Squatting beneath the pines, I choked the words goodbye into a squeak of gibberish.
It was the last day I would see Dupee. Nothing was wrong with the feral that stole my heart. He was tame, purring, healthy, and fine—a far cry from how I’d found him over a year ago.
Rather, my uncontrollable tears came because I was moving—leaving Dupee. And for the past three months, I’ve known I would move. During which was a long arduous decision on what to do about Dupee.
Dupee is a homeless cat I adopted when I moved into a home. Our relationship and how it came to be is a prior post, and an edited version of it landed in a published anthology book (you can find that here).
During our year together, Dupee was like no other cat I’ve known. He provided absolute unconditional love.
Those who are in my tribe of cat lovers, know that felines are odd creatures when it comes to affection. While they count on us for their care —they also rule the roost. They can be full of affection one moment and icy-cold the next. They are aloof and independent. But Dupee’s disposition was unlike any.
Maybe it was how we found each other. How he stole my heart. How we met twice a day, and chatted beneath the pines. How he tried to love my Bengal cats—who would have nothing to do with him except for a hiss and growl. Yet Dupee came back each day, courageously standing at the back glass door. Dupee had a courage I admired. And he loved me.
He loved me. Unconditionally.
Now and then, I’d crawl into bed long after dinner and the sun, suddenly realizing I had not fed Dupee. I’d sneak out of bed, and turn on the porch-light to find Dupee sitting, and I swear…smiling as I grabbed his food and stepped out into the night.
And he swirled my legs, and drooled happiness. Every. Single. Time.
And even if I wasn’t feeding him, because it was the middle of the afternoon—Dupee ran to me. To swirl. And drool. And smile.
Every. Single. Time.
In many ways he wasn’t completely homeless anymore. I had become his foster pet-mom. Caring for the cat without a real home.
TO LEAVE OR NOT TO LEAVE
As the move date drew closer, my anxiety about Dupee grew.
I had no idea what the best thing was for this foster-pet of mine. Move Dupee with me, and I wouldn’t suffer heartache. He would remain mine and continue to unconditionally love me and my bratty Bengals. BUT there was a good chance this feral would become confused and run away. And then I would be devastated—knowing that once again Dupee was out there alone and removed from everything he knew as “home.”
On the flip side was to leave Dupee behind. And who would take care of him? And what if he missed me? And how would I feel…
It surprised me how much I thought about these small insignificant matters. But in my heart, it felt…huge.
An answer came in a little boy. He was running about my house, deciding what room would be his. And he loved my Bengals. Most people do—I
must admit they are pretty amazing. But he REALLY loved them. And with the same silly courage Dupee showed, I asked, “Would you like a new cat that comes with this house?”
Realizing he might think I was speaking of the Bengal he was petting, I quickly added that it was Dupee and told the CliffsNote version of Dupee’s story.
The little boy was hasty with an enthusiastic yes, followed by a look to his mom, who was nodding and smiling with approval.
And that was it… salvation at a cost.
On my last day, I came to clean the old house. And there was Dupee, sitting at the back door.
His food dish was still full, which meant he’d recently dined the prior evening or that morning on furry or feathered foe—a favorite of his. So I knew he wasn’t hungry. He wasn’t there to eat. Rather he’d come to chat. And purr. And swirl. And drool. And smile.
We talked briefly and then I turned to the task at hand—cleaning.
Four hours later I gathered trash and headed to the garbage cans. Like always I left the back door open. But this time when I returned, there sat Dupee in the middle of the empty family room. He’s never entered the house before.
And my heart started to break as I stared at the sight. Did this mean he wanted to be moved with all my other belongings? Was he trying to tell me something?
He chatted for a moment, then darted past me—out the door and to sit under the pines.
It was almost two years before, when I went out to inspect the maimed and injured feral under the pines. And once again, under different circumstances, I made my way to this cat.
Crouching under the pines, Dupee rolled with delight and exposed his belly to me. He pawed at the air and made his happy chimmer-chatter. And I started to break.
He used to drool all over my feet, and now, my crocodile tears splashed on his fur.
He still loved me, unconditionally. And somehow I understood that he was happy here. This was his home. Somehow in some crazy cosmic way that God reveals information— I knew in the depths of my soul Dupee belonged here.
Here under the pines.
I had provided him love. During a time when he needed it. But this was his home.
Moments before, when he had run into the house, and back out to the pines—I believed it was to let me know it was all okay. The home, my love, my care—was not his home—the pines were. Yet our lives crossed for this moment in time. Maybe so I could learn about unconditional love. Maybe so I could learn that not everything we love—we keep. And that in many ways departing is okay.
It was meant to be.
And like Dupee, I’ve healed in many ways.
And healing still continues.
And the lessons from life, still continue to unfold.