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NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — A cat named Hemi, who vanished in 2011 and reappeared mysteriously last week, is back with the man who had adopted him as a kitten and drove 1,700 miles from North Dakota to retrieve his lost-and-found pet.

Several news outlets report that Robert Connell drove from Bismarck to the Craven County, North Carolina, animal shelter to pick up Hemi on Monday. Connell says he decided to make the drive after a winter storm nixed plans for a family friend to fly Hemi to Bismarck.

Connell served as a Marine, and he says Hemi helped him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I wouldn’t say he’s my spirit animal, but I helped him. He helped me,” Connell told the Sun Journal of New Bern, North Carolina.

Trinity Smith, Craven County animal control supervisor, tried to talk Connell out of driving to North Carolina because of the bad weather he was certain to encounter along the journey. A weekend blizzard walloped much of the eastern U.S., including parts of the Carolinas.

“But he’s a Marine,” she said.

Connell left home Saturday and arrived Monday afternoon at the shelter.

The Connells were living in North Carolina when they found Hemi on the engine of their car in 2009. Hemi disappeared in 2011 when Robert deployed and the family moved from Havelock to housing on Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.

The family later moved to Bismarck when Robert Connell left the Marines and got a job as a train engineer.

When Hemi turned up at the Craven County shelter last week, staffers there found a microchip on him. It led them to Connell and his wife, Jennifer.

Connell planned to visit relatives in Greensboro for a day before heading home, where he will reintroduce Hemi to his wife and children by the weekend.

He hopes Hemi is ready to live the good life.

“What have you been up to?” he asked his cat Monday. “Are you ready to come home and be spoiled?”