It has been two blessed years since I have been reunited with my dear cats, Tripod and Saheba. Little did I or anyone know that when Abdullah and I left our Riyadh home in March 2009 that neither of us would ever return back to it. We walked out with our suitcase closing the door behind of all of our household effects and my two cats. After all, once Abdullah had his stem cell treatment and was healed, we’d both come back and pick up our Riyadh lives where we had left off. Wrong. Oh how very wrong that naïve assumption was for us.
Abdullah did not win his battle against cancer and some days I feel like I’m just hanging on to my own by an unraveling thread.
But thanks to the dearest of friends from around the globe, I have my two cats who have been with me prior to my life with Abdullah and again by my side during the worse of the days and the best of the days.
There were a large group of naysayers who could not comprehend why I was so desperate to be reunited with my two cats. The most common response I received was that there were always thousands of cats needing to be adopted so why try and bother to get two old cats back from Saudi. I never tried to respond since it was clear that to make such a comment in the first place, these individuals had never experienced the unconditional love of a cherished pet.
Tripod and Saheba were both rescue cats which I had rescued back in 1998 when I lived in Pakistan. To me, they were not just any old ordinary adoptable cat. Both of them had been wild feral cats, under-nourished, under-fed and didn’t know love.
I found Tripod first. He had been hit by a car and left to die near Islamabad’s golf course. I was golfing and when I heard these mews, I immediately recognized them as a cat in distress. I found him under a bush and gently wrapped him up in my golf towel and took him for treatment. His only chance of survival was to have a front paw amputated (hence his name). I never intended to keep him for I already had three other cats at the time which I had brought to Pakistan with me from the United States. My plan was to nurse him back to health and then have one of the several families at the US Embassy adopt him. Yet as he healed, we bonded. He trusted me. I was able to touch him, examine him and care for him like no one else. It may sound corny to say it, but he literally looked at me with such love in his eyes. I knew I could not part with him and he became a permanent member of the household.
Saheba came a few months later to my house. She was a scrawny and noisy thing. She was not as frightened of people as Tripod had been but she equally needed a loving and trusting home. How could I resist? By this time, one of my own cats from the United States had passed away from liver disease and while Saheba could not replace Hoser, she could fill an empty void.
Tripod and Saheba became a part of my life. I learned that they were roughly the same age and eventually the two of them also bonded as “best buds.” They had a tendency to follow me around my house like I was the Pied Piper and always wanted to show love and affection. Eventually with trust, love and a sense of security and safety, they both showed anyone who walked through my door their love and affection too. Everyone who knew me even for the smallest time knew my view was “love me, love my cats.”
When Abdullah entered my life, he had not had any positive exposure to cats but my cats won him over too. They became a part of his life as much as mine. When there was an evacuation of non-essential personnel from Pakistan due to instabilities, I sent my cats to the United States to stay with my son until the crisis period was over. I was unwilling to take any risks with my furry babies. From Pakistan we moved together to India….overland. That was an experience with talkative Saheba never shutting up until she lost her voice from so much mewing. History repeated itself in India and the cats were sent back to the United States for a period. I knew that if a situation in a country deteriorated every effort is made to remove American citizens safely but pets are left behind. I took no risks with my babies.
After Abdullah was transferred and already working at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, and we knew we were going to be married, I shipped my cats to him. He kept them in his safekeeping until I arrived. Anyone who has had indoor cats will relate to Abdullah’s sacrifices and love for my cats as I share that instead of daily scooping the cats litter box each day, he emptied, washed and filled it with new litter each day. I had no doubts that I had met a man who loved and cared for my cats as much as I did.
As the time came for Abdullah and I to prepare ourselves to the next journey to Riyadh, preparations were also made for the cats travel too. Abdullah engaged an individual at the embassy with the sole responsibility to ensure all the paperwork was duly processed and there would be no glitches in sending the cats to Saudi Arabia. When the cats arrived at Riyadh airport, Abdullah and one of his adult nephews personally collected them, even though he could have easily sent someone else to do so. He knew my cats were just like family to me and never hesitated on taking on the duty of cat pick up.
My cats, to their credit, are excellent world travelers. They also adapt well to new people and places. It was evident that they liked our spacious home in Riyadh and the large courtyard with 12 foot high walls which allowed them the luxury to be outdoors but within a safe environment.
Abdullah’s mother even noticed and commented on how the cats would run to the front door to greet me when I came in from work even though she could not hear the car of the driver dropping me off. She was amazed at how the cats would settle themselves on the small carpet outside of our bedroom door in the morning minutes before I usually stepped out in the morning. Tripod and Saheba captured my mother-in-law’s heart even though she had spent most of her life viewing cats as “Saudi street rats.” She’d remark to Abdullah with wonder how easily she could see and feel the love my cats had for me and others.
When leaving Saudi Arabia for Houston, Texas in March 2009 was such a traumatic time. My primary concern was my husband’s health and prognosis along with the underlying anxiety of not knowing how long we’d be gone. My cats initially were in our home where family members took care of them but I realized that while they were getting care such as food and water and their litter box changed, they were not receiving the same degrees of love and attention to which they were accustomed. Eventually an expatriate couple from South Africa took Tripod and Saheba in as temporary foster kitties until we were reunited.
Abdullah’s health took a turn for the worse and he passed away in February 2010. By that time I was in the midst of my own aggressive battle against the hateful disease of cancer. I missed and grieved for my husband. The loss of my husband also made me want familiarity and love around me all the more. I wanted and needed my cats. Knowing that the future had changed dramatically and with Abdullah’s passing and my own battle, the chances of returning to Saudi Arabia were slim. I had to have my cats returned to me. They were a steady, calming and loving fixture that had been in my life since 1998.
This desire was made known to two specific individuals on my blog who in turn took it upon themselves to mount a global campaign and fund drive to get my cats returned to me. Within three days sufficient funds were raised to ship my cats to North Carolina where I was now residing close to my only son!
I had fears that my cats would have forgotten me after so long but those fears proved to be groundless. Everyone present could literally see the “click” go on in Tripod and Saheba’s mind when they realized we were back together. They clung to me as much as I was clinging to them. They’re presence in my life gave me renewed hope and a sense of peace and calm that had been missing.
The three of us have since been settled in my small apartment near Charlotte. Once again they rule the roost and are the first to greet anyone who comes through the door. They may move a little slower these days due to their age but then again, so do I. However, I think they can be given some leeway for the number of cat naps they enjoy. After all, when I do the conversion of cat years to human years I realized I have senior catizens. Based on the conversion chart, Saheba and Tripod are each 72 years old!
In closing this message, I want to once again thank every special purrson who made it possible for me to be reunited with my precious kitties.
Filed under: Abdullah, America, Animals, breast cancer, cancer, Charity, culture, friendship, Health, pets, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Living, travel, Uncategorized Tagged: | America, cancer, cats, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, travel