On January 10, 2018, heavy rains pounded southern California, releasing deadly early-morning mudslides that killed 23 people, including several children. Two of the victims were never found. The destruction to the Montecito area was even worse than it typically would have been due to the severe wildfires that burned all the vegetation that would have otherwise helped fortify the mountainsides. 100 homes were completely demolished, with an additional 300 suffering damage.

Aerial photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department of Montecito after the deadly 2018 mudslides

In addition the homes and lives that were lost, many beloved family pets were lost as well. One pet, a calico cat named Patches, was thought to have ben lost along with her owner. According to ABC, Patches belonged to Josie Gower and Norm Borgatello.  Gower was one of the victims of the mudslides, but Borgatello survived and assumed Patches had also fallen victim to the mudslides since the cat had been missing ever since.

The Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) was surprised to discover the cat was one that had been reported as missing three years ago. In a statement, ASAP shared:

“It was a shock to discover, upon scanning her microchip, that she was, in fact, the long lost Patches. Josie and her partner Norm (who miraculously survived that fateful night) were long-time supporters of ASAP, and when we discovered that Patches’ microchip was registered in Josie’s name, we were able to contact their family and facilitate a reunion no one thought possible.”

Patches the cat had been missing for three years after the 2018 mudslides that devastated southern California

The shelter contacted Patches’ surviving owner, Norm, who couldn’t believe that the beloved cat had actually survived the mudslide, let alone the past three years on her own. Even more surprising, Patches was found just a quarter of a mile away from her Montecito home. Of the reunion, ASAP said:

“[Borgatello] was overwhelmed when he came to pick her up on New Year’s Eve, as though he’d seen a ghost. And in a way, it was almost like he had.”

Stories like these that come out of terrible beginnings are always extra touching. We hope Patches and Borgatello can bring each other comfort and hope for the future. The ASAP is using the story as an example of the importance of microchipping pets:

“We are so grateful that, with the support of our amazing community, not only are we able to save lives, but we are often able to help these special reunions happen. As we see time and time again, a lost cat with a microchip has a much greater chance of being reunited with their family… no matter how, or for how long, they’ve been separated.”


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