What makes a home, a home? ~ (Part 1)

What makes a home, a home?

This is a question and concept that we often ponder.

When you stay in one place, live in one country, and maybe travel occasionally, this is probably not a topic that comes up very often. But for us, it is a fairly constant theme that comes and goes with a fair amount of frequency.

I remember being in our little cooling off pool in our house in Granada, Nicaragua with our son Oren, and all our animals around us – 6 cats at the time, 3 dogs.. and all of us realizing and commenting about how much this particular house at that particular time, felt so much like home.

For Ben and for me, the feeling of home, comes from the “environment.” I highly value being in or near nature – I instantly feel “at home” when the place I am living in is surrounded by or near trees, a river or hills, or rice paddies and a beach will do! (Having grown up on a hillside in Johannesburg, with no immediate neighbors it is not surprising that being in nature is what makes me feel energized, alive and “at home”). Ben, who grew up in Paris, in a more urban environment, seeks out a place for newspapers, a cafe to sit (preferably outside) and of course some really good local food and immediately feels “at home”.

Beyond these two distinct sets of criteria for a home, we also share another common association with home. For us, it is our connection to animals that is also core and central. I grew up surrounded by animals: cats, kittens, puppies, dogs, rabbits, birds, tortoises. Ben had an equivalent list of pets plus a few more exotic ones such as a goat, cappucin monkeys (not that we advocate having wild animals as pets!)

And so, here in Chicago, we are well aware, that until we have a cat or dog, an animal in our midst, we will not feel truly “at home.”

And so……

I connected to a local group called Feline Friends ~ whose mission is to rescue cats from being euthanized due to overcrowding at shelters, by placing them in foster homes. And that is how it came to be, that in our loft we first fostered Louis, a very laid-back, adult male cat. A few weeks later we got an email from the organization asking if we could foster four ginger kittens in addition, who were in desperate need of a foster temporary home.

Not surprisingly, we found that, indeed our five new feline friends made our loft instantly feel like home!

In Nicaragua, our home was always home to cats in need of shelter, rescue and love. We found homes for about 30 kittens we rescued over the years and kept quite a few that we just could not bear to part with. It is an incredibly good feeling to be able to impact the trajectory of a little furry soul’s life, for the positive. Good karma. After  living in Nicaragua for six years we sold our house a few months ago (bittersweet), we were notified by the new owner that she could not keep all four of our remaining cats, and so we made plans to try to find new homes for two of them.

One cat Thurgood, was successfully placed, but the other, Stubby became more difficult to find a good home for, especially at a distance, (from Chicago.) She is what I call, a special needs cat. She has half a tail due to abuse, thus the name Stubby, and this affects her balance ~ she is not as agile as the average cat, and as well, has a “weepy” eye condition.

We got a significant amount of pleasure, as well as entertainment from the four kamikaze kittens deliciously dive bombing our hanging saris and futon, and snuggling up with us for much needed affection and attention. Louis adjusted pretty well to the added activity and provided a good adult figure for the little ones. We foster cared these beauties for 4 weeks, until something extraordinary happened….

A woman we knew in Granada answered our request for a volunteer to bring Stubby the cat to the U.S. The only problem was, she was traveling to Minneapolis, not Chicago and that was her offer… To bring our cat as far as Minneapolis!

This is where Ben “The Hero” part of the story comes in….  Ben booked an early morning ticket from Chicago to Minneapolis, in order to meet and greet Stubby at the airport in Minneapolis and bring her back to Chicago.

There are not many men I can think of that would take the time and energy (and costly) effort to fly from one city to another to retrieve a cat. Yet, on the other hand, going the extra mile for one of our family members makes total sense to us. After many travel hours, Stubby the rescued street kitten from Granada, Nicaragua arrived back with Ben, to our loft in Chicago

I watched eagerly from the huge windows in our loft that look across the street, when I knew Ben and Stubby would be coming off the Blue Line El around the corner. Finally I saw a tired yet heroic Ben crossing the street at almost midnight, with a cat carry on bag, housing Stubby.

