Through all her troubles, one blind little girl always had her cat by her side. The pair were the best of friends. So, when the animal ran away, it understandably devastated the youngster. Then, to make matters worse, her mom saw their pet in the arms of another family.
Charley Howell, four, lives with her mom, Heather, and their family in Pensacola, Florida. When she was born, her parents thought that Charley was the most perfect little girl possible. But at that moment, they could never have known just how ill their little bundle of joy would become.
Charley’s family had noticed that she was smaller than other babies her age when she was just two months old. At first, doctors thought nothing of it. Her mother continued to be concerned, however, and another check-up revealed that Charley was losing weight. As a result, she was referred for further tests.
Following numerous scans and examinations, doctors diagnosed Charley with pilocytic astrocytoma, a form of brain cancer. They also discovered that the tumors in her head had caused the child to develop diencephalic syndrome.
Diencephalic syndrome is a rare disorder that affects some children. The condition can cause dangerous levels of weight loss. And although the syndrome is uncommon, it can still potentially be fatal for those who suffer from it.
As a result of her illnesses, Charley has had plenty of visits to the hospital during her young life. Matters eventually came to a head in December 2014 when the youngster underwent a life-or-death procedure to remove more than half of her brain tumor.
Sadly, however, the surgery not only removed half of Charley’s cancer, but it also stole her vision. So, at the age of just one, the youngster became completely blind. Naturally, that development would have presented difficulties for the family. Nonetheless, her parents were just glad to still have their little girl at all.
Speaking to Inside Edition in December 2017, Charley’s mom Heather said, “It’s not easy, but we do the best we can do. She’s a happy little girl. When we first found out about it, I wasn’t even sure she was going to make it to four years old. We just take it as it comes.”
Yet despite her family’s positivity, the years following her surgery would still have presented challenges for Charley. But thankfully for her, in 2015 she received the best friend that she could have ever wished for. That’s when her mom Heather found a kitten in their apartment block’s parking lot.
The Howells subsequently adopted the cat and named her Angel. And before long, she and Charley had hit it off. “Angel was just a few weeks old, and she immediately clung to Charley,” Heather told the Pensacola News Journal in December 2017. “She slept with her, she would get in the bathtub with her.”
Most importantly, Angel was always there for Charley when she needed her the most. “Anytime Charley is having a bad day from chemo and just laid up on the couch, Angel is there,” Howell explained to Inside Edition. “She’s right by her side.”
So, it’s easy to imagine how traumatizing it may have been for Charley when Angel escaped from the family home in September 2017. Heather had left the door open while she unpacked groceries and the then two-year-old cat made a bolt for it.
The Howells may well have hoped that Angel would find her own way home. As the days passed, however, that didn’t come to pass. Heather already had a Facebook page on which she documented Charley’s health issues. So, she turned to the social media site for help.
The mom thought that the 47,000 followers on the Smiles for Baby Charley page may be able to help her to locate Angel. However, her missing cat posts came to no avail. So, as the months passed, Heather resigned herself to the fact that she might never see the cat again.
“Charley doesn’t really comprehend things like an average four-year-old does. So there wasn’t really a way to explain it to her,” Heather said. “She would just call for her, and we thought to just buy her another kitten because we were all bummed.”
“Dusty’s cute and funny, but he’s not Angel at all,” Heather said of the new kitten. Meanwhile, people sent her photos of cats who they thought may be the missing Angel. And after many false alarms, Heather eventually saw a photograph of a cat that she thought may indeed be Angel.
It turned out that, in the 15 weeks that she was missing, Angel had wound up at the Escambia County Animal Shelter. That was where the Hilliard family had spotted her and become smitten. They were so smitten with the kitten, in fact, that they’d adopted her and then posted a celebratory photograph online.
And it seems that at around the same time that Heather had spotted this photo, the brother-in-law of Vanessa Hilliard had seen Heather’s Facebook post about Angel. He subsequently contacted Vanessa to inform her.
Vanessa Hilliard consequently returned Angel to Charley just days before Christmas. In the emotional footage of their reunion, Charley tenderly kissed her cat on the head. It looked as if she was very happy to be meeting her best friend once again.
Even though Vanessa had originally adopted the cat as a festive surprise for her daughter, she was nonetheless happy to return Charley’s little Angel. Moreover, she and her family even refused to let the Howells cover their adoption costs. “They said it was their Christmas gift to Charley,” Heather told the Pensacola News Journal.