On Feb. 9, Melissa Meyer awoke to the crackle of fire. Her Black Mountain home was burning. As the flames spread, Meyer searched for her loved ones. Along with her husband, daughter and two dogs, Meyer escaped unharmed, but the fate of the family’s four cats was unknown.
The family secured temporary housing just weeks before Buncombe County ordered residents to “stay home, stay safe.” Meyer, who co-owns a small real estate business, says the pandemic added professional challenges amid her personal turmoil.
“The fire was devastating enough,” she says. “At times, I felt like giving up.”
All the while, she couldn’t stop thinking about her lost felines. Neighbors helped her canvas the area with notices, but months went by, and the search began to feel hopeless.
That is, until June, when a familiar face appeared on a neighborhood Facebook page. Meyer’s missing cat, Oliver, had been spotted on a nearby greenway path. She and her neighbors quickly converged on the site and after a two-hour search, Oliver was located.
He wasn’t in great shape. After four months in the wild, Oliver had decreased kidney function, a respiratory infection and dehydration. After a five-day stint at MedVet animal hospital in Asheville, though, Oliver returned to his family’s care, where he continues to recover.
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” says Meyer, who started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover Oliver’s veterinary bills. The campaign has raised more than half its $5,000 goal.
“We have no control over what’s going to happen tomorrow,” she continues. “But it’s always been that way. We’ve adjusted and realized we’re going to have to do a lot of things differently, and it has brought us closer as a family.”
Since Oliver’s return, the family continues to push ahead. Meyer’s business remains afloat, and she and her husband, Doug Thoma, will soon build a new home on the site of the residence that burned.
Meyer reflects on the special bond she and her neighbors share in good times and bad. “Black Mountain is a very strong community,” she says. “People have pulled together to help each other in ways you just don’t get in many other places. We have been blessed in more ways than I can count.”
This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.