Finding Pele

Apr 10, 2018 by Renee Linnell
A few months after I moved to Colorado I felt ready for my cat, Kai, to come back into my life. It had been ten years since she made her transition to Non-Physical and I suddenly felt ready to have her back. I followed my impulse to look online at the local Animal Shelter website, cats for adoption. There were about ten. I looked at each one, but none of them was Kai.  
Until I got to the last one.  
A tabby Maine Coon mix.  
Kai had been a calico Maine Coon. 

(Buddhists believe that our corporeal form is the physical manifestation of our soul energy, so when we reincarnate, our body looks similar in each life, unless we need to reincarnate in a very particular form to accomplish a very particular task). 
Puffy was my cat. I was sure.

My heart swelled with delight, and I recalled the last time we were reunited at an Animal Shelter in south Florida, when I was 18 years old. I had been looking for a kitten and was happily playing with six of them, but a 6-month-old calico Maine Coon kept howling in her cage. Finally, I walked over to her, simply to comfort her, and she reached her paw through the cage and touched my arm. It melted my heart so I opened her cage and she leapt into my arms, wrapped her paws around me, nuzzled her face into my neck, and purred so loudly I thought she would shatter her voice box. I took her home and instantly she became the love of my life.

As soon as I saw Puffy online I emailed a few close friends, “I found Kai. I’m going to get her now. Her name is Puffy. She’s at the Animal Shelter.” I gazed at my sofa and imagined her sleeping upside down with her belly in the air. I glanced in my kitchen and imagined her food bowls on the floor. Then I jumped in the car and drove the 15 minutes down the road.

When I walked into the cat room at the shelter, many of the cats approached me. Some rubbed along my ankles. Others stood and looked at me, yelling their need for touch. I bent down and spent time with all of them. But, I did not see Puffy. Extracting myself from all the furry love, I walked to the front desk, “Excuse me. I came to see Puffy. Is she here?” I was suddenly terrified someone had already adopted her. The man peered over into the cat room. “Yes, that’s her. She’s asleep in the cat bed on the counter. You can wake her up. Pick her up.” He then turned back to his computer. 

I went inside, eager to hold Puffy. I gently stroked her, already completely in love, and then slid a hand under her tiny body. She felt much smaller than she looked in her photo. She had a lot of hair with a skinny body underneath. I began to lift her and she hissed and spat and jumped out of my arms. She strutted across the cat room, hissing at every other cat on her way, and made her way to the food dish.

Puffy’s a bitch, I thought to myself. I stood there in shock. I had not expected that reaction at all. I had been absolutely sure she was the reincarnation of Kai. I guess I was wrong, I thought. I gave her one last glance, she kept her back to me, and I left. I did not want any of the other cats, I wanted the reincarnation of Kai. A bit dumbfounded I walked back to the parking lot and climbed into my car. I gave up the notion of finding Kai.

Six months later a cat appeared on my patio. She looked like a Maine Coon, but with shorter hair. She was regal. A goddess. She sauntered through the flowers and came to drink from my Buddha fountain. Then she stopped and stared at me. “What’s your name?” I asked her. (She didn’t have a collar). She held my gaze. “Pele,” she responded. I heard it clearly in my mind. (Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning, wind, volcanoes, and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. She is beautiful and she is fierce.) The name fit her perfectly. 

I sat in a lounge chair and Pele immediately jumped on my lap and began to purr, gazing up into my face with eyes filled with love. I held her and stroked her and she began cleaning herself, as content in my lap as if she’d been with me for years. Suddenly, it began to rain. We both jumped up and I invited her inside. I made her a plate of tuna and showed it to her from the door. She sniffed a bit, walked towards me, then entered my home and rolled around on my carpet, belly up in the air, purring. She rolled and rolled, purring her little head off and looking at me with eyes filled with love. 
Next, she came over to the tuna and ate. She then hopped up on my sofa and spread out, regal, like a queen, observing her domain. I watched her in awe. She fit my house perfectly. My furnishings were grey with green accents and the grey in her fur mixed with the green of her eyes made her blend in like she was born to live there.

After grooming her entire body she began to explore my house. Uh oh, I thought. She is going to pee and poop all over. And spread flees. But, I let her go. And she was the perfect guest. She inspected almost every square inch, but no pee and no poop. And no fleas. She stayed all afternoon, sleeping curled up on my sofa, and at twilight she suddenly got up and left. “Please come back,” I said to her as she walked out the door.

The next day I sat on the patio waiting. Quietly she appeared like a goddess from the bushes. When she saw me she jumped up into my lap and purred. I told her how happy I was to see her and how much I had missed her. She gazed into my face lovingly and began her morning grooming. Eventually, I went inside and she followed. She stayed all day and into the evening. I ran to the store to buy a litter box, litter, and cat food. I left a window open so she could leave if she wanted to, but she was still there when I returned. As I got into bed that night she crawled on top of me and purred on my chest. At one point I woke up to her sleeping on my pillow with her head on my face. Isn’t it a little soon to be sharing a pillow? I thought to myself, but I couldn’t bear to move her. And all the time I left a window open, in case she wanted to leave.

