January 18th, 2011
This is the story of my cat Datvi, which means bear in Georgian.
I met Datvi nearly three years ago when visiting my friend Gia at the Open Air Ethnographic Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia where he works. Â I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the former Soviet country at the time.Â Often fed by Gia, Datvi was the daughter of a rather noble cat that lived on the museum grounds.Â I wasnâ€™t looking for a cat, but she wooed me with her massive eyes and nervous meows.
At the time, I was frequently travelling between Tbilisi and Kutaisi, the second city of Georgia located four hours outside of the capital.Â Not wanting to leave her alone, Datvi would travel with me by bus or marshutka – vans used for public transportation.Â She oftentimes won the hearts of my fellow passengers, many of them were mama katsis â€“ large Georgian men who exude machismo. Others werenâ€™t always so kind.Â She was quite noisy at the start of each trip and I would laugh nervously and apologize for â€˜my childâ€™, which added to their confusing looks. Indoor domestic cats arenâ€™t very popular in Georgia.Â Over time, she became a professional – it was on the Georgian highways that Datvi learned how to travel and travel she did.
The Russians invaded in August 2008 and Peace Corps evacuated us from our communities. Â I had to leave Datvi behind. While my dear friend and colleague Marika feared for Kutaisi and her country, she visited Datvi every day while I was away (she didnâ€™t seem trust my neighbours).Â I think that through caring for such a small and helpless creature, it helped her feel a bit of control over a situation of terrifying uncertainty.
After the situation seemed to settle, I returned to Georgia to find Datvi had grown out of her collar and turned into what she was destined to be â€“ a bear.Â She comes from a long line of bears.Â Â Oso â€“ Spanish for bear â€“ was my familyâ€™s first cat.Â My parents brought him from Guadalajara, Mexico after living there for some time.Â Osito â€“ little bear â€“ followed Oso and became a wild creature himself, until his kidneys failed on the fourth of July, 2002.Â I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if Datviâ€™s bear lineage goes farther back in the Holtan family tree.
When I moved to Scotland, things became complicated as the UK requires animals to take various tests to enter the country and avoid quarantine.Â It was here that my sister, a transportation planner for the US military in Italy and avid cat lady, agreed to help.Â Â You must realise â€“ I couldnâ€™t leave my little one behind.
I travelled with Datvi to Italy, where she stayed with my sister for more tests before her trip to Britain.Â Again, Datvi and I found ourselves travelling together and me, apologizing for my child to surrounding passengers.Â She enjoyed her time in Tuscany and quickly fell in love with a neighbour cat through the window screen.Â He was gray and his name was Grigio.
Finally, the day came when I could pick her up from the Manchester Airport.Â The reunion was overwhelming and the man waiting for his own bulldog to arrive applauded my efforts.Â He understood.Â There are just some furry friends you need to have around.Â The moment I opened her cage to my flat in Edinburgh, I could sense her relief. Even more so, I was swimming in mine.Â She was finally home.
Only three years old (and a cat, for that matter), she has already become quite the world traveller thanks to the kindness of family, friends, and strangers from all over the world. Datvi now spends her days exploring Edinburgh rooftops, chattering (in Georgian, no doubt) at seagulls, and eating haggis scraps. Who knows what travelling tales have yet to be written, but for now, my bear has truly found her domain.