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When Barbara Oliphant started feeding a hungry stray cat last summer, she had no idea just how strong a bond she was creating. But she found out last week when Wollie undertook an incredible journey to return to his home in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Oliphant took Wollie in because she felt sorry for the thin, scrappy black cat. But just as Wollie was starting to get comfortable in his new home, her husband, George, had a stroke.

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Wollie and the Oliphants’ dog became fast friends.

Because she was so busy tending to George during his hospital stay, she felt bad that she couldn’t give Wollie the attention he needed and deserved. She was also worried that Wollie might trip George once he got back home, and given their income, she couldn’t afford the cost of the neutering and vaccinations he needed.

She knew what she had to do for the cat’s sake, and with a breaking heart she surrendered him to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire.

George began getting better and was able to return home. But Barbara still missed Wollie: She’d come to love the cat, and her grief about having to surrender him never fully left her heart.

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An exhausted Wollie relaxes on the couch after his six-mile hike.

The Oliphants’ daughter became aware of this state of affairs and secretly adopted Wollie, who, by that time, had been fixed and vaccinated. After leaving the shelter, she was just about to close the door of her car when a huge crack of thunder sounded above. Wollie freaked out, pushed his way out of his zippered crate, and bolted for the woods. Animal Rescue League volunteers spent the rest of the day and all of the next day searching for the cat, to no avail.

A few days later, Barbara saw a black cat crossing the road by her house. “I said, ‘That’s Wollie.’ I just knew it was him,” she said.

Barbara was stunned to see the cat — and even more amazed when she realized that Wollie had managed to travel six miles from the shelter to her house.

“I just felt it was a miracle,” Barbara said.

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Barbara Oliphant gives Wollie some love.

She has no plans to bring Wollie back to the shelter, despite her original concerns about her husband’s safety. “This is clearly God’s will, and if he can find me against all the odds, then I am meant to have this cat in our home and in our lives.”

Sources: WMUR-TV and Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire press release. Images: screen captures from WMUR video

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