As promised, this time I'm sharing the story of Puff & Little Puff. Hopefully, it's one you'll enjoy, but you may end up thinking I'm a nut. Either way, here it is...
12 years ago, I had yet to meet Dan. I kept my horse Sara on a piece of property my father owned, and we had kitties there. I can remember holding a pregnant Shadow and feeling the unborn kittens moving around. She would have four of them, on the Fourth of July, 2001. Unfortunately, Shadow was hit & killed on the highway when the kittens were only 3 weeks old. I was home from college for the summer; I found Shadow and buried her, then brought the kittens home to care for. My younger sisters loved having kittens in the house, but although fun to play with, none of the girls wanted to feed the kitties at midnight or 3 AM. That was my job. All four survived, and the fluffy tan one would be known as Puff. My sisters used to dress him up in doll clothes and push him around in a doll carriage. He learned that resistance was futile, and for the rest of his life, he would allow just about anyone to pet or pick him up.
He was a special (and spoiled) pet of my sister Laurel, but when our father died, I took custody of Puff, as Mom moved too close to a main road for comfort and I was living on my own nearby and rented a place with a nice backyard and woods for him to prowl. Shortly after, I met Dan and would take Puff to the farm when I moved there. He loved the farm. He would follow me around and supervise whatever was going on; building the greenhouse, weeding the garden, whatever. He also appointed himself farm stand mascot and would greet customers. Many kids who may not have had pets of their own were delighted to pet him, and Puff patiently soaked up the attention.
This past summer, he disappeared. I looked for him, calling and listening. I put up “Lost Cat” posters and talked to the neighbors. My neighbor Heidi gave me the answer I was afraid of...she had found a bunch of Puff-colored hair and a claw in the woods, as though there had been a fight of some kind. It was apparent that Puff has lost, to something with teeth. We never found his body.
In October, an acquaintance asked me if I would take in a couple of cats, as barn cats. Her son had found them in the woods, but since they had 3 large dogs, they couldn't keep the cats, who were currently locked in the garage. Although usually our response is that we have plenty of cats around already, this time I said yes, I would take them. They were about 12 weeks old, and there were 2, that was all I knew. The next day she arrived with a bag of cat food and the kitties. “They're Halloween kitties, one is black and one is orange,” she said as she opened the door to the dog crate in the back of the vehicle. One was black with white paws and chest, and the other...was the spitting image of Puff. Same markings, same hair length. The only difference was his (yes, also a boy!) eyes- the new kitty has copper-colored eyes, while Puff's had been yellow with a green ring around the pupil. I was dumbfounded at the coincidence, but took them down to the barn and fed them there, hoping to train them that the barn was their home, and not the house. When Dan came home, he told me he gave it 12 hours before they came into the house. We walked down to the shop, and saw the kitties had found their way outside. They were sitting on the rocks between the barn and the shop. Although I had told Dan that one looked like Puff, I think it startled him, too, when he saw for himself. “I've missed that cat.” he said to me...and Dan is by no means a cat person. When he came back up to the house later, the little Puff-colored one followed him right into the house as though he owned the place (Dan was way off...it only took 3 hours!). Dan started calling him Puff immediately. I protested, that it wasn't fair either to Puff's memory or to the new cat. I tried to call him LP, for Little Puff, but the only thing that seemed to stick was Puff. Again.
Now I am aware that I probably showered more affection on this cat, since he looked so much like my furry little buddy, and that can have an effect on the way he would behave towards me. But I swear this cat loved me right from the start, and wanted to be petted and be near all the time. I've never met a cat that enjoys being picked up and held so much. I tried writing it off, because really, the idea that the cat could be reincarnated and find me again was just too much. It's just a crazy coincidence that it is a friendly little cat who looks like the one I lost. But then again...
He seemed to learn his name was Puff in no time at all. From the time he arrived, he would come to the farm stand and supervise, even letting a small child pick him up the very first market day. One of my regular customers was shocked at the resemblance. Little Puff also picked out the exact same places to nap. While the computer chair and the back of the couch are kitty hot spots that all cats seem to gravitate towards, there are others that were really Puff's alone, and Little Puff would eerily be found in the same spots. For instance, in one of the spare bedrooms upstairs, Puff loved to sleep between the pillows on the turned-down sheet. I think it was so he could get more cat hair on things, but he was always there. One day, I went into the room putting things away, and there was Little Puff. It didn't even register, I was so used to seeing a cat that color (and that color alone) in that spot. Then I remembered that it's not the same cat!
When my Mom came for Thanksgiving, she walked in the door, and before she even took her coat off, she said "Oh my goodness! It's Puff!” I reminded her that I told her about the cat that looked like him, and she replied that it didn't just look like Puff, it was Puff. Little Puff also seemed oddly at ease with Pepper, my mother's dog, with whom Puff lived for years. Strange. Talking to my neighbor Heidi about it, she told me that among those who believe in reincarnation, it's very common to believe the same dog will find you again, and considering how close I was to Puff, it didn't seem like much of a stretch to think the same could be true of a cat. But, I protested, given the age of the kittens, they would have been born at pretty much the exact time Puff disappeared. Heidi's thoughts were that since he left so unexpectedly, and he knew I would be worried, maybe he made it a point to come right back. Talking about him at Christmas with my family, my sister Laurel told me to drop the “Little” and just call him Puff, because I should accept that he came back. And then, when I came home after my family get together, Dan said he had slept very poorly because the cats kept him up. Puff had always had the most horribly annoying trick to get me to open the door and let him in at night. He would get on the couch on the front porch and claw at the sheet of plastic we used to weatherproof the bedroom window. It makes a terribly annoying noise, so you have to get up out of bed to let him in. None of the other cats ever picked up on that trick, even though I'm sure they had watched Puff use it to his advantage many times. While I was gone that night, Little Puff got up on the porch couch and began clawing the plastic until Dan got out of bed and let him in. The odds of that being coincidence are just too much to fathom.
So, this spring, when we reopen, I'm confident I will have a fluffy farm stand mascot once again. Stop by and see for yourself, but by now there is enough evidence that I'm positive that the cat came back.
Little Puff and his brother, 8-Track.
**After writing this yesterday, I was reading a book when (Little) Puff jumped up beside me. When he looked up, I noticed an unmistakable ring of green around the pupils of his eyes that simply wasn't there when he came to me. Spooky, isn't it? **