Jake the cat is back home after 4 1/2 months on his own, reunited with his family after a chance sighting behind a church.
"We believe it is a miracle," Doreen Tusick said.
Jake, who has lived with the Tusick family in the Pine Lakes development near Webster and Pearl roads since they rescued him five years ago, wandered away the last weekend of September.
"Not knowing whatever happened to him left us with a very unsettled feeling and we just never gave up hope," Doreen said.
They posted a lost-and-found notice on Strongsville Patch and put up dozens of signs, running out to investigate any sighting, no matter how unlikely.
But Jake's journey finally ended Friday when Doreen's sister, picking up her son at the United Methodist Church's preschool, noticed a gray cat walking into the woods.
Doreen's husband, Tim, their son, Frank, daughter Natalie and two of Frank's friends raced over, but couldn't find him.
Just as they were leaving, one of the friends -- his name, coincidentally, is Jake -- spotted a gray cat at the edge of the woods.
They weren't sure it was Jake. Tim called, but the cat kept his distance.
Then the feline saw Frank, and the family was reunited. The cat ran over and rubbed against Frank's leg.
Jake has an infected puncture wound on his head, but seems otherwise healthy and well fed.
"How could he have survived hurricane Sandy, the severe cold and snow, the coyotes in Strongsville, crossing over the turnpike?" Doreen wonders.
"Were there other people involved? Feeding him? Giving him shelter? And what are the chances that my sister would see him that day?"
In fact, her sister almost didn't take her son to preschool that day. And Tim was seconds away from leaving the church lot when the cat came out of the woods.
"So many things fell in place to let us have our beautiful cat back," Doreen said. "We are so grateful and feel that we have been blessed with a miracle."
Since being home, Jake hasn't so much as glanced out the window, and Doreen said they'll probably keep him indoors till spring -- even though Jake loves to keep the mice and moles at bay in their yard.
"He's the happiest thing you've ever seen," she said. "He keeps rolling over, meowing at us, purring."
She would love to hear from anyone who might have fed Jake or given him shelter during his months on the road.
"We've been missing him so much," she said. "He's so lovable."