AL team would like to share with you a true and live experience of one of our founders Joelle Kanaan, and beloved cat, Captain Hook:
… and the nightmare is over
I had written to my dear and amazing friend in Holland, Agnes, to help me find homes for some of the cats at the shelter. As usual, Agnes was there to help me and our cats for which she cares as much as I do, without even knowing them closely.
I was receiving emails from her everyday asking about specific cats and informing me about who is getting adopted and my smile was the biggest when I saw the name of ‘Captain Hook’ in one of her emails.
I will continue writing my story addressing it straight to Captain Hook…
When I saw your name in the email I was so happy someone wanted you but at the same time so scared of them changing their mind in adopting you when I would tell them you’re a feral cat. Since you came to us, you never trusted humans and I fully understand you! You were mistreated, tested on in laboratories, and handicapped in one of your front legs from an unknown accident, most probably another way of abuse…
You’ve been with us for almost 2 years now and it always intrigued me to touch you and cuddle you and to make you know that not all people are bad, but it was just too hard and I don’t blame you for staying away from our ‘specie’. But, in the last couple of months, I started reaching you when you would run to eat your wet food, your preferred one; I scratched your back more than once while you were busy eating and you would just let go until the moment you felt it was my hand, looked at me with a big surprise on your eyes, and got away. I used to feel I was tricking you but I was happy doing it :)
I replied to Agnes’ email, telling her that you were feral which might push away your potential adopters but my happiness was the biggest when she told me that Carla, the lady adopting you, wanted you whatsoever, regardless of you being feral or handicapped. She wanted to help you and give you a great home.
Of course I was happy for all your other friends going with you to amazing homes in Holland but I was the happiest for you as I knew how hard it was to place you in a home.
The time had come when I had to fly you and your 4 other friends to Amsterdam. It was around 4 in the morning when Maggie and I went to the shelter to crate you and drive with you to the airport. I was worried about catching you the most because I knew you will not make it an easy task for us.
We caught all your other friends and it was now your time. You were fighting so hard to stay, to be left in peace and not to be caught by the net, which I had to use to get you, a thing I hate to do but unfortunately have to sometimes! You were fighting hard, running from one corner of the room to another but at the end you were trapped in the net and it broke my heart seeing you turning around in all ways, trying to escape the net and run towards your friends. But knowing that I was doing it to ensure a happier permanent life for you, I was tough about it and just crated you.
I arrived to the airport, and I could see in your eyes that you were simply terrified, but I was assuring you that in a few hours all will be fine and you will get to a great loving home where you could be happy and relax for the rest of your life…
Before checking you in, I made sure all your cages were well closed, yours and your friends’, and I wrote on yours a warning “Feral Cat! Do not open cage!”
And I let you go to be loaded on the plane… and went my way…
A few minutes later, I was informed that there was a one and a half hour delay on the flight. If I was alone, I wouldn’t care that much, but having you and the other cats with me just made me worry for some reason. I knew for a fact that we would arrive to Larnaca and rush you and your friends out of one plane quickly to load you in the other, the one flying to Amsterdam. I asked one of Cyprus Airways employee if the delay would cause a problem to the connection in Larnaca and if offloading/loading you would be a hassle for them. They assured me that all will be fine; I sat back and thought that after all, they are a well-known company and should basically know how to do their job under such circumstances.
We landed in Larnaca and there, it was just a total chaos. Our delay from Beirut had caused a delay in 4 other connections, including the Amsterdam one, and the staff and the people were all going into all directions and yelling and asking about their flights… Once at my gate, I asked once again about you while they were rushing us to the plane, and the girl told me “your cats are fine and are being loaded on the plane now”.
I got onto Amsterdam’s plane which was supposed to take off in a few, until, about 10 minutes later, one of the hostesses comes to me asking if I was Ms. Kanaan. After my positive answer she asked me to come with her to the front, I asked her what was the reason thinking they wanted to place me on another seat but she responds “we just need you a bit in the front”. At this instant, I felt some fear and wished that whatever they needed from me was just not related to you or any of the other cats.
I get to the front of the plane; one girl pulls me gently from my arm to the outside, on the top of the stairs. She asks me if I was the lady with the cats. At this question, so many thoughts crossed my mind in just seconds. I thought I would hear “your cats got loaded on another plane by mistake”, “one of your cats died”, “one of your cats is not doing good”…. I thought and wanted to hear ANYTHING but not “we were informed that one of your cats escaped on the runway while being offloaded from the plane to be loaded on the other”. It was slightly raining and there was a cold wind where I was standing high on the stairs and despite all that I felt that someone had dropped me into boiling water!!! I was numb and tears were already falling down my face. I felt my legs couldn’t stand up straight anymore but what I wanted is to run down and look for you (not knowing which cat it was yet or where it exactly escaped!) but they grabbed me again and told me that it was not allowed for me to go down on the runway. I was asked if I wanted to continue my flight or just get down and stay in Cyprus.
