Illustrations by Sue Cornelison from “Lost and Found Cat”, Crown Books 2017

For the sake of safety, Sura, a widowed mother, her three daughters and only son must flee war torn Iraq under cover, taking only what they can carry on their backs and in their arms. Among their possessions is Kunkush, their beloved cat. On their way to Istanbul, they travel by car, followed by three days on foot where Sura and her children walk behind the others lest the smugglers discover Kunkush and double the price of their escape.

Crossing the Aegean Sea to the island of Lesbos, the family along with 60 others is crammed into a flimsy rubber boat meant to carry 25. When they finally scramble ashore, they leave  Kunkush’s carrier—its door broken—unattended for several moments. He slips out and retreats to the forest. Nowhere to be found, Kunkush is left behind by Sura and the children who have no choice but to continue their journey to a new home in Norway.

In stories of animals lost in transit, in a foreign country, among strangers, this event usually signals the end of the tale, the final days, weeks, or years of the life of the pet left unaccounted for with the grieving family hoping in desperation that it might survive, happily and without suffering.

Enter Amy, a volunteer in Lesbos from the USA to help arriving refugees. One day she spots a half starved white cat on the island shore. Touched by the plight of this bedraggled creature, Amy temporarily adopts the cat with the aim to find his family. A friend sets up a Facebook page with pictures of the cat and his status as refugee on Lesbos. This effort to reunify cat and family, though worthy, seems likely to fail.

Except that one of Sura’s daughters, four months into her new life and already speaking some English, finds the Facebook page. The picture and the story fit. But how to be sure?

Contact is made and the family sets up a Skype visit with Amy and the cat in the photos. Sura and her kids gather in front of the computer in Oslo, deliriously calling him by name, the way they say it—Kunkoosh—and cooing endearments, sounds with a familiar lilt and rhythm pouring out of their mouths. At his end, Kunkush begins to search. Where are they? How can he get to them?

Illustrations by Sue Cornelison from “Lost and Found Cat”, Crown Books 2017

With the help of more volunteers, Kunkush is delivered to his family in Norway, his story a tribute to all the people who believe that the beauty and strength of our world resides in making it one large caring community.