Mishi, My Flying Cat
2019 General Nonfiction Honorable Mention
Copyright 2019 by Monica Wenzel
first professional job out of college was teaching English to high
schoolers in rural Ecuador. I met many friends of all ages. One
friend I didn't expect was a white and gray kitten who I took into my
home and my heart. Naturally, when I returned to Minnesota, I didn't
want to leave Mishi. Getting her home turned out to be an adventure
or her and for me.
I looked out of the
airplane window for my last looks at Quito, Ecuador with tears in my
eyes. I was leaving the country that had been my home for the past
year. I was leaving the friends I’d
the students I’d taught English, and the days of adventure
where so much was new and exciting. I should’ve been eager to
see my parents, brother, friends, and then-boyfriend now-husband.
All I cared about in that moment was
that I was
leaving my kitten I’d adopted eight months prior.
As the plane took
off, my stomach fell. My Mishi was down there when she should’ve
been on the plane. A stab of guilt told me I should’ve been
down there with her and not left her with a
Mariana, even if she was
going out of her way to help Mishi and me.
prepared for Mishi to fly home with me. I took her to a vet to get
all of her shots and a letter stating that she was in good health and
okay to fly. I’d called the airline before I left my home in
the southern part of Ecuador to make sure taking her on the plane
wasn’t a problem. I was told it wasn’t and that I should
bring her with me when I checked in. But Mishi and I had a big
I got to the
check-in counter with two suitcases, two carry-ons, and a cat
carrier. The ticket agent said it was too hot in Miami, our layover
destination, for animals to be on the tarmac and the airline wouldn’t
My worst fear for
Mishi was coming true. I started to panic. I was alone at the
airport. I was trying to talk to people in my third language of
Spanish. I had no ideas of what to do with my little kitten.
when Mariana approached me and offered to help. After she got her
teenaged niece on a plane headed to their home country of Argentina,
she offered to take my cat to my host mom’s apartment just
three blocks from the airport. I had stayed with Silvia and her two
children while in Quito for the first month of my experience in
Ecuador when my group of English-teaching volunteers received
training. Thankfully, when I called Silvia, she agreed to take care
of Mishi until I could get a plane ticket for her or until I came
back for her.
sure I’d ever see Mishi again. Or if she’d want to sit on
my lap and let me pet her after I left her. I wasn’t sure how
much time would pass before I saw her again, if I ever did.
I doubted my
decision to get on that plane without her in the cargo area.
(International flights didn’t allow
to ride under the seats like carry-ons, even if they’re small
enough.) I doubted my choice not to let her stay in the rural town
where we’d lived together in a small house. One of my friends
there would’ve given her a good new home.
already endured a two-hour bus ride from Jima (pronounced he-ma), my
small town, to Cuenca, the big city I lived near, and a thirty-minute
flight from Cuenca to Quito. She meowed loudly while I waited to pick
up her carrier as she sat among the suitcases in baggage claim. I had
taken her on bus rides from Jima where I taught English to high
school students to Cuenca for vet visits. She’d tolerated those
by mostly sleeping on my lap.
been together for eight months of her ten-month life and I’d
met her when she was just born. My friend’s cat had kittens and
she let me take her home because I lived by myself. I named my gray
and white fluffy kitten Mishi, the word for cat used in Ecuador
instead of “gato” due to the Incan influence still in the
area. When I took her to my Ecuadorian home, I promised her that I’d
take her home with me, all the way home to Minnesota, and not leave
her. Yet, I was abandoning her and heading for home without her.
On that airplane, I
thought about our time together. We
together with a rope I found. She slept on my lap while I read. She
sat on my students’ papers
as I tried
to grade them. She greeted me when I came home from school and put a
smile on my face. She made my little house a home and kept me company
while I lived by myself on a different continent than so many people
I loved. She was my kitten and I was her human, not owner. She never
had an owner.
all snuggles and purrs. The first time she did her business in my
house was right on my bed. She wasn’t litter box trained when I
took her home. I had to wash the blankets and sheets by hand because
I had no washing machine. I also had to give her flea showers to get
them off of her. I had a shower and no bathtub, so I had to hold her
under the running water to get her wet, shampoo her, and hold her in
the shower to rinse her off again. She howled like she never had
before or since.
After I landed in
Minnesota, I started working to get her here. I called Silvia back in
Ecuador to coordinate the flight for Mishi. I found another airline
that handles more animals and got a ticket for my cat. I never had
purchased a plane ticket just for an animal before.
Days went by when
Mishi couldn’t fly to me because it was
still too hot. After a week, I was back at the Minneapolis airport. I
was anxious and excited to see her. I wondered if she’d
I heard her before
I saw her, meowing loudly for everyone in the oversized luggage claim
area to notice. She didn’t get bounced
the conveyer belt at the regular baggage claim. As soon as she saw
me, she quieted down. I like to think that she knew she was with her
human again and that the long, loud, scary journey was over. She was
back with me, where she belonged. Relief and joy swept over me as I
held her carrier and knew that she’d come home for good.
passed away in January 2017. She lived with me in four different
homes during our time together, always sharing her companionship and
love. She helped me gain a sense of home wherever I moved and whoever
else I lived with. She taught me that life is best lived with people
and animals I love, and that where I live is less important that who
I share my home with. I have two other cats now, Persia and Chai.
I’ll have cats for the rest of my life, but none will be like
Mishi, my cat who flew on airplanes.
live in Minnesota with my husband, son, and two cats. I teach high
school Spanish. I speak and have taught French as well. Besides
Ecuador, I've traveled to China, France, Spain, Mexico, South Korea,
England, Germany, and many corners of the United States.|
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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