In September 2008, Juliet Pennay was in Paris studying French when deadly Hurricane Ike destroyed much of the Gulf Coast of Texas, where her family and 6-year-old pet Simon had lived for several years.
“Mom’s house in Webster was evacuated so she took Simon and her own cat to my uncle’s home in Clear Lake, which was not as prone to floods,” Pennay, 27, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "While she was transporting Simon into the new house, he ran away.”
Skittish about loud noises, cars and anything out of the ordinary, indoor cat Simon got spooked — and bolted into the neighborhood. Within hours, Pennay’s family was told to evacuate the house in Clear Lake, and had to do so without Simon.
“After the storm, my mom and uncle sent out flyers and asked everyone if they had seen Simon," Pennay says. "Although there were supposedly sightings of him chasing birds, running and playing, he did not return.”
Pennay, an artist and writer still studying in Paris, was left to worry about the cuddly 15-lb. gray tabby who had come into her life just five years earlier, when she found him perched on her back porch in Houston.
Still, she never gave up hope, and when Pennay came back to the states for the holidays this past year, her best gift ever was awaiting her at her uncle's house on Christmas Day.
“I ran out and called [Simon's] name,” Pennay tells PEOPLEPets.com. “Almost instantly, I saw him across the street. I was so excited I couldn’t breathe. My heart stopped. I started crying and ran to him.”
At first, Simon, who looked well fed, was afraid to approach her. Convinced he was feral, it was difficult for Pennay not to cuddle and hold him, but she sensed he was still trying to figure out what was going on. After a couple of days together at her uncle’s house, Simon allowed Pennay to pet him.
“He laid on my lap and let me love him like old times,” says Pennay. “After a year and a half of worry, it was so wonderful to see him. He has claws. And he is fine.”
Pennay will come back to Texas and see Simon in June after her French classes end, but she intends to stay in Paris for work and inspiration — she may even write a children's book about the reunion with her cat. For now, Simon is living comfortably with her uncle until she returns.
“This time my plan is to bring Simon with me,” she tells PEOPLEPets.com. “We will enjoy Paris together!”