How a stolen cat named Dundee brought a wildfire-ravaged community together in Paradise, California


In the town of Paradise, California, a place familiar with tragedy, the story of a stolen cat named Dundee has become a symbol of resilience and community spirit.

The small town was devastated by the deadliest wildfire in California’s history in 2018, which claimed 85 lives and destroyed thousands of homes. 

Despite experiencing significant loss during the Camp Fire, the people of Paradise rallied together when Susan Heffernan’s truck was stolen. Inside the truck was her loyal companion, Dundee, a feral cat, who was visiting a vet.

“It was just so quick, off they both went,” said Heffernan.

Dundee was not just any cat; he had been by Heffernan’s side since she rescued him six years ago, surviving the fire’s destruction together. She lost almost 1,200 acres to the fire.

The community’s response was immediate. Pamela Bezley, known for her dedication to feeding feral cats, was among the first to act, searching a homeless camp in Chico after receiving a tip. 

Tara Ramelli, Jocelyn Dunning and Carol Curtis quickly joined what became known as “Team Dundee,” spreading the word online and scouring the area for any sign of the stolen truck or Dundee.

“In the process, everybody was out searching. Pam was going back with her connections that she made at the homeless camp. Jocelyn was helping Susie, you know, drive around because we were getting calls that possibly it was Dundee,” said Ramelli.

Police found the truck, 20 miles from where it was stolen. Inside the truck were medications that Dundee needed but no Dundee.

Ramelli offered a $500 reward, and more people responded to the post.

“One fellow put on Facebook that he would give a thousand dollars of his own money,” said Ramelli. 

The momentum, and even offers of money, kept on. Bezley kept searching those encampments.

Their efforts paid off four days later when they received a call from a woman claiming she had Dundee. The reunion was emotional, with Dundee purring as soon as he was back in Heffernan’s arms.

Dundee is home again with Heffernan. Team Dundee agreed the money that came in should pay for food so Bezley could feed more feral cats. And for this place that has survived the deadliest wildfire in state history, “Team Dundee” is not going away.  It has become more than just a search party; it represents the enduring spirit of Paradise, a community that, despite the massive wildfire, continues to showcase immense character and unity.

“I think ‘Team Dundee’ probably came about long before Dundee got lost. I mean, there’s always going to be certain members of a community that have a purpose for whatever it might be,” said Curtis.



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