The next day I text messaged my brother with a photo of Pele and the words, “Look! I found the reincarnation of Kai. She appeared on my patio!”
“That is your neighbor’s cat.” He responded. “You are a cat stealer.” 
“It’s a wild cat,” I said.  
“No, it’s not. First, it’s been shaved. Look at her coat. Second, you are surrounded by coyotes and foxes. That cat would not survive if it was wild,” he wrote back.  
I looked at Pele. Her coat had been shaved. And what remained was perfectly groomed. She was definitely not a wild cat.

Reluctantly, I created a Found Cat sign with a photo and posted it outside our local grocery store.
A day went by and no one called to claim her.
A second day went by and no call.
I began to relax. She is my cat, I thought.
A third day went by and no call.
I went out and bought toys and more food and more litter and a bigger litter box.
A fourth day. No call.
She was my cat.
Every night sleeping on my chest purring. Every day curled up in my lap purring. When I would turn sideways at night she would shift from my chest to my side and wrap her paws around my arm and snuggle close. We were completely in love.

Day five my phone rang. I did not recognize the number.
“Hello,” I answered timidly.
“Yes, I’m calling about the cat. It is my wife’s cat, Harry.” 
My heart sank. “No, she is a girl cat,” I responded.
“Yes, ‘Harriett’, she has a lion cut and a broken tail tip.”  
He had described her perfectly.
“Yes, that’s her,” I responded.
“Oh, my wife will be so relieved. Can she come get her now?”
“Yes, of course.” 
I gave him my address and directions; they lived close, but not next door.

Ten minutes later my doorbell rang and I opened the door to meet a beautiful older woman with piercing blue eyes.
“Hello, I’m Annie,” she said. I liked her instantly.  
“I’m Renee,” I responded.  
We shook hands.
“My pet psychic told me Hari was here. I was so worried she had been eaten or hit by a car and the psychic told me she was in a very loving home near by. May I see her?”
Pele had been outside and just then came in the patio door.
“Oh Hari,” Annie said.  
We both sat on the floor.
“Come here.” She held her arms out lovingly, tears of joy on her face.
Pele looked at her, then she looked at me, and she walked over to me. She crawled into my lap. I was embarrassed. Annie looked surprised.  
“I have fallen in love with her,” I said. Then I gently nudged Pele out of my lap and in the direction of Annie. 

She walked over to Annie and gave Annie some love. Then Annie picked her up to put her in the animal carrier she had brought. Pele extended her limbs, claws out, and began scratching and hissing. Annie used more force and got her into the bag.
“I’m not sure she wants to be with me,” Annie said, confused.
“Maybe she just got used to being here,” I said. “I’m sure she will be so happy once she gets home.”
I gave Annie a hug and stood to open the front door.
As she walked out I said, “Annie, if you ever need a cat sitter, please call me. I fell so in love with her while she was here.” I felt as if my heart was breaking.
“I will,” Annie replied. “And thank you so much for taking such great care of her. You can come visit her any time.”
I began to close the door.

Then I opened it. Annie was almost at the end of my walkway.
“Annie, how long have you had her?” I asked, not even sure why.
“Four months,” she responded.
“And where did you get her?” I asked, again, not sure why.
“At the Animal Shelter.”
“Oh," I said, "I was there six months ago and I don’t remember a cat named Hari.”
“Well, that’s because we changed her name… 
Her name was Puffy.”
At first my brain didn’t understand.
My heart leapt and I blurted out, “I went to the shelter six months ago specifically to get Puffy and she hissed at me. She didn’t want me,” I told Annie. 
“Wow,” Annie said. “That’s amazing…” She seemed to let the reality sink in for a few seconds. Then she continued, “…when my husband and I arrived to the Shelter she was sitting in the window looking out at the parking lot and we knew she was ready to be adopted. “ 
We both stood there in awkward silence for a spell.
“Well, it’s nice to have met you. I’m glad she has a good home,” I said. Annie was already down my driveway and I knew I had to let her go.
I closed the door and cried. I collapsed on my sofa and sobbed.  
Then I got up and collected all of Pele’s toys and litter box and food dishes and put them in the garage.
As I walked back inside the house the phone rang.
I answered.
It was Annie. 
“I don’t think she wants to be here. She seems pissed.”  
I had no response. I wanted her back so badly.
Annie continued, “I am going to keep her in tonight because of the coyotes, but I will let her out again in the morning. If she comes back to you, she is your cat.”
I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. 
I knew she would come back. 
The next morning I sat outside waiting. She had been showing up almost exactly at 10:00 a.m. I checked my watch: 9:59
And then from the bushes she appeared. Regal. Holy. 
She bounced down the step and jumped into my arms and purred her little heart out…
and she never left again.