A few days before Stubby arrived we arranged for the foster kittens to be moved to new homes. (Louis we fell in love with and were ready to adopt, but alas he had been promised to someone else by the agency.) It did not seem fair to bombard Stubby, after having traveled so far and for so long, with four very rambunctious kittens, tempting as it was to keep them longer until permanent homes were found for them.

Stubby spent her first two days sniffing the smell of other felines, and wondering perhaps where they were? She also sniffed at everything in our space, the way cats do with new objects, and that kept her quite occupied. She was on the thin side when she arrived, but now being spoilt by canned food (a very rare treat in Nicaragua), she has filled out nicely and her fur is soft and shiny.

After a couple of days of adjustment to her new environment,  and some significant sleeping, Stubby the cat settled in and is now happily at home here. With her comes a “piece” of our Nicaraguan life, contributing to making our Chicago home, really feel like home!


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Kitten fun..

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3 of the 4 foster kittens… Every country, every city has unwanted unloved cats and dogs in need of foster care and permanent homes. Find a shelter and offer foster loving if you can’t adopt.


Stubby ~ Belly up enjoying the sunshine!




14 thoughts on “What makes a home, a home? ~ (Part 1)

  1. macaco

    This is an amazing write up. Stubby is a very blessed to have you guys. As long as there are heroic people like you and Ben cats like stubby will always find a home 🙂

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thank you Macaco for your kind words. Nice to have you reading our posts!

      I cannot understand or tolerate cruelty to animals. The love and joy that animals give back is immeasurable.

      I do believe it’s up to humans to protect wildlife and care well for domestic and farm animals.

  2. Oren

    Great story! Needs an edit about the 2 times she disappeared, and about how runty and small she was when you took her in! She is one lucky cat

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Ha ha! It is very true that Stubby was in the worst shape of any kitten we fostered. She was so scared of humans that she hid in a dark corner of a closet for a full week! (Usually its a few days..)

      And then one day she disappeared off the front sidewalk in front of our house, and that is a whole other story which involved canvassing the neighborhood and finding out a drunkard had picked her up and she ran away from him. After offering a reward of $5 we started to make progress in assessing where she ran off to and using Mango as the ” detective sniff dog” he found her hiding in a dark corner of a neighbor’s house, 3 days after she disappeared.

      I feel lucky to have her in my life!

  3. Gili

    Glad to hear that you have been reunited with Stubbie!

    Maya and I have also debated this topic. I find that in a surprisingly short amount of time, just a day or two, many places start having a feeling of home to me. I think one thing that contributes is forming small habits. It could be walking the same route a few times, going to the same bakery daily, and so on. In fact, we often refer to wherever we happen to be staying as home.

    Another thing we have often said is that wherever we set up our tent instantly becomes home. We even refer to the tent as “the orange home”. People can have many homes simultaneously,  I suppose.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks for your comments Gili.

      Yes it’s amazing how quickly one can feel at home in many parts of the world.. And recreate a personal ” neighborhood” by way of where you get your breakfast or find your bakery, as you say. In your case you take your “home” with you ( like tortoises). Makes me think of the kids book ” A home, is a home is a home” which illustrates all the different types of homes people and animals can have. Look out for that one for Neil. Enjoy your travels!

      I love the feeling that one can be at home almost anywhere in the world…

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      We would love to have you sign up as a follower of the blog… There is a tab on the right hand side that you enter your email into..but if you reading from a phone, you might not see it!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Awww thank you.

      Can’t save them all sadly, but certainly worth saving even one little soul and changing a life for the better.

  4. twobrownfeet

    A home without a pet isn’t a home. You say it well, Peta. 🙂 Your cats look adorable. We do wonder if we should adopt a dog. With our travel plans, it’s a tough choice.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Yes it is a tough choice to make. We had two dogs when we left Chicago to go and live in Nicaragua. (One was adopted from the local animal shelter)… We could not find a home that would take both of them together, so we ended up taking them with us! The other, our Aussie Mango, became quite famous around town with his beautiful red merle color and his no tail, bear look.

      I guess if you can find someone to be a reliable and loving dog sitter while you travel you will be good to go.

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