The Arrival Of Foulla and Yapou

This story really began on September 29, 1992. That was the day when dear Hobie died. Needing to talk about this, I turned to the online groups about people helping each other with the loss of pets. For the help I received from everyone, I am truly grateful. Many of those who helped me told me that the best way to get over the loss of a loved pet is to find another. I thought about this and came to the conclusion that when the time was right, the cat would be there. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed what would end up happening. Even now I can scarcely believe it.

It was quite some time before I could even think about another cat in Hobie's (my?) house. Since there were no local cats in the neighborhood that I could take in, I needed to look elsewhere. I came across a file online which gave me the idea to try to find a breeder who had cats retired from breeding. That could be just the thing. Since Maine Coon cats were recommended to me, that seemed to be the way to go. In checking the cat magazines, I would occasionally come across the Somali. I've always been interested in Somalis ever since seeing a picture of one. But, I never saw one in real life and I wasn't sure I could handle one in my home, so I planned to pass them by this go around.

Since locating a retired Coon cat might take some doing, I didn't hurry with the project. Then, early February 1993, I chanced upon the online bulletin "Breeders Looking For Homes For Retired Cats." This seemed to be right up my line, so I looked into it. The very first message was from a breeder in Montreal looking for a home for a Somali. I stored the message and some others and logged off. I reread the message about the Somali. It sounded too good to be true. I checked the date of the message and it was a few weeks old already. I thought, 'probably already found a home, but still, if I don't at least try...' and I logged right back in. As I was writing the message, I thought about what the breeder might say in response. Probably something like 'sorry, that one already has a nice home.' This was quite likely, considering the circumstances. What was strange was that a little voice inside me continued the thought: 'but, there's another one.'

The response to my message was a few weeks in getting to me. The reply: "...that one already found a nice home. But, I have another one. She is expecting and the kittens are due in a month. She loves to ride on shoulders and is the alarm clock, vocalizing when it's time to be fed. If you would be willing to wait, I would send her to you. But first, tell me about yourself." The coincidence was uncanny. But, still, there's no agreement yet. I recalled that breeders are very picky about who gets their cats, and at that time I wanted a definite yes or no. So, I took some time and stated exactly my situation - who I was, where I lived, why I was looking for a cat, and my thoughts about how a cat should be cared for. It was lengthy, but, that's the kind of writing I'm known for.

The breeder was delighted at my detailed reply. And thus, little Miss Foulla became my future companion. The breeder went further to explain that the reason she was finding homes for some of her cats was that she was moving to a new (but smaller) house and needed to reduce the number of cats. Since she preferred to work with the ruddy Somalis, she decided to find homes for the reds.

For a while I was in seventh heaven. A cat of the very breed that I had been interested in all along was now mine! But, that didn't last long. I started feeling bad again - about Hobie and the cat before him that I had to give up. I realized this was guilt and that I needed to put that behind me. So, I asked the powers that be for help (some call it praying; my philosophy is different): 'What do I do to put the guilt behind me - show me the way.'

The next night I logged back online to check to see if the breeder had received my last message. She had. But, what awaited me was something I could not have anticipated in a million years. "...would you like to take in Foulla's brother as well? He's very affectionate and doesn't meow - only makes a small sound." Prior to this, I had always considered myself a one-cat-man and I had told the breeder this. After thinking about this offline, I came to the realization that this was the way. I had asked for the way out of my guilt and this was the answer - to expand my horizons and do something completely beyond that which I would have done.

My reply? "Yes, I will take him as well, provided they arrive together." I knew cats can establish themselves and then make it hard for a new comer to take up residence - even if they had lived together beforehand. I didn't want the brother to establish himself and then have Foulla come on the scene later on and have to get reacquainted with him. The breeder agreed. Thus, big boy Yapou became my second Somali cat.

Weeks passed. During this time I lost contact with the breeder. Meanwhile, I learned that the condition Hobie had was not treatable and that the prognosis was that if the kidneys fail, euthanasia was the right thing to do. So, the guilt went away. Hindsight showed that I had in fact done all I could for him. And, checking on events of some years ago reminded me that I had no choice but to give up my first cat.

Finally, about mid-June, a letter arrived that at first didn't dawn on me what it was. For some reason, I looked at the stamp and it was Canadian. I looked back to the return address and realized it was the breeder. I felt this could be either 'sorry, but there has been a change of plans' or 'are you still interested?' I thought 'if this is just a letter, it's the former - if there are pictures, it's a go.' I held the letter up ... pictures! My first look at them! I noticed right away that they looked awful young in those pictures, so I knew they would look somewhat different when I see them in person.

The next few weeks were filled with phone calls, trips to pet supply stores, and cat proofing the house (I got away with a lot with old, easy going Hobie - I sure couldn't expect that with two youthful Somalis!).

Finally, the day arrived. When I called Air Canada Cargo, they told me the cats were on board and that the time of arrival would be around 9:14 pm. They would try to have the cats cleared through customs for me. And, since it would take a bit of time for all this to happen, I should plan on picking them up probably after 10 pm.

Around 9:35, I left for the airport, as it can be anywhere from 45 minutes to hours to get to Los Angeles International from where I live. I arrived at the airport around 10:20 pm. The area was rather deserted - hardly any one around, although I imagine it must be very busy during the day.

There was no one at the front desk of Air Canada Cargo. Off to the side, a door marked Authorized Personnel Only was open and I could hear two men talking. Since no one came out to the front desk, I decided to peek around the doorway. As I continued to look and walked further in, I saw the two men and then I saw pet carriers sitting on a counter to the right.

Since the two men didn't seem to be wanting to shoo me away, I decided to check the pet carriers to see if they could be Foulla and Yapou. As I approached, I heard a call from within the closest carrier. Not a meow, but a soft sound that made my heart melt - I would have done anything for that cat - the only one it could possibly be was Yapou. A second later another voice was heard as well - Foulla. They were both by the doors of their carriers - Yapou reaching out to me and Foulla rubbing up against the door. I greeted each in turn.

Finally, one man left and the remaining one turned his attention to me. I pointed to the carriers and said "I've come for them." He told me they were already cleared through customs. He pulled out a bunch of papers, separated one yellow sheet from amongst them and told me where to sign on that sheet. He gave the rest of the papers to me and that was it, they were free to go.

I carried them out to the car and began the trip home; talking to them all the way. We arrived home at around 11:40 pm. I brought them both simultaneously into the house, set them down, talked to them a moment, and then went out to park the car.

When I returned to them a moment later, Foulla and Yapou were pushing on the carrier doors and calling to be let out. I opened both doors at the about the same time. There was a moment's pause, then both cats ran out to the next room, greeted each other, then explored every inch of their new home, vocalizing all the while. Within 5 minutes, they had been in more places of that house than Hobie had in all the 5 years that he lived there. And, for the first time, I saw Somali cats in the flesh.

Eventually, they found the living room sofa. Yapou hid underneath. Foulla later joined him. Then, Foulla went out and after a bit, came to me. A little later on, Yapou came out from underneath the couch, circled around me, and then made friends. Within an hour, I had cat all over me - each hand petting a cat. I didn't sleep that night, as one would start looking around and vocalizing, then the other would join. Finally, by 11 in the morning, things were almost back to sanity.

Many years have passed since their arrival. They have long since become family. The miracle happened, even though I never actually went out to look for a cat. The time was right and the cat was there. I just never dreamed it would be two cats. And Somalis, at that.

Have I got over the loss of Hobie? The guilt, yes. But, I still miss him and still mourn for him deep inside. I know I always will. But, life goes on. Foulla and Yapou make sure of that!

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