HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) — After months of being separated by thousands of miles, a lost calico cat named Cauliflower has been located and reunited with her thankful owners.
Lucie Bénévise says around the time her beloved Cauli went missing last year, she and her husband, Devin Lane, were preparing for a move from South Korea to Hinesville, Georgia.
Lane, who serves as a United States Army medic, was relocating to Fort Stewart from his military base at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek along South Korea’s western coast.
The recently married couple had to complete a number of steps in preparation for the big move, including ensuring that their cat had all the necessary shots and vaccinations.
“In order to import her to the U.S., we needed three rounds of shots, we needed the rabies vaccine, we needed a health certificate, an import certificate,” said Bénévise, who was born in Paris, France, and lived a number of years in South Korea, where she met her husband.
Cauli’s rabies vaccine had to be completed at least 30 days prior to her departure to the U.S., and the couple was running short on time.
“I literally got my American visa maybe two weeks before my Korean visa expired, so I had about two or three weeks to get a flight to come here,” Bénévise told WSAV NOW as Cauli relaxed on a cat tower behind her in their Hinesville home.
While waiting for her husband to join her in the States, Bénévise planned to fly to the U.S. and stay with her Texas-based mother-in-law, who owns dogs, for a brief period.
“I couldn’t possibly bring this responsibility onto to her, like, ‘hey, you need to help me, and you also have to accommodate my cat with your two dogs,’” Bénévise explained.
Instead, Bénévise and Lane created Facebook posts in various Camp Humphreys military spouse groups seeking a foster family for Cauli.
The hope was that a kind, pet-loving family would take care of Cauli for at least two months until the cat could fly with Lane to the U.S. as he wrapped up his duties in South Korea.
“We found this really awesome family who had arrived maybe one month earlier,” Bénévise said. “They were like, ‘we had to leave our cat back home in the U.S., so we would be more than happy to foster your cat for a couple of months until your husband is ready to fly back with her.’”
About a week after leaving Cauli with the foster family, Bénévise set off on her first trip to the U.S., without her husband and her pet.
‘It honestly was soul-crushing‘
However, by the end of October, Lane and Cauli were ready to join her in North America. The Army medic had to report for duty in Georgia by Nov. 3.
He and his cat were set to depart from Incheon International Airport around 9 a.m. on Oct. 30, but first, Cauli had to be collected from her foster parents’ home.
One of Lane’s friends drove him to pick up his pet around 5 a.m., and they returned to the barracks so another pal could join them on the ride to the airport, according to Bénévise.
“While they were waiting for [their] friend, they decided to let the cat room in the car so she could have more freedom or feel more comfortable,” she said.
The car’s driver then opened the trunk, where Cauli was located.
“She freaked out, she jumped out of the car and ran away out of fear because she had no idea what’s going on, she was in a strange environment and everything,” Bénévise said, adding, “so that’s how she got lost.”
In an effort to buy time and continue searching for Cauli at the military base, Lane changed his flight date.
“Unfortunately, by the end of the weekend, he hadn’t found her and he was forced to get on the flight because he still had to be here to report for his next duty station,” Bénévise said.
While the husband and wife were glad to see each other at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the reunion was overshadowed by the reality that their pet was lost in a country over 7,000 miles away.
“It honestly was soul-crushing,” said Bénévise, who had first fallen in love with Cauli in late 2017 when she was a stray kitten.
She initially learned about Cauli through a Facebook group for pet lovers in Korea, where French students posted about a calico cat they discovered roaming a university campus.
“I just needed to have this cat, she was so cute,” Bénévise recalled. “I think back then, she was only like two or three months old, she was really small and really adorable.”
As the holiday season approached near 2020’s end, the heartbroken cat owner did not give up hope for finding her pet.
She and her husband reached out to friends and strangers online in South Korea, asking them to keep an eye out for Cauli.
“We had made a bunch of posts in the Facebook spouse groups for Camp Humphreys, and every single post we made, we would increase the reward,” Bénévise said.
The couple started out by offering a $500 reward and wound up at $1,500 to give anyone who could find and catch their lost cat.
They received several photos from people who spotted cats that looked like Cauli, but it was never her.
“You try so hard, and it’s just like disappointment after disappointment several times a week,” Bénévise said, revealing that after a while, people told her to simply give up searching for her cat.
“Some of my friends were like, ‘it’s okay Lucie, you did everything you could,’ and I knew, like, ‘I didn’t do everything I could, I can still continue,’” she said. “‘I don’t think I should give up.’”
‘I just felt so much relief’
More than a month goes by with no updates on Cauli from South Korea.
Over the Christmas holiday, Bénévise and Lane spent time in Texas with Lane’s mother. Around 5 a.m. on Dec. 27, Bénévise says her husband excitedly shook her awake.
He had received a photo of a calico cat along with a text message that read: “Hey, is this your cat? We’ve been petting this really friendly cat and she won’t leave us alone, so we gave her some tuna.”
Lane woke up his wife to have her examine the image. “It was so blurry, but I know it’s her, I know it’s her,” Bénévise said. “It is her coloring, it’s her face.”
It turns out that Cauli hadn’t strayed far away at all. She was found, dirty and weighing a bit less, roaming the same military base where she’d gotten lost.
Her previous foster family was once again able to take care of the cat until she was able to reunite with her family in Georgia.
Cauli’s owners were able to breathe a sigh of relief, but getting their pet to the States turned out to be challenging, Bénévise shared.
They needed someone in the military who was able to fly from South Korea to either Atlanta, Charleston or any international airport within five hours of driving distance from the couple.
“Somebody messaged me, ‘my 22-year-old son is going to Atlanta on Jan. 9,’” Bénévise said. Then, the day that she’d waited six months for finally arrived.
“He was holding her bag around his neck and he handed me the bag, and I gave him a little sum of money to thank him for doing that,” she said of the airport reunion. “I know that it couldn’t have been easy to have the cat with him during the flight, but he said she was fine.”
Bénévise, her husband and Cauli finally headed home to Hinesville for the first time as a complete family.
“She ended up on this cat tower, and she has not left the cat tower ever since,” Bénévise smiled.
“She’s always just been there with me through the good and bad,” she said of Cauli.
“I just felt so much relief,” she added. “I know that nobody can love her as much as I love her.”