CHICAGO (CBS)–It was a joyous reunion for a Chicago homeless man named John, who was reunited with his cat Thursday–10 days after the pet was stolen.
John lives on the busy corner of Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street with his cat, Faith.
He rescued Faith from another homeless man who abandoned Faith on a downtown street corner and boarded a Greyhound bus to a warmer city a few months ago, according to Chicago resident Talia Miele, a friend of John’s.
Faith was emaciated and infested with fleas, Miele says. She helped him pay for vaccinations and microchipping so John and Faith could have a happy life together.
“She’s his emotional support animal,” Miele said.
The pair had been inseparable ever since.
Until July 31, when Faith was stolen from the corner of Grand and Wabash, where John had been sitting in front of the Starbucks.
The bond between John and Faith was noticed by people who pass by the pair daily, including Chicago resident Emily Poniatowski, who noticed the sign he typically displays asking for food was replaced with a new sign pleading for the return of his beloved feline friend. She said she was heartbroken when she found out about the stolen cat.
“Faith and John saved each other and it’s a shame that someone would see John as unworthy of such a courtship,” she said.
John’s story has a happy ending, however.
On Thursday, the still-unidentified woman surrendered the cat to Chicago police, according to Colette Bradley, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Cruelty Society.
“We gave the cat’s microchip number to police, and they were able to confirm the chip information was connected to John,” Bradley said.
It’s unknown whether the woman was arrested, but John and Faith were reunited later that night.
The reunion would have been unlikely if it weren’t for the help of strangers who helped with the search.
Miele and her husband Frank befriended John recently, and were helping him work toward finding a home when Faith went missing last week. John has no family, and the Miele’s had given him a calling card and their cell phone numbers to reach them in an emergency.
“He was crying his eyes out that she was taken,” Talia said.
She took it upon herself to call nearly 25 veterinarians in Chicago to provide a description of Faith in case the woman who took him brought him in for treatment.
“Basically a network of cat lovers and the homeless population in Streeterville were all on the alert,” Talia said.
Talia was confident that Faith’s microchip number would turn up somewhere.
Her hunch came true this week when the woman who took Faith called the Anti-Cruelty Society to book an appointment. The shelter matched the chip number to John, and reached out to Talia, the emergency contact.
The police asked her to come to the station and surrender the cat.
Talia says that while at the police station the woman informed her she would only return the cat under the condition that she would not return to the street corner.
“She made me promise the cat wasn’t going with a homeless person.,” Talia said. “There’s still a lot of misunderstanding about the homeless. She was putting the cat in danger by forcibly taking her from someone without any information.”
By Thursday night, John and Faith had reunited.
He’s worried the woman will come back, so he’s moved to a new corner, Talia says.
Poniatowski brought attention to John’s search for his feline companion on Facebook, where her post got lots of attention from sympathizers.
Poniatowski has been passing by John on her daily morning to walk for years. She describes him as a kind man who often reads from his bible and is “gracious to people around him,” she said.
“He (cares for) Faith more than he cares for himself,” Poniatowski said.
“I have seen Faith grow up in his care,” Poniatowski said. “He simply adores her and it appears that Faith just loves him to pieces the way she curls up in his arms free of a leash.”
It is unknown whether the woman who stole the cat is facing charges.