George, the cat who went missing for three months after getting loose at the Edmonton International Airport, was reunited with his owner in Fort McMurray Friday.
"It was exciting to see him. I was excited to get him back," Vanessa Summerfield said. "He was actually pretty calm. It was good to have him back."
George was flown back home in high style — for a cat. Two WestJet employees accompanied his carrier in the cabin of his morning flight out of Edmonton.
"We're going to be going through security and carrying him right onto the plane, " said WestJet's Lori Oshanek.
The reunion ended a story that began on Sept. 23 when George escaped from his carrier while ground crews unloaded his Air Canada flight from Fort McMurray.
Summerfield was sending George to stay with her family in Ontario while she looked for a pet-friendly apartment in the northern Alberta city.
In late November, Summerfield was told that a frozen cat found on the grounds of the airport was George, but an Edmonton veterinarian soon determined that it wasn't him. The animal was a female.
In the meantime, airport employees continued their search. They put out food and built cat shelters on the grounds of the airport, even using a donated motion-triggered infrared camera to track animal movements.
Oshanek searched for George at the end of her shifts. She never saw George but maintenance crews did.
"They spotted him all the time. He was coming in and out of their yard, they were searching for him all the time as well," she said. "It gave us hope. We knew he was out there, we just had to find him."
'Still the same George'
Summerfield finally got the news she was hoping for on Dec. 20 — George turned up safe and sound at a home in Leduc, a town adjacent to the airport.
Summerfield was away for Christmas so WestJet arranged to have him flown back to Fort McMurray on Friday.
No one was taking any chances this time. Not only did George ride in the cabin, Oshanek says his kennel was secured with screws and zip ties.
"This my little Fort Knox kennel," she said. "Nothing's getting out of it."
Summerfield says her pet is a bit apprehensive about his new surroundings and thinner than the last time she saw him, "But still the same George."
She's relieved that the experience is now over and is thankful to everyone who helped look for her pet.
"If it weren't for all of them, I wouldn't have George back," she said. "Every little thing every single person did played a part for getting him home."