Family Who Survived Mudslide Reunites With Cat They Thought They'd Lost Forever

“Thank you, you’re our heroes.”

When the mud came, Lindsey and Woody Thompson didn’t know if they’d make it out alive.

They even left “goodbye” messages for each other.

After their road was blocked and home devastated by the deadly Montecito mudslide earlier this month, the California couple was rescued by helicopter, but one very important member didn’t make it out of the wreckage — Koshka, the couple’s beloved cat.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services Facebook

Desperate to be reunited with their pet, the Thompsons immediately reached out to Santa Barbara County Animal Services (SBCAS) for help. But it soon became very clear that finding Koshka among the rubble wouldn’t be easy.

“Our teams went to the property as soon as we were able, but we were not able to access the property safely,” according to a Facebook post by SBCAS. “Our teams continued to check the property daily since January 9, but were losing hope as we could not safely access the remainder of the home.”

Santa Barbara County Animal Services Facebook

On Monday, Michael Snyder-Pennon, an officer with SBCAS, and a partner from the local ASPCA were finally able to approach safely and crawl through a window into the house. There, they found Koshka, her soft gray fur caked in mud, thankful to see her rescuers.

Officer Michael Snyder-Pennon saves cat from Montecito Mudslide-ravaged home.
Officer Michael Snyder-Pennon successfully retrieves Koshka from the Thompsons' home. | Santa Barbara County Animal Services Facebook

In the wake of the disaster, animal services has been working overtime in the field, rescuing cats left behind during unexpected evacuations, hundreds of chickens from mud-shifted coops, geckos, bearded dragons and red-eared sliders, explains Stacy Silva, community outreach coordinator for SBCAS.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services Facebook

The moment when Koshka was finally reunited with her parents was uplifting and much-needed for everyone in the room.

“It was an absolute emotional high, is the best way to put it,” Silva told The Dodo. “The tears were flowing, but they were happy tears, and tears that needed to be released because of all the destruction that has taken place.”

“This was one huge act of hope for those people who are still missing their pets from the mudslide,” Silva added.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services Facebook

SBCAS posted a video of the emotional reunion on its Facebook page, and the inspiring moment is now being shared worldwide.

We needed something like this to happen for our family,” Lindsey Thompson says through tears in the video. “Our house is totally destroyed … but we’re safe — and now Koshka’s safe.”

“We knew that she was alive, we knew that she was smart and would find a safe spot to be, and she did,” Woody Thompson says. “She has amazing instinct.”

The couple thought they had lost everything, but thanks to the selfless efforts of the rescue workers, their family is whole again.

“Thank you,” Lindsey Thompson adds, “You’re our heroes.”

To help support the rescue and rehoming efforts of Santa Barbara County Animal Services, find out how to donate here.