Having 4 other cats under my responsibility, after being told that it will be impossible to find you and seeing how huge the airport and fields around it were; I told them I would continue my flight but wanted to know which cat was missing. I had to wait about 15 minutes for them to bring the other cats under the plane; meanwhile they made me sit, were throwing water on my face and wiping my tears with napkins, they were scared for me to faint I guess seeing the situation I was in but ALL I wanted and was thinking of is to see the 5 of you on the pallet when brought and being told we got the cat. Those 15 minutes felt like forever!!! I didn’t want you, or Angelica, or Zena, or Aphrodite or Petite to be missing. I wanted you all there. But I knew that was not going to be the case. The pallet arrived and I ran down the stairs in seconds towards it and I saw your cage empty. I knew it was you Captain Hook. I knew I was going to fly without you and it terribly broke my heart. I cannot really describe what I was feeling at this moment. The feelings of sadness were just too strong; one of the strongest I have ever felt.
They took me back up on the plane, made me sit and got me water again. I was crying loud, was loosing my breath and no it didn’t just last for a few minutes but my heavy crying lasted for more than 7 hours; during the whole flight and until I got to Margreet’s home in Amsterdam.
My feelings of sadness were so much mixed with feelings of guilt!!!! I took you out of the shelter by force as you didn’t want to leave; I put you on the plane while I knew you were terrified; I thought I was doing all this for your best but it all ended up so bad!!! When the plane took off I realized more that I was leaving you behind and wanted to scream to the pilot to stop but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t stop crying or thinking about you, about how terrified you must be, about how lost you must be. I couldn’t eat anything or sleep not even for 1 minute although I’m known of being the person who sleeps dead on planes. I was just helpless knowing how helpless you were.
I got to Holland, still crying and numb, had to go check that your friends were fine and arrived safely which they were but for the first time when flying cats I just couldn’t feel any happiness at all. I had to claim your loss which I couldn’t do in Larnaca as I was informed about it when already on the plane; and then had to get out to meet your adopter as well as your friends’ adopters. It was the first time I saw most of these persons and what they saw was a person in tears, about to break down… I just couldn’t focus on anything right; I couldn’t think straight; I couldn’t see clear but I had to do my best to speak to these lovely people and hand them their pets and then head with Margreet to her house.
I was so tired, still crying and thinking of you, and was starting to get hungry after a whole day without food but all that didn’t matter to me as I knew you were more tired than I was and you were also crying just like me. You were crying for comfort, your were crying for help, your were crying for security, you were crying for a shelter, you were crying for food, you were missing your friends and your home and you just didn’t know how to get all that and the feeling was killing me!!!! I knew what had happened to you and why you ended up there alone but you didn’t know the reason yourself and it made me feel guilty to death.
I wanted you back more than anything in the whole world and I knew NOTHING would bring a real smile to my face until I find you again and bring you back home!
I was focused to find you and I just couldn’t wait to go back to Larnaca to start looking for you. I was surely surrounded by amazing people who made me feel I was not alone in this. Margreet, Agnes, Maggie and all the others who were in direct contact with me made me feel stronger about finding you. And I also knew that all the others who could not reach me were also praying to have you back and were feeling sadness also and I thank all these people from my heart for being there for me and you…
I went to bed that night but just couldn’t sleep or even close my eyes whatsoever although I was dead tired! I couldn’t take you off my mind for one second and was feeling so disordered and confused.
Each time someone spoke to me I was crying more and more. I got a phone call from a Cyprus Airways Manager around 11 and he informed me that they will pay me a hotel in Larnaca the second day to stay there and look for you which I was going to do anyways!
Margreet gave me a sleeping pill that night so I could get some hours of rest which I finally did after all the exhaustion…
I woke up the next morning and started crying all over again but decided to be calmer that day to be able to think straight and find you!! I had a hard task but I wanted to reach a happy ending whatsoever, with mixed feelings of little hope and strong hope…
I flew to Larnaca after a day that seemed so long waiting to get to the ground you were on… My flight was so long too and still full of tears and unrest but again I didn’t care about me, I just wanted you back safe in my hands.
Once I landed in Cyprus, there was a crew waiting for me to escort me. I was informed that the incident actually happened when one of the workers was pulling luggage from onto your pallet -luggage which at the first place should not have been placed on a live animals’ pallet- and it made your cage fall on the floor and its door open. It made me so mad on top of my sadness. As the incident actually happened due to an unacceptable company fault!
