HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) – After months of separating thousands of miles, a lost calico cat named Cauliflower was found and reunited with its grateful owners.
Lucie Bénévise says that when her beloved Cauli went missing last year, she and husband Devin Lane were preparing to move from South Korea to Hinesville, Georgia.
Lane, a US Army medic, moved to Fort Stewart from his military base at Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek on the west coast of South Korea.
The newly married couple had to go through a number of steps to prepare for the big move, including making sure their cat had all the shots and vaccinations required.
“To import them into the US, we needed three shots, we needed the rabies vaccine, we needed a health certificate, an import certificate,” said Bénévise, who was born in Paris, France and lived for several years in South Korea, where she got hers Husband met.
Cauli’s rabies vaccine had to be completed at least 30 days before she left for the United States and the couple were short on time.
“I got my American visa literally two weeks before my Korean visa expired, so I had about two or three weeks to get a flight here,” Bénévise told WSAV NOW as Cauli settled into hers on a cat tower behind her Relaxed home in Hinesville.
While Bénévise was waiting for her husband to join her in the US, she planned to fly to the US and stay with her mother-in-law in Texas for a short time, who owns dogs.
“I couldn’t possibly have put that responsibility on her, like, ‘Hey, you have to help me and you have to house my cat with your two dogs, too,” Bénévise explained.
Instead, Bénévise and Lane created Facebook posts in various Camp Humphreys military spouse groups seeking foster care for Cauli.
The hope was that a friendly, animal-loving family would take care of Cauli for at least two months before the cat could fly to the US with Lane while he was doing his chores in South Korea.
“We found this really great family who had arrived maybe a month earlier,” said Bénévise. “They said, ‘We had to leave our cat at home in the US, so we’d like to take care of your cat for a few months until your husband is ready to fly back with her.'”
About a week after Bénévise left Cauli with the foster family, she set off on her first trip to the United States without her husband and pet.
‘It was soul-destroying to be honest‘
However, by late October, Lane and Cauli were ready to join her in North America. The Army medic had to report for duty in Georgia by November 3.
He and his cat were scheduled to fly from Incheon International Airport at around 9:00 am on October 30th, but Cauli had to be picked up from her foster parents first.
One of Lane’s friends drove him to pick up his pet around 5 a.m. and they returned to the barracks so that another friend could accompany them on the way to the airport, Bénévise said.
“While they were waiting [their] Friend, you have decided to leave the cat room in the car so that she has more freedom or is more comfortable, ”she said.
The driver of the car then opened the trunk that Cauli was in.
“She freaked out, she jumped out of the car and ran away in fear because she had no idea what was going on, she was in strange surroundings and all that,” said Bénévise and added, “that’s how she got lost.”
To buy time and keep looking for Cauli at the military base, Lane changed his flight date.
“Unfortunately, he hadn’t found her at the end of the weekend and had to board the flight because he still had to be here to report for his next place of work,” said Bénévise.
While the husband and wife were delighted to see each other at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the reunion was overshadowed by the fact that their pet was lost in a country more than 7,000 miles away.
“It was honestly soul-destroying,” said Bénévise, who first fell in love with Cauli in late 2017 when she was a stray kitten.
She first met Cauli through a Facebook group for animal lovers in Korea, in which French students shared a story about a calico cat they discovered on a university campus.
“I just needed this cat, it was so cute,” Bénévise recalled. “I think back then, she was only two or three months old, she was really small and really adorable.”
As the holiday season neared the end of 2020, the heartbroken cat owner didn’t give up hope of finding her pet.
She and her husband have reached out to friends and strangers online in South Korea and asked them to look out for Cauli.
“We had made a number of posts on the Facebook spouse groups for Camp Humphreys, and with each posting we increased the reward,” said Bénévise.
The pair started with a $ 500 reward and ended up at $ 1,500 to give to anyone who could find and catch their lost cat.
They received several photos of people who spotted cats that looked like Cauli, but it was never them.
“They try so hard and it’s like disappointment after disappointment several times a week,” Bénévise said, revealing that after a while, people were telling her to just stop looking for her cat.
“Some of my friends said,” It’s okay Lucie, you’ve done everything you can. “And I knew,” I haven’t done all I can, I can still go on, “she said.” ‘I don’t think I should give up.’ “
“I just felt so relieved.”
More than a month goes by without updates for Cauli from South Korea.
During the Christmas break, Bénévise and Lane spent time with Lane’s mother in Texas. At around 5 a.m. on December 27, Bénévise said her husband had shaken her excitedly.
He had received a photo of a calico cat along with a text message that said, “Hey, is that your cat? We petted this really friendly cat and she won’t leave us alone so we gave her tuna. ”
Lane woke his wife to examine the picture. “It was so blurry, but I know it is her, I know it is her,” said Bénévise. “It’s her color, it’s her face.”
It turned out that Cauli wasn’t far away at all. It was found, dirty and a little less heavy, and roamed the same military base that it got lost on.
Her previous foster family was able to take care of the cat again until she was able to reunite with her family in Georgia.
Cauli’s owners could breathe a sigh of relief, but getting their pet to the States turned out to be a challenge, Bénévise said.
They needed someone in the military who was able to fly the couple to Atlanta, Charleston, or an international airport within five hours by car.
“Somebody sent me a message,” My 22-year-old son is going to Atlanta on January 9th, “Bénévise said, and then the day finally came she had been waiting six months for.
“He held her bag around his neck and gave the bag to me, and I gave him a small amount of money to thank him for it,” she said of seeing her again at the airport. “I know it might not have been easy to have the cat with you during the flight, but he said she was fine.”
Bénévise, her husband and Cauli finally returned to Hinesville as a complete family for the first time.
“She landed on this cat tower and has not left the cat tower since,” Bénévise smiled.
“She was only there with me through the good and the bad,” she said of Cauli.
“I just felt so relieved,” she added. “I know that no one can love her as much as I love her.”