12/07/2009 at 09:23 PM EST
Maybe it was Max's way of telling his family he didn't want to go: Four weeks before the Deraneys relocated from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to Niedernhausen, Germany, their 9-year-old domestic shorthair disappeared without a trace in Boulder, Colo., during a pit stop on a cross-country road trip this summer.
For three months, the Deraney family, who had to leave the country without their beloved pet, did what they could to find him from afar. They updated Max's microchip with their current German contact information, listed California family members as alternates, and even put up lost ads on CraigsList.com.
Then, on Oct. 5th, a Good Samaritan found and brought Max to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Colorado
. There, the feline's microchip revealed the identity of his family, who were informed of Max's reappearance that very same day.
"It's too crazy," Max's owner Marisa Deraney tells PEOPLEPets.com of the initial phone call. "I just didn't know what to think."
Shocked and surprised to hear their beloved cat was still alive and well, Deraney began searching for ways to reunite with the family's furry friend. But with costs to ship him internationally being so expensive, Deraney almost gave up. Until her three children – Aliena, 18, Timon, 15, and Leomaris, 11 – reinforced the family ties.
"The kids want him so much because we got him in 2002 in Germany," Deraney recalls. "They said you can't give him away. We have to go get him."
So Deraney made the international trek back to the states, with some trepidation. "It was hard for me to believe that it was him until I actually saw him," Deraney admits. "You don't really believe it unless you see it with your own eyes. "
Witnessing the reunion was Jennifer Schwartz, the Client Services Supervisor for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley
. Aside from a bit of weight loss, Max was in perfect health.
"[Marisa] was just so thrilled to have him," Schwartz tells PEOPLEPets.com. "[She] couldn't say enough about how excited her children were going to be to see him again."
The Humane Society of Boulder County reunites owners and their animals every day, but this is the organization's first international reunion. After three months on his own, Max was understandably standoffish when meeting new people. But during his time there he warmed up to the facility's staff, even enjoying the last few weeks as the office mascot.
"It was really nice for me to know that they enjoyed him, too," says Deraney, who brought a variety of German sweets as a thank you for the staffers. "They could see why we wanted him back."See more reunion stories on PEOPLEPets.com:Brooke Burns Is Reunited with Her Missing MaltipooJaycee Dugard Will Be Reunited with Her Pets