Robert Connell is a former Marine, but that doesn't mean he's without his soft side. He formed a bond with his cat Hemi that lasted through deployments and four lost years and 1,700 miles.
The Connell family, Robert, Jennifer and their two daughters, have lived happily in Bismarck since 2013. But someone is missing.
Robert saved Hemi in 2009 when he found the cat on his engine block in North Carolina. When he was deployed and Jennifer moved on base, Hemi thought Robert was lost. So naturally, the cat went looking.
"I was a little nervous about him not coming back, but I wasn't initially worried about it until, you know, about a half-hour, 45 minutes later, he wasn't back and I couldn't find him," said Jennifer.
Four years and hundreds of miles away, a miracle. A shelter in North Carolina found Hemi. Originally, a friend was going to fly him out, but after a blizzard derailed those plans, Robert got tired of waiting.
"Hemi went looking for me. I wanted to return the favor and go get him," said Robert.
Four days and 3,400 miles separated Hemi from home, but it was no problem for the cool cat.
"He knows that I needed him, and that's why he was still around and that's probably why he went looking for me when they moved on base. He thought I was left behind," said Robert.
Hemi has helped Robert deal with his PTSD and so he's much more than just a cat.
"This is a perfect time that Hemi comes back in our lives, and I feel like our family is becoming whole again," said Robert.
The Connells are moving into a new home next month. This time, the yard will be fenced in.
The shelter was able to identify Hemi because of a microchip. The Connells strongly urge those with pets to have them microchipped so if they're lost, they can be returned.