They wanted me to go rest in the hotel and start the search in the morning. I refused. I wanted to go look for you immediately and so they did as I asked for. Special permissions and clearances were obtained for me to get to restricted areas in the airport, and escorted by a team of 6 people, we started the search.
Agnes, through one of her friends who could somehow ‘see’ where you were told me to look more into the working areas of the airport as you were most probably there and I trusted that and focused my search into those areas the most.
We looked for about 2 hours, walked so many kilometers and went into so many working areas. I was calling your name all the time; I was talking the things I usually say to you at the shelter hoping to hear your voice back but to my deep sadness there was just no sign from you. It was too dark anyways and they convinced me to go rest for the few hours left until the sunshine and start my search in the early morning.
The next morning, I went to look for you starting 8.30 am and the search lasted 13 full hours. It was the longest day of my life!!! I had to look for you; to go into so many offices and talk to so many people; to give more instructions of more things to be done such as immediately putting trapping cages around the areas I felt you were in or posting a 700 euros reward posters around the airport for whoever finds you; I also had to do verbal claims, correspond with Maggie in Beirut to send me written ones, to bear the humans around me whom, for the majority of them, were careless, heartless and only cared about their company’s imagine and not much about you; to get offers of exchanging you with some amount of money and to that I replied to the person mentioning this “I don’t want your money, my cat is priceless and cannot be valued and I want her back!”
It was getting dark and there was still no sign of you and that night I had to come back to Beirut and my flight was at 9.50 pm.
The day seemed so long but at the same time so short. I so much wanted to leave this country as I was tired from the rude and harsh people around but at the same I so much wanted to stay until I find you!
I finally found a person I could trust and this girl, Sophia, who works in the baggage handling company in Cyprus, made me feel I could count on her to help me more, and she did. She did all I asked her to do. She got more trapping cages to the airport from an Animal Welfare organization Margo had contacted from Beirut, and set them in the areas I told her about. She printed your reward posters immediately after I gave her your pictures (and seeing them made me cry even more and more) and hung them around. Now more workers, who of course cared about the money and not you, were helping look for you…
You cannot maybe believe me how much I wanted to find you and take you back with me to Beirut so you can go to your home again and meet your friends and get some rest. It was the thing I was wishing for the most, more than any single thing.
It was now 8 pm, time for me to check-in to my flight, and there I felt the ugliest feeling ever!!! I felt that it was the moment where I was leaving you behind and this feeling was tearing me apart!!
I went to Sophia to ask her to check the trapping cages one more time to see if you were hopefully trapped before I left Larnaca; her response was negative. I begged her not to give up on you and told her that she is the only person I trusted in there and that I count on her to help me find you even after I’m gone and she promised me she will and I trusted her.
I went to my plane’s gate and while I was sitting and looking outside through the glass I was hearing you calling me, I was seeing you come to me, I was feeling that you were telling me not to leave; the sadness I was feeling at this moment is indescribable and I was crying so loud all over again…
The bus arrived to take us to the plane and my heart was hurting from sadness and guilt and as I was walking to the plane, I hear one of Cyprus Airways employees run to me telling me “we found your cat, we found your cat”. I will not be able to explain what I felt at this right second as even I don’t exactly know what the feeling was. It was a feeling of big confusion, panic, happiness, loss, of wanting to run to you…. All these mixed together which gave a strange feel. It was the first time in 3 days that I had a real big smile on my face and this time the tears falling on my face were ones of happiness!!!
I had to wait a few minutes for Sophia to come take me to you. I was so excited and confused that I was running from the wrong sides of the halls. Sophia took my passport and boarding pass which I was dropping on the floor as I was all shaking and not being able to hold one thing straight. She also took my hand and started running with me.
It sounds funny here but I felt I was in a movie with a happy ending for the hero..
I got to you; you were in one of the trapping cages, all scared and dirty. I wanted to take you out of the cage and give you a huge hug but then I thought you wouldn’t really appreciate that.. so I moved you into your initial cage which I had carried on me the whole trip and for some reason was so attached to it and didn’t want to let go of it.
I had to run back to the plane, but this time with you and with a big smile on my face! The plane was delayed until you and I got onto it.
I held your cage throughout the flight to Beirut and until this moment the smile is not leaving my face! I love you Captain Hook and I am so happy that you’re back .. and I know that you’re happy too !!! and oh, your future mom still wants you so bad but this time we will be more careful in sending you to her! I promise!!!
By Joelle Kanaan