The Ballad of Kit and Rachel In Big Sur, dog lovers do what they can to help strays


By Kate Woods Novoa

Photos by Rachel Fann

Big Sur loves its dogs. Lost dogs have become sort of a specialty of mine on my blog. I am a sucker. Whether they are born here, brought here or dumped here, all are welcome. No bad dogs, sometimes bad owners. This is the story of three such dogs, but mostly the last of the three.

Feb. 4, 2013, was a warm, gorgeous winter day. I got up and opened the door to let out the four dogs I already owned. I left the door open, so I could go back to bed for a bit. Shortly after I closed my eyes, I heard the clinking of toenails on the hardwood floor. I rolled over to see which dog it was. “Oh, my! Who are you, Missy.” It was a stranger, making herself at home. I didn’t even know the sex at that point, but that is how she got her name. She is a smart border collie, probably McNab. She was skin and bones and covered with ticks. I took her into the bathroom, where I planned to keep her isolated from my own dogs until I could get her to the vet and have her checked, which I did. Seven years later, she never willingly leaves my side.

On Nov. 21, 2019, Elsa Rivera posted a photo of a German shepherd puppy that a couple had abandoned at the Loma Vista gas station. My other four dogs were all gone by then, having lived 14 to 16 years each, and Missy the Mystery Dog needed a high energy playmate that wasn’t me. That night, Lady was ours. That was two months ago, and today she is housebroken, knows basic commands and is highly entertaining.

Then, on Jan. 7 I got one of those emails I get way too often about a dog wandering the highway. No photo, not much of a description (looks like a fox, but not). Not much I could do with that. She was spotted near the vista point at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

A couple days later, at the same vista point, Jon Knight spotted her and he and several state park rangers tried to capture this gal, but were unsuccessful. She was scared to death and ran away. There were sightings reported to me on and off, but no photos until Jan. 15. Rachel Fann spotted her near her place, three miles south of JP Burns.

Rachel was able to get a photo of her. As a community, we set about trying to find her human.

I posted the photo on my social media accounts. Rachel called the SPCA. I posted on, someone shared with 831 Lost and Found Pets Facebook page and other Facebook groups. Within days, many Big Surians and others were following the story of Kit (as she later became known).

In one day, Rachel had partially earned Kit’s trust. “Progress,” she wrote “I found the little guy sleeping right outside my front door early this morning. It’s circling my house … knows where the food is! But won’t let me get close. I’d love to entice it in my house. It’s raining up here so I know the little guy will need shelter.”

That night, Rachel left her storeroom door open with food and a blanket inside so that “the little guy” could get shelter from the rain, if it chose. She wrote: “I think with a little patience I can get closer. However my cat (the prince) seriously is pissed and is in hiding.” The little guy did come into the storeroom and ate the food, but opted to find a dry spot under the deck in which to hide.

By Saturday, Jan. 18, Kit came into Rachel’s home and stole toys belonging to her dog, Mischief. Rachel found them on the deck, so Rachel gathered them and returned them to Mischief’s bed. Later that day, as Rachel was getting firewood, the little ruffian had grabbed a ball, and dropped it in front of Rachel.

The next day Rachel wrote me that: “‘Kit’ has firmly planted herself on my front porch, wagging her tail when she sees me but I still cannot approach. SO THRILLED. My beloved kitty returned in the middle of the nite.  A little worse for the wear but ALIVE. I hugged him all nite. He’s terrified of the little fur baby so the dance continues!”

By Monday, little Kit was figuratively eating out of Rachel’s hand, licking it and her face.

Each day, more and more progress was made in the taming of Kit, thanks to Rachel’s amazing talent for patience. On Tuesday, when Kit wasn’t in her usual spot curled up in front of the front door, Rachel looked around and finally found her curled up in the middle of the bed in the adjoining bedroom.

“Strange. As I was printing lost dog photos, one of the Big Sur park rangers was standing there and copied the flyers to send to his associates,” she reported. “He said they have all been looking for her and setting traps. So far no one has come forward or asked. As much as I am getting a bit attached, if the owners are looking I have to do what I can to locate them. If not then I’ll go from there! I printed found dog flyers and will give to park hosts and ranger station.  She’s such a sweetie. I’m getting flea meds today!”

On Jan. 22, Rachel reported that she was making progress, that she was able to apply a dose of flea medicine. She had to grab her by the collar to do it and when she started to scratch behind Kit’s ear, “I could feel her body soften.” Later in the note, she said that both Mischief and Kit were waiting for her in the driveway when she came home. Rachel grabbed a leash and Kit pulled her to the car and jumped in. “She was very good in the car,” she wrote. “Just sat and looked at me.”

Almost 1,000 people had been following the Story of Kit and Rachel on my Facebook page, and so I wrote my final update: “Rachel Fann took her to the vet yesterday and learned she is somewhere between 4 and 8 years old, has a chip that is not registered, but otherwise healthy. Today, she took Kit to the groomers. Kit enjoyed her outings and was very well behaved. Rachel has fallen in love, and so has Kit. They have adopted each other. Rachel broke down and bought her her own bed.”

I also heard from Knight, who reported on Jan. 28 that Kit had “officially adopted Rachel as her new human … It’s such a happy ending. It was meant to be.”

Big Sur sprinkled its magic dust over this little pup and helped her Sur-vive, and find love and trust again.

Letter: Kit and Rachel’s story is an inspiration

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Kate Woods Novoa

About Kate Woods Novoa

Since 1985, Kate Woods Novoa has lived in Big Sur, working as a public defender for Monterey County. She started the bigsurkate blog ( during the 2008 Basin Complex fire and kept at it when she didn’t intend to.