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Alaskan couple found their cat 26 days after their home collapsed into a swollen river in a glacial explosion


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two Alaskan teachers needed some good news after losing nearly all of their possessions when their home collapsed into a swollen river from glacial flooding and their cat went missing.

Elizabeth Wilkins held out hope that if any animal survived the house’s fall into the Mendenhall River on August 5, it would be Leo, the couple’s resilient big-eyed black and white cat who shows no fear of bears.

“I knew he’s pretty smart, so I was pretty confident that he would escape and be fine somewhere,” she said.

That faith paid off 26 days after the flood when Tonya Mead posted a photo of Leo on the Juneau Community Collective’s Facebook page. Wilkins immediately knew it was Leo, the “COVID kitten” they rescued in 2020. She rushed to meet Mead.

“I just started walking down the street calling him, and he ran away and was like, ‘Oh hey, here I am, you know, where have you been?’ ” she says.

The flood of the river was caused by a major release of water from the Suicide Basin, a Mendenhall Glacier -dam lake in Juneau, which has eroded the river bank.

Wilkens and his partner, Tom Schwartz, moved into the house shortly before the flood hit, but they had gone on an ATV trip to Bend, Oregon.

Friends called and sent videos, warning that their house was in danger of being washed away.

Eventually, several houses were destroyed or partially destroyed, with others condemned or flooded. None of the destruction was as famous as the house Wilkins and Schwartz rented, with video of it collapsing into the river. go viral.

The couple returned to Juneau three days later to settle new living arrangements and look for Leo.

They returned to the site of the house, calling out Leo’s name and leaving him food in the chicken coop.

At that time, it seemed like everyone in Juneau was looking for him. There have been many sightings of Leo, but Wilkins said it appears there are only many homeless black and white cats in Juneau.

When he showed up, he appeared to be in good health.

“Leo was a little thinner, but otherwise absolutely fine,” Wilkins said. “He ate four cans of tuna and went out to kill a mouse. I imagine that’s how he survived.

She said it was amazing to reunite with Leo, even though he is currently living with a friend while they look for another place to live.

“It’s super joyful because everyone in their community was looking for it, and it’s nice to have good news,” she said.

And just like Leo, some of their other possessions come back to them, just not in as good shape as the cat.

“People found some things, for example some of our clothes and photos, were in four feet of silt in someone’s yard down the Mendenhall River,” Wilkins said.

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