Four years ago, Dorian Lambert received a phone call from her aunt about a stray cat that had found his way into her yard. Knowing Dorian loved cats and not being able to keep him herself, Dorian’s aunt asked her if she would like to take him in. Dorian gladly welcomed Rodney into her home and cared for him for a year.
Like many cats that grow up as strays, Rodney had the natural inclination of wanting to explore the outdoors. As fate would have it, he found his way outside and didn’t come back. Dorian looked for her sweet Rodney for a full month before believing he may never return. She was heartbroken to think he may have gone to ‘cat heaven.’
Little did she know, Rodney had found his way far away from his loving home and into the arms of a new owner, who also took great care of him and renamed him ‘Willie.’ He lived a life with this new owner and his two dog brothers for three years. Unfortunately, the new owner was moving across country and could not take his dogs or Willie with him, and surrendered his pets to the SPCA Albrecht Center.
In the few weeks of being at the SPCA, Willie had won the hearts of the staff, volunteers and supporters. He was a very loving cat and you could hear him purring from a mile away. Despite his sweet demeanor, Willie was slightly overweight and 15-years old. The SPCA’s senior pets can be difficult to find forever homes for, so it was decided to take Willie on WRDW Channel 12’s ‘Take Me Home’ segment to get him some exposure.
On Friday, September 14, Willie had his television debut. As expected, the news anchors and viewers quickly fell in love with his adorable face and gentle personality. But one viewer could not believe her eyes – it was Dorian.
A week before Dorian saw her Rodney on WRDW (as Willie), she received a Facebook ‘memory’ that was a picture of Rodney in his favorite spot on the kitchen floor, eating from his bowl. Her heart sank at the thought of her lost cat and she felt as though it was his ‘little, cat spirit’ paying her a visit. Now, she was watching her beloved companion, lost for three years, on the morning news show she watched every day.
Dorian was in shock, “I was excited because I saw him. The first thing I said was, ‘That looks like my Rodney.’ I made sure I didn’t walk anywhere because I wanted to hear it all.” The SPCA employee pointed out Willie’s adorable snaggletooth, and that’s when Dorian’s heart jumped. She knew she had just found her cat. She went to her husband and son and told them she just saw her Rodney on WRDW. They didn’t believe her, but she knew in her heart that it was him and she wanted to prove them wrong.
It took her a day to work up the nerve to come visit Willie at the shelter. She told her mom, “I don’t want to go because if that’s not him I’ll be heartbroken.” But, on Saturday, she was in Aiken and decided to go to the SPCA Albrecht Center just to see if it really was Rodney.
She told the front desk that she just wanted to visit the cats and walked through Cat Adoption until she found her Rodney. “When he saw me and I saw him, it was like he remembered me,” Dorian recalled, “He looked at me and he tried to get his hands out to me. I was rubbing him and crying. As soon as I opened the cage, he lifted up his arms because I used to pick him up like a baby.”
Dorian approached the shelter’s receptionists and told them the story of Rodney. She showed them a picture of him and the staff matched the markings on Willie to the markings of the photo of Rodney. There was no doubt that Willie was Dorian’s Rodney.
Dorian had to come back for Rodney a few days later after getting the updated rabies certificate for her other cat, Panda. When she returned, she made sure to let Rodney know that she was taking him home and Rodney waited. “As I was standing there finishing up [paperwork], he was sitting right there at his cage door patiently waiting and looking to make sure I was still there,” Dorian said.
The ride home was quiet as Rodney looked around at his familiar surroundings from three years ago. When he got home, it was like he had never left. Dorian now sits in her office during this interview with her precious companion by her side and says, “He remembered the kitchen and he sat right there on the floor. He remembered where to come in my office. It was like he remembered and nothing had changed.”
Dorian and her family are ecstatic to have Rodney back home and she can’t believe that this is their story, “You hear about these things on T.V., but I never thought something like this would happen to me. It was in the stars and the cosmos that on that particular day, [the SPCA] decided to take Rodney to the news to get the exposure and I just happened to be watching in that moment in time.”
Welcome home, Rodney.
Update photo from Dorian Lambert of Rodney and his famous snaggletooth.
Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She is an Aiken native, but spent some college years in Charleston, interning with Charleston Animal Society. She is proud to be working in animal welfare in her hometown, surrounded by amazing, animal-loving supporters. She and her husband have a SPCA adopted black lab, Ozzy, a SPCA adopted Siamese mix, Luna, and Claire’s first love, Anakin, a 17-pound rescued Maine Coon mix.