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Mountain Home Magazine

Kenya Comes Home

Feb 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Maggie Barnes

“Are you sure about this?”

I nodded at Bob as I released my seatbelt.

“Yes, it’s time.”

We had moved to the Southern Tier with three feline companions but had lost two in the span of a year. Now, in the depths of winter, I had decided my heart had healed enough to jump back into the kitty pool, so to speak.

It took more than an hour at the animal rescue to decide on the cats we wanted to interact with. There was a pair of brothers, Bruce and Benson, who made a great impression on us, and we loved the idea of keeping siblings together. Two for the two lost—perfect. But for some reason, I walked further back and found a low, square cage with a few smaller cats in it. Some of them rushed forward, meowing for attention, and I petted and cooed through the bars. There was movement in the corner, and I saw a calico, very small and curled into the tightest ball she could manage. Her coloring was gorgeous, swirls of rust and black with splashes of white, and I wanted to see her face, so I moved down the side and made those silly noises that humans make to get a cat’s attention. She raised her head and my heart leapt. She was beautiful, but her right eye had discharge and there seemed to be something wrong with the pupil.

“Oh, that’s Kenya. Isn’t she pretty?” The cat attendant stood behind me.

“Gorgeous,” I agreed, “but what’s with her eye?”

The rescue worker set down the stack of towels she was carrying and shook her head as she folded them.

“She was dumped. The eye was already infected, and they probably decided not to breed her. By the time we got her, it was too late to stop the damage. And the kennel setting is very tough on her, she catches every germ that comes in here.”

We had already settled on the brothers, I reminded myself. Two out, two in. But the pull of this kitty was not to be denied, and I asked to hold her. I sat on the floor in the meeting room, and they set her down. Kenya blinked and angled her head to see me out of her left eye. I fought the rising tears. She moved into my lap and made the most extraordinary sound—not a meow, but more like a chirp, melodic like a mourning dove. I cuddled with her until Bob appeared in the doorway. I turned her to face him.

“Isn’t she sweet?”

“She’s beautiful.”

I handed her back to the attendant and got to my feet.

“Are we ready to take the Brothers Catamazov home?” I forced myself to leave the room without a look back, despite the ache in my chest.

We found the coordinator and informed her we would like to adopt Bruce and Benson.

“And that little calico,” Bob added.

I spun around.


“You think I didn’t see how you looked at her?” he laughed. “If we left without her, you’d be miserable.”

“But that’s two out and three in! We still have Leila. Four cats? We’re outnumbered. They could mutiny! Besides, she’ll get adopted soon, she’s too sweet not to. The next lap she sits in will be her person.”

Bob nodded. “Yes, it was.”

An hour later, we had three cat carriers lined up in the middle of the living room and called our old girl Leila out of the bedroom. She rounded the corner and stopped in her tracks, looking from the boxes to us with a glare of increasing betrayal. She had barely peeked inside the first carrier before she whirled and stomped back to the bedroom.

“Okay!” I said triumphantly. “That could have gone worse.”

When we opened the carriers, the boys stepped out in unison, tentative, but willing to explore. Kenya, on the other paw, rocketed out the moment she saw the door move. She launched across the room, banked a left turn into the kitchen, and was gone. I had never seen an animal move that fast. There was no sign of her. We looked everywhere.

“How did she get out of here? And where did she go?” Bob headed down the hallway, though we had not seen her exit the kitchen.

Twenty minutes of searching produced nothing, and I started to worry. I called her, shook the treat box, crawled around on all fours. I sat on the floor with my back against the dishwasher and tried to think logically, which my mother, a series of unfortunate boyfriends, and my high school English teacher would tell you is not my greatest talent.

“She never left this room,” I said out loud. “Therefore, she is in this room.” I had already checked all the cabinets and the pantry. “What is available for her without opening anything?” My eyes fell on the upright freezer. There was a gap between it and the floor, but good Lord, there’s no way she could have fit under there. She’s small, yes, but your average slice of pizza could barely clear that slot.

I got the flashlight out of the kitchen desk and flopped on my belly before the freezer. Sweeping the light back and forth I found a tribe of dust bunnies living peacefully, enough crumbs to build a bakery, and…wait! Was that? Yep. One shining eye. An infected eye that couldn’t absorb light anymore.

Kenya today? Well, our herd is back to three—Lelia and Bruce have both left us, and we added our first dog. It is a herd that Kenya rules as princess. Though the dog outweighs her by a multiplier of eight, if she deems that he should not leave the bedroom, she needs only to station herself in the doorway and he does not pass. To add insult to injury, she doesn’t even look at him, just cleans her face contentedly while he whines to be rescued. She demands lap time with both of us each day, and emits her happy chirping while being told how pretty she is. The lack of vision in her right eye does not affect her at all.

As she purrs like a motorboat and slow blinks at me, I often wonder what would have happened if we had left that day without her. Then I realize that’s silly. She only had one home waiting for her…ours.

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