebody else took her home and then proclaimed that she was better off there, well, I would have a problem with that.


THE TWO PARTIES in the dispute over Mack haven’t met. But they’ve communicated through letters passed by folks at Sonoma County Animal Control. Officials there also determined through a DNA test that Phoenix is indeed the cat that Rod Wallace and his family named Mack and kept along with his sister, Darcy.

The Wallaces don’t know the names of the people who found the cat at the county shelter and took him home in November. Rod Wallace told them in a letter that Mack and Darcy lived mostly outside the Fountaingrove house his family lost to the Tubbs fire, and they were happy and beloved.

Wallace wrote that Mack and Darcy would hunt all day, “then they would snuggle up together on the sheltered balcony outside our bedroom door.”

Darcy, too, ran off as the flames approached, but she was returned. Mack, Rod Wallace wrote, “needs to come home.”


THE NEW KEEPERS of the cat identify themselves as Phoenix’s Dads. They wrote that though it probably would be good for him to be reunited with his sister, they’re concerned about “the trauma of Phoenix having to adapt to a new physical environment for the third time in four months.”

The cat was in the county shelter before these individuals took him home. As part of their justification for keeping the cat they allege several shortcomings by the Wallaces.

Among them: That the family didn’t microchip Mack and let him languish for weeks at the county shelter. The new guardians wrote that their veterinarian advised “that many studies demonstrate that indoor-only companion animals live longer and have fewer health issues compared with those that are allowed to be outdoors unsupervised.”

So, no, they wrote, “We will not allow you (to) break our family so that your family can be whole again.”


AN ATTORNEY is what the Wallaces believe they need most urgently just now. Beyond common sense and humanity, they maintain that a city ordinance mandates that the people who have their cat return him.

If Phoenix’s Dads are so confident it is right that the cat remain with them, they should have no problem making their case before a judge.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and