Jo Bly heard a familiar "meoww".
She turned around, not for a second thinking that it could be Smokey, their beloved family cat that had been missing since early December 2019.
"I heard a meoww, and I said 'is that you Smokey?' because you don't let go," she said.
It was Smokey. Jo rang her husband Chris straight away. "I said you're not going to believe this," she said.
The Bly family had raised Smokey since he was a kitten in their home on the outskirts of Levin. He was a friend to their three other cats Ghost, Onyx and Nixie, and their dogs Mali, Jade and Tallaca.
Smokey, who had been neutered and microchipped as a kitten, was a little bit different to the others and had always loved a walkabout. He would sometimes be gone for days at a time, but would always return.
But this time around, as weeks went by ... no Smokey.
"We all thought it must be one of his disappearing acts but as the weeks go by you start to think the worst ... he must be dead, trapped or run over somewhere, or hurt," she said.
"We didn't expect to see him again."
Jo checked him over. He was in perfect health, perhaps even a little on the plump side, which suggested he hadn't been running wild and living rough.
"We were in shock. Is this really you? But we knew it was him. He's very distinctive and loves being carried around on your shoulders. He's very friendly."
She said it was lucky Smokey showed up when he did as they were moving house that day. If he had arrived a day later, he would have been met at the door by strangers.
"I had just been saying I wish Smokey had come home. We really can't believe it," she said.
Smokey, aged 7, had always got on well with the dogs and let them lick him, but he took a day or two to let them into his circle of trust again